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)

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