A view from a roof in Port au Prince


What's Happening Around Milot

As stated in my last blog post, since coming back to Haiti I have made more efforts to get involed in the community that I live in. Our community health services that we offer at Hospital Sacre Coeur have always perplexed me a little bit. The buildings are somewhat hidden in the back of the hospital. Whenever giving my tours of the hospital to the volunteers, I held my breath as we walked past this part of the hospital hoping that I wouldn't have to answer any questions about it. Truth is, I had a lot to learn about how the hospital services people in  Milot and the surrounding towns.

Last week I went along with the community health nurses to a few of the neighboring schools in the area. I feel a little embarassed to admit that I didn't even realize how many schools were just around the corner from where I live. I guess they are marked a little differently than the schools in the United States. There aren't big yellow school buses, playgrounds, or blaring school bells to help me target where these hundreds of kids in their cute uniforms file into each day. I'd say that there are at least a couple dozen schools within walking distance from the gates of Crudem.

 I wasn't sure how I would participate in the cholera education with my somewhat limited Kreyol skills. The Haitian nurse I was with wanted me to split the teaching with her. We compromised that I would teach the handwashing portion of the class. I came with nothing prepared, without any props, without any forethought on how I would teach using the vocabulary that I knew. I stood behind the Haitian nurse as she taught the kids all about the ways they can contract cholera, how to take care of family members with cholera while keeping themselves safe, how to prepare their food and how to purify the water they drink. I was multitasking to say the least. I was trying to understand her Kreyol and make sure I wouldn't repeat anything that she was already teaching the kids. At the same time, I was trying to think of a creative way to interact with the kids. I mean, I'm white, so that's pretty amusing to them in and of itself... but regardless, I wanted them to have fun learning about how to wash their hands.

Suddenly everyone was looking at me. I had missed my cue that it was now my turn to talk. I smiled and introduced myself. The kids were eager to say "bonswa" (Good Afternoon) back to me. I explained that I wanted to teach them a song that they could sing while they washed their hands. I wrote the alphabet on the chalkboard and taught them each of the letters. Next, I sang the "ABCs" for them. I showed them the way to wash their hands, how to include their wrists, fingers, nails and back side of the hand when they washed. I told them that when they start singing the ABCs they can start washing their hands and that they had to continue scrubbing until the song was over. That was how they could know they washed their hands long enough. We sang and srubbed several times and at the end of the class I had volunteers come in front of the class and show how to do it. The volunteers were given a picture book on Cholera as a prize for helping. The kids loved the activity and I loved hanging out with them! Another plus is that now when I walk the streets of Milot many of the kids remember my name and come talk to me as we walk together!

Inside the community health office of the hospital 
This week I was involved with the MMR and polio vaccinations. There is a huge campaign at the hospital right now to outreach to all of the neighboring schools and complete vaccinations for all children under 10 years of age. The community health office at the hospital is full of life-size charts with it mapped out where each "team" of nurses will go on any given day. At the end of the day all of the number are recorded on a detailed form and handed back into the community health office.

Vaccinations are done differently in Haiti. In Haiti, the vaccines are done in the left upper arm, just a little below the deltoid. It is always done here because as they age, a keloid will form and they will have a scar marking their vaccination. One of the nurses in administration at the hospital proudly pulled out her arm to show me where her scar still stands out, even after over 30 years.  They do it that way so that there is no question whether or not they had the vaccine.

 My favorite age to work with was 3-4 year olds. Some were very frightened and in tears before I even pulled out the needle. Others came in and said they were not afraid and would not cry. They looked so little. Many of them made me promise I wouldn't poke them hard with my needle. Today we did almost 150 vaccinations! I'm excited about the opportunities I have to get to know the community better through my work at the hospital. Next steps will be getting to know the prenatal outreach, HIV and Aids services and the medika mamba program.

Kids in the courtyard of their school before the vaccinations
Giving one of my patients his injection!

The rain is pouring down hard now. It is our 4th consecutive cloudy/rainy day. It's Friday night and it feels like a great time to dig out my last bag of microwave popcorn and watch a movie.  I may have to torture the guys here with another chick flick ;) Bon nuit! (Good night)


Lately in Haiti

Since my last blog post, a lot has happened. I made an unexpected visit home to Minnesota for two weeks in early April when my Grandpa was hospitalized. When I packed my bags up to move to Haiti, I figured I wouldn't visit home during the year. I mean, Haiti is where I was always trying to get to, so it didn't make sense to spend the money and come back to Minnesota once I finally got here.

When I heard the news the my Grandpa was sick, I felt a panic in my heart. Was he going to die? I remember one time last year when my Grandpa had surgery and I left work early to help take care of him in the hospital. I sat with him in his hospital bed and he looked so small and pale in those hospital bed sheets. I pleaded with God that he wouldn't die- my heart wasn't ready to handle it. I reflected on this when I heard that he was hospitalized again. Maybe the time I bought with God was finally running out? I sat in my room and cried. I didn't like the unknown and the fact that I was so far away from everything that was happening. It didn't take me long to decide that I was going home to see him. In fact, I bought my ticket that same day and flew out the next morning.

I spent two weeks at home, and I happened to be there for Easter. My grandpa was discharged from the hospital the day I arrived. I visited him each day and we played Yahtzee, went for walks, talked about Haiti, ate at Perkins, and made a run to the dollar store. He did not have a stroke, as we thought may have happened. He had an infection that has now cleared. He's 93 and still makin' it!

 I also was able to spend a lot of time with my mom and her new husband Bob. Being at home had a different feel this time. I didn't feel like a kid anymore ( and yes, maybe I am a little old to FINALLY feel like this, but I am the baby of the family ;). My mom and I had great times together and she was a nice companion to have do the things on my hit-list with! The biggest thing on my hit-list of American indulgences was going to the movie theater! I saw the Hunger Games and Titanic 3D. I ate tons of buttery/salty popcorn and thoroughly enjoyed soaking up the big screen entertainment. Target and I became very close on this trip ;). Wish there was a Target in Haiti! I stocked up on sandals and things to decorate my room and bathroom.

I also loved seeing my friends and neighbors. It opened my eyes to the many blessings and wonderful relationships I have in Minneapolis. It made me realize that although I want to live in Haiti, I still want to visit the States and make an effort to keep up relationships in Minnesota. Overall, visiting home was pretty amazing! I purposely booked a one way ticket and figured I'd know when it was time to go back to Haiti. After about two weeks I felt rested and full of love from family and friends and started really missing my friends and home in Haiti!

When I was picked up from the airport, my first stop was.... to visit baby Michelet! He was what I missed most about Haiti! I even bought him a cute monkey sweatsuit at Target while I was home. I was so happy to see him. His family was happy to see me too and had pounds of grapefruit waiting for me!

Since coming back to Milot, I've gotten involved in the community in a new way. While home, I realized that spending time with the people of Milot was the highlight of my experiences. I decided that upon returning to Haiti I would get more involved in their community health services. This week I went to 3 different schools and helped a Haitian nurse with educating the kids on Cholera and prevention. In the following weeks I hope to also get involved with the AIDS programs, the prenatal clinics in the community and vaccinations in the community. In the afternoon I usually walk to visit Michelet, about a 3 mile walk in all, or else hike in the mountains with some of the volunteers. The hikes are so hard they make me want to cry!

Last night I went into Milot and had juice at a little shack. There was music playing and I danced with a little four year old girl whose family owned the place. At first she seemed like she didn't want to  be with me, but later her family came searching for me cause she was asking about me. Her name was Shakira. I asked her if she wanted to dance again and she did.This time she led me to the dance floor. She loved being twirled around and could keep the rhythm to the songs better than I could! We danced for several songs and I had more fun than I have had in a long time! Later that evening I was talking with   a volunteer who was in Haiti for the first time ever. He was reflecting on the cultural experience he had soaked in during his first day in Haiti. He couldn't get over how happy and nice everyone was in Milot. He repeated the saying that we all know too well, that "money cannot buy happiness."

I chewed on this thought as I tossed and turned trying to fall asleep last night. Lately, I've been trying to picture where I will be next year. I mean, how long can I really volunteer for. Don't I need a real job? Don't I need to make and save money? Wouldn't it be great to have a normal schedule, to have my own place, etc? Next thing I know, someone comes along and reminds me that those things will perhaps pull me away from the happiness that I am blessed to bask in each day. As I walk through the dirt paths of Milot and see the tropical trees around me and the mountains in the distance, the kids pulling on my hands and the sun beating on my back, I think "Really?  This is where I live?"  And then I realize I can't imagine living any other way.

Michelet's new outfit!

This is the crew I hang out with :)

One of the schools I did cholera education at

Two girls I met that live by Michelet

One of the babies from the nutrition center. This was taken at his house. He lives by Michelet too!