Tuesday, May 5, 2015

haiti.

I mentioned before that I went to Haiti two weeks ago, and I finally had time last night to comb through some of the photos to share. The trip was short, only four days, but I am so glad I went. My grandmother - Grandpolly - was a big supporter of the Hopital Albert Schweitzer and she talked about it regularly when I visited her. Larry and Gwen Mellon founded and started the hospital in 1956 and dedicated their lives to it. So, much later in life when Grandpolly heard about the hospital and Gwen's connection with it, she became very interested in their work. Grandpolly died two years ago and last year I decided I wanted to find a way to continue her support and involvement with the hospital. I have also been missing being in the field and working in development like in my days past, so this was also self-serving. Nonetheless, I have been helping and talking with the hospital for the last year about how I can support them and earlier this year they invited me to come down for a visit. It was incredible. The hospital's scope of work is just astounding and seems never-ending, yet their operating budget is obviously not infinite and the need in Haiti where they operate is overwhelming.

I can go on and on about the hospital because it is impressive in so many ways.  98% of the employees are Haitian. Beyond just the emergency and medical services, the hospital is also committed to integrated community health systems - including water and sanitation projects, nutrition programs, reforestation initiatives and they have three smaller clinics up in the mountains. Located about 2.5 hours outside of Port-au-Prince, the hospital serves about 350,000 people - basically the size of Oakland.  There is lab testing available, and more recently they have added rehabilitation services and post-earthquake they opened a prothetic and orthotics lab. To even begin to understand it all, you have to see it in person...but for now, some pictures to help give an idea....

I couldn't take a lot of pictures inside the hospital because, well, it's a hospital - and to respect the patients, but here is part of the entrance room - that is full by 7 am with people waiting...

And one of the courtyards inside the main hospital...

The campus is expansive, with staff housing and various buildings and offices...

The orthotics and prosthetics lab (P&O) was opened after the 2011 earthquake. Both P&O labs in Port-au-Prince were destroyed and the hospital opened this lab within 90 days and it is now the largest in Haiti... 

Here is a beautiful archway near the hospital from an old aqueduct...


We also went to a nearby school. While the Hospital doesn't do any direct programming here, there is of course a clear connection with its public health mission and medical care...

We also spent a day visiting various pumps and water projects that are servicing nearby communities...
And this pump also happened to be at another school in the area which this hospital staffer spearheaded...
And we visited a home where one of the employees makes water filter systems and latrines...

We also drove up into the mountains another day to visit one of the satellite clinics. Hospital staff are driven up to the clinic early Monday mornings and spend the week there and are picked up and driven back down on Friday. And generally, they drive up the mountains and when they are dropped off, they have another 3 hours to walk to the clinic. These clinics are small buildings with just a handful of staff but they are taking care of people that are so far away from the hospital, they wouldn't otherwise get care. And the doctors and nurses are also visiting patients at their homes, taking care of pregnant women, and monitoring children's nutrition.

When we got to one of the clinics, they were weighing babies to check on their growth and nutrition. They do this weekly.
Just driving in the land cruisers, I had to hold on to the handles because it was so steep at certain points, as we passed women carrying their babies and toddlers for miles to get to the clinic.




A random tid-bit, but dotting the roads, it seems like these "banks" are everywhere. You can't go more than a mile without spotting one. They aren't actually banks...but your local lotto vendor...

On the drive back to Port-au-Prince to fly out, we stopped along the coast to take in the view and the ocean...
It is really hard to describe the 4 days, and especially in a blog. I can say that having lived in a lot of places, including some of the poorest in the world - rural Bolivia, the bush of Uganda, the thick of Chiapas, and Vietnam...Haiti is not like any of them. A colleague of mine that I was talking with last week put it so well, he talked about how Haiti just doesn't line up with the stereotype in your head. It does not feel like Latin America, in fact it reminded me much more of Africa - which of course makes sense given its ancestry and history. Yet, it also is so different from Africa. And the challenges are just never-ending. Obviously, the earthquake exacerbated that fact but it is also the naked mountains that have been stripped of trees and are startling deforested and some of the cultural and historical linkages that just complicate the problem-solving. I'll stop with this, but I am sure there will be more soon about the hospital, the amazing work they are doing and Haiti.....

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