Operations director stanley liste manages all construction projects 

Building a Better Infirmary

Jennifer Lang, Program Director – June 27, 2013

This past month, we’ve been able to provide major upgrades to our primary healthcare facility, the Infirmary Saint Etienne, here in Les Cayes, Haiti. Installation of air conditioning and solar power should create a more positive environment for patients and staff and help us serve as an energy model throughout Haiti and the world.

Operations Director Stanley Liste manages all construction projects Kids like Milly Henri make all the hard work worth it.
Operations Director Stanley Liste
manages all construction projects
Kids like Milly Henri make
all the hard work worth it.

Our Infirmary is staffed by 18 Haitian medical professionals and administrators, who work every day to provide laboratory, dental, and primary care services to the poorest of the poor. In our three-room clinic, which sometimes holds over 90 patients, it can get quite hot! During the hot season in Haiti, from May to November, temperatures are typically well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Most importantly, because our Infirmary offers the lowest-cost services throughout the South, many of our patients come from extremely disadvantaged households. Patients who walk three- or four-hours to arrive at the Infirmary now have cold water and air conditioning to help keep dehydration at bay.

Heat stress and stroke can greatly impact patients, leading to crises requiring hospitalization. Our Infirmary caters to children, from our Education network of 40 schools, and the elderly, through our partner nursing home—both high-risk groups. Another high-risk group is adults suffering from hypertension and heart disease—which the Infirmary serves via our Chronic Care Program and who already have the highest rate of death in Haiti. With air conditioning, we hope to have a comfortable and clinically-improved environment for all of our high-risk patients.

Solar panels on the roof of the Infirmary. Batteries connected to solar panels This is what power looks like in rural Haiti.
Solar panels on the roof of the Infirmary. Batteries connected to solar panels. This is what power looks like in rural Haiti.

Hope for Haiti is committed to responsible, sustainable development – and that commitment includes bettering our local environment. For the past four years, the Infirmary has been powered by generator – a costly, noisy, diesel-burning option that nonetheless allows us to include high-powered laboratory equipment to our services. However, we have installed 12 Bosch solar panels to the roof of our Infirmary, which will allow us to burn less fuel and reduce our carbon emission as well as capitalize on Haiti’s climate—turning the dangerous heat into a resource. Solar power will be combined with battery charging to power on rainy days, as well as the national power grid and the existing generator.

When our Infirmary opened four years ago, in a former slaughterhouse, we could not have imagined the advancements that are possible today. By creating a technologically-forward environment, our doctors and nurses can focus on providing the best patient care possible!

Arianne pingledis, program manager, & school director 

Trekking to Community Members, Discovering Hearty Landscapes, Sustaining Partnerships & Hope

By Dr. Sabine Thomas, Country Director, June 19, 2013

I have been equally anxious and excited to accompany our dedicated staff on community site visits, primarily to remote school sites and the heart of Hope for Haiti’s programs.

During my last two visits, I worked with our Education and Public Health staff.  We walked and hiked through pristine serpentine-like, steep pathways naturally created between bedrocks. One visit involved crossing 16 times the same riverbed lined with slippery rocks! I simultaneously sweated, huffed and puffed, almost got dumped into the river by passing donkeys’ loads, laughed hard and endured the pricks of pineapple heads growing from the side of the road.

Arianne Pingledis, Program Manager, & School Director Overlooking one of the school buildings & the bay.
Arianne Pingledis, Program Manager, & School Director Overlooking one of the school buildings & the bay.

As we headed up the mountain tops, we were greeted by uniformed school children often skipping down the stone tops and farmers heading down to local markets to sell their crops; “bonjou mesye dam nap monte mon la”, meaning “good morning ladies and gentlemen, you are going to brave the mountain top” and we would reply “bonjou…wi” meaning “good morning …yes we are!” Hours later, after climbing rubbly and stony mountaintop, a school building emerges, with the Haitian flag flying high and children’s laughter echoing through the hills…

For our education visit, once we got settled in the school director’s quarters, our Education Program Manager, among other indicators, inquired about students’ performance and parents’ participation in their children’s education. The school director shared that the latter has decreased over the years. He believes this to be directly related to their lack of financial means to support their children’s education. For instance, he shared that coffee is a crop that used to grow widely in the area but has disappeared and along with it, financial gain for the community. Deforestation has affected this crop’s disappearance, as coffee needs shade from trees to grow. Another important fruit indigenous to the area is “sour orange” whose juice is readily used for cleaning meat and is a source of vitamin C. It is slowly disappearing because there is a greater need for the tree trunks to prepare wood for charcoal. The school director was keenly aware of the dire situation but helpless in the face of this deforestation epidemic.

Dr. Sabine Thomas, Country Director, and school children
Dr. Sabine Thomas, Country Director, and school children

For me the daily and often bitter reality of our community members came to life. The impact of deforestation directly affecting the parents’ ability to support and fully partake in their children’s education was clear. This conversation was of interest to all of us especially in light of Hope for Haiti’s initiative in Social Business to create lasting and sustainable community partnerships. Could coffee, as a crop be re-introduced in this community to help parents support their children’s education? Could there be a way to implement a social business that could help generate revenue and reinforce the education, public health, and nutrition programs in this community? Although we did not have answers right away, we definitely asked and will continue to ask those critical questions to the community members that we support and with whom we work.

The school visit often ended with school children reciting a lesson learned, singing a hand-washing song, or a playing an educational game. During my visit, we were blessed to have Mother’s Day serenades accompanied by drumming, as well as the alphabet song!

One might have various notions of site visits; and as I hope you gathered, ours at Hope for Haiti are long and rewarding work treks through some of southern Haiti’s most pristine landscapes and remote communities hoping to maintain sustainable partnerships.

Parent, makiline, in front of her house, uses straw to make saddles for a living. . 

The Parents of a Remote Community

Paula Prince, Deputy Country Director – June 7th, 2013

In English the community name means “ravine of sand.” This village in the South of Haiti is logically named after its most prominent landmark, an expansive ravine of sand and rocks that winds through the community. Resources are scarce. People here make a living off of subsistence farming, weaving straw to make bags and saddles, cultivating tobacco, and cutting down trees to produce charcoal.

Parent, Makiline, in front of her house, uses straw to make saddles for a living. . Hope for Haiti staff member, Paula Prince, with students. Students line up for a procession in front of their school.
Parent, Makiline, in front of her house, uses straw to make saddles for a living. . Hope for Haiti staff member, Paula Prince, with students.
Students line up for a procession in front of their school.

Hope for Haiti has supported the school here since 2008 through teacher salary subsidies and school construction. More recently, we have added several new programs at the school including a school lunch program and solar-powered electricity, which help provide the school’s 447 students with a quality education.

In the fall of 2011, Hope for Haiti began implementing the Progress Out of Poverty Index (PPI) in the community. The internationally recognized indicator developed by the Grameen Foundation, has helped us achieve a global picture of poverty levels in the area. During the first round of the survey, we uncovered that 63% of the 206 households were living in extreme poverty, subsisting on less than $1 US per day.

A student returns plates after eating a warm lunch. A grandmother of a student invites us in her house. The Bertrand family in front of their house.
A student returns plates after eating a warm lunch. A grandmother of a student invites us in her house. The Bertrand family in front of their house.

After a year of programming, Hope for Haiti is in the process of re-administering the PPI survey to measure poverty in the area for a second year. During a school visit last week, I asked the school director a very frank question, “Do you think that this year’s results will show any progress out of poverty?” He chuckled.  “Paula, I don’t know,” he said. “People here have lived in extreme lamizè (misery/poverty) for a long time. Hurricane Sandy only made things worse.”  Then, he asked to take me to visit some of the parents’ households and see for myself.

A few days later, we walked down the ravine and into the wilderness to visit the parents in the community. We visited 10 different houses. In some lived aged grandmothers that are caring for their daughters’ children. In others lived full families, with mothers who had recently birthed their ninth or tenth child, all of which were born at home with no supervision from a doctor or a midwife. In the household of Mr. Silma, a tobacco cultivator, we saw the large collection of dried tobacco leaves that were hanging from his thatched ceiling. During our conversation he picked off a dried tobacco leaf, made a traditional cigar and insisted that we try it.

Hope for Haiti staff member, Paula Prince, with Micheline in front of her damaged home. Mr. Silma smokes his homegrown tobacco Tobacco hangs from Mr. Silma's thatched ceiling.
Hope for Haiti staff member, Paula Prince, with Micheline in front of her damaged home. Mr. Silma smokes his homegrown tobacco. Tobacco hangs from Mr. Silma’s thatched ceiling.

The last house that we visited was the household of Micheline, who has four kids in the school. She lives with her young children in a house that was partially washed away during Hurricane Sandy’s flash floods. When we arrived, she recounted the horrifying story of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction. That night, she was asleep and felt her bed moving. She woke up as her house was filling with rushing water. She had to grab her small children under her arms and brave the violent waters to make it to higher ground. She is still living in the destroyed house. I encouraged her to find another place to stay before this hurricane season starts, knowing that her horrifying experience is likely to repeat itself.

The household visits were an eye-opening experience. The people are strong and resilient. They are also incredibly welcoming and kind. Almost every household that I entered said the same thing:  “I’m so sorry that I don’t have anything to offer you.” The beautiful school that Hope for Haiti supports in this community, inspires hope among the population that, through education, these families can be lifted out of extreme poverty.

 

Touya Deina Leones

Touya Deina Leones “Bidu” – Life At The Beach

Throughout Haiti, Bidu’s restaurant in Port Salut is known for its incredible lobster. Located just 45 minutes from the Hope for Haiti office in Les Cayes, the restaurant has been a favorite weekend getaway for the past five years.

Born Touya Deina Leones, “Bidu” started his restaurant as an independent smallbusiness. Growing up on a small farm, Bidu learned business from his mother—who sold fried snacks and homemade coffee in the local market. Entrepreneurship was a value he learned at a young age. “When I was a kid, I knew I would want to help my mother when I grew older. I thought I would become a fisherman and catch crabs for my mom to sell.”

Instead, the family home became the site of Bidu’s first business venture.
“I started a small restaurant out of our kitchen when I was young. Then, I moved to the beach and worked as an apprentice at the established restaurants. I prepared the spices, the oil, the water… I learned all the basics.” After years of training, Bidu decided to open his own restaurant independently. “For me, travay se liberte –work is liberty. I found Soco, our chef, and started the business.”

touya 1 Business has grown tremendously and now features chicken, lambi (conch,) lobster in sauce, grilled lobster, and salted fish. As the popular site of Hope for Haiti’s staff gatherings, celebrating the accomplishments of our team of medical staff, community health workers, and program officers, Bidu’s personal attention to detail always makes an event successful. “The most difficult part of my job is when a big group of clients order a bunch of different items. You have to manage cooking times, make sure all the orders are right, and make sure they all come out at the same time.

I’m especially proud of our hospitality. We are always respectful and thankful to our clients and try to add what they want to the menu.” Bidu and Soco most recently added rum sour drinks, using Haiti’s famous Barbancourt rum. “I’m proud that my restaurant is Haitian and serves Haitian delicacies. You have to know how to make the best meals the right way!”

Bidu’s love for his country shines through in every conversation with visitors. The lifetime resident of Port Salut believes in the opportunity of tourism. “Here in Haiti, we have a lot of freedom. Port Salut has pristine beaches, delicious lobster, dancing to the local ‘Ra-Ra’ bands, beautiful waterfalls, nice little markets, and good hotels. Life here is secure and tranquil.”

touya 2

When he’s not at the beach chatting with customers, Bidu is at home with his wife and three children. “My work enables me to provide for my family. I want my kids to be happy and do well in school, so they have freedom to do what I couldn’t. They could become doctors, nurses, and engineers, whatever they want.” Through education, Bidu hopes for his country’s improvement overall. The Port Salut beach area was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy, a threat to Bidu and his family’s livelihood. “Everywhere should have roads, electricity, and water. I don’t need riches; I need a comfortable life. I don’t need a car; I need healthy kids.” From all of us in the Hope for Haiti family, we invite you to dine chez Bidu and visit us at beautiful Port Salut!.