South Dakota is a long way from Haiti but you wouldn’t think so from the energy and attitudes of the Avera Hospital System teams that come to visit us three times each year.  The gifts they bring, their expertise and their boundless enthusiasm make their visits memorable ones.  We were blessed to have an Avera team with us again at the beginning of October, led by Haiti team coordinator Kathy English, RN.  Her husband, Gil, who is an OB/gyne doctor, accompanied her on this visit, having been here last May.  Word of his visit got out and we ended up seeing record numbers of patients in the clinic with Dr. Gil doing dozens and dozens of Pap tests.  We were grateful for the opportunity to provide this screening modality to our female patients and they were grateful as well!  Dr. Gil also treated some of the patients who had had abnormal Pap test results on previous visits, so that was an added service to them.

 

Avera team

Here is the team, from left to right top:  Tracy Opdahl, Sarah Campbell, Stephanie Allen, Dr. Gil English.  On the bottom:  Madelyn Cassen, Ashley Walter, Jodi Beach, Kathy English

 

The Avera teams always bring us lots of needed medications.  They take up lots of luggage space and fill up the table in the residence.

Avera meds

Table in the residence full of medications brought to us by the Avera team

 

We always like to keep our visitors busy and one of the best ways is to have them help pack medications in the pharmacy.

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Jodi helps pack medications in the pharmacy.  She also helped type up some important spreadsheets for our water and sanitation program.

 

On a previous visit, the Avera group brought down plastic signs to put on the clinic walls to identify the rooms.  This time, they brought one specially designed for Cherlie’s triage room.  She was thrilled!

Cherlie room tag

Cherlie proudly holds up her new room tag.

 

Dr. Gil was accompanied in his work by Dr. Harold Severe, so Dr. Severe can become proficient in doing pelvic exams and Pap smears.  The teaching was wonderful and it was great to be able to take advantage of Dr. Gil’s expertise.

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Dr. Gil and Kathy English with Dr. Harold Severe

 

We always love to see the “coincidences” that the Lord plans for us, especially in regard to bringing people to us with the right supplies at the right time.  On the spur of the moment a few days before their departure from the US, I had asked Kathy to bring down a bottle of tetracaine eye drops so I could numb up an eye in case someone came in with a foreign body in the eye.  As “coincidence” would have it, the first day the team was with us, sure enough, I had a patient who had an irritating speck on her eye that needed to be removed with a cotton applicator.  Were it not for the tetracaine drops, I would not have been able to help solve her problem.  The patient jumped for joy when she saw the speck of dirt on the applicator and no longer in her eye!

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Maddy helps Dr. Wolf remove a piece of dirt from the eye of a woman using tetracaine eye drops brought by the team

 

We always have visiting groups help us out with teaching, both at the clinic and, sometimes, in local communities.  This team did both, with dental teaching at the clinic and hygiene teaching in two local communities.

Stephanie teaching

Stephanie and her translator do dental teaching for our clinic patients.

 

I think Stephanie probably preferred the following activity, however:

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Stephanie holds an infant while her mother was seeing the doctor

 

Another way in which we kept the team busy was in packing and sterilizing surgical instruments and towels to prepare for the visit of a surgeon later this year.

Tracy sterilization

Tracy preparing surgical instruments for sterilization

 

The Avera teams offer to perform, transport and read Pap smears so that we can do this important cervical cancer screening test for our patients here in Haiti.  It is a huge service to them so each time word gets out that the Avera team is at our clinic, all the women in the area come running.  They appreciate the service as well as the free gifts that are given out, including sanitary kits!

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Sarah waits for the next patient to come for a Pap smear.

Cherlie sanitary kits

Cherlie explains to a patient how to use the washable sanitary kits

 

Sometimes visiting nurses are able to help out in the same departments in which they work in the US.  Obviously, the setting is a bit different but medical cases are often similar.

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Ashley, an ER nurse with Avera, gets to help out with a patient in our little Haitian ER.

We are grateful to Avera for their generosity and faithfulness to us and for their dedication to serving our Lord globally through sustainable partnerships and long-term relationships.

 

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AUGUST 29, 2017

It is with sadness that we would like to let everyone know that our faithful dachshund Mozie passed away yesterday afternoon.  He was 14 years old and lived a good life, so we can’t be too regretful.  We brought Mozie and his father, Shubie, down to Haiti on a Missionary Flights International cargo plane in 2006.  They adapted to their new living conditions very well, especially since we had brought with us the crates that had been their homes in Milwaukee.  I think they only thing they really missed were carpeted floors!  We even fed them imported dog food from the US and they thrived.  Shubie died about 3 years ago at the age of 16!

Even as he aged, Mozie always seemed like a little puppy, ready to play with anyone who would pay him any attention.  We had to warn our visitors that if you play with Mozie once, you’ll never hear the end of it!  His age caught up with him this past year, though, when he developed severe cataracts and couldn’t see well.  He recently lost his appetite and, with it, his strength, until he passed away quietly yesterday afternoon when we returned home from work.  He was a faithful friend and companion and we’ll miss him.  Bless you, Mozie!

Mozie younger

Mozie in better times.

 

 

AUGUST 21, 2017

With its high heat and humidity, Haiti is not an ideal place to visit during the summer months.  But, for the sake of our spiritual ministry, a hardy intergenerational group from Eastbrook Church in Milwaukee and Town North Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Richardson, TX sacrificed their comfort for a week of work with us and some of the local churches near our clinic.  The Eastbrook Church team consisted of Geri Koterman, team leader, and the Riebe family – Alan and Katherine and their teenage children Josh and Charis, all of whom visited here in 2016.  They added newcomer Laura Meyer this year and she was a great addition to the team.  Geri’s grandson, Josiah Rogers, had been with the team in 2016 and he came back this time with his father, David Rogers, who is the pastor of Town North Presbyterian Church in TX.   They were accompanied by Joel Aguilar, who is an elder in their church.

Eastbrook logo wear

The Eastbrook/Town North team poses in front of the clinic with FHH logo wear from the FHH store!  From left to right are Katherine, Geri, David, Josh, Josiah, Alan, Joel, Laura and Charis. 

Josiah was adopted from Haiti as a 2 year old and we were thrilled to see that he continues to be interested in visiting and helping the country of his birth.

Josiah and David
Josiah and his father, Pastor David Rogers

 

One of the advantages of visiting in the summer is that the Eastbrook/Town North team could minister more to the young people in two churches near our clinic.  With school out of session, there was more opportunity to involve children of all ages in VBS activities and leadership training discussions, which they did for two days in the Duchene church and for two days in Doudouche.  Both churches had been destroyed in the hurricane, so the groups met under tarps amid the debris.  They had ministered to the same two churches in January 2016 and the contrast between the visits was striking!  But, the Lord’s word was studied and lessons were shared in spite of the stark surroundings.  Activities for the children included Bible stories, music, crafts and discussion and, in the afternoons the group did Bible study and discussion with the adults.  They even had crafts for the adults, which they all loved!  Haitians and Americans felt blessed and we were very glad to have our spiritual ministry expanded in this way.

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During VBS, the children made paper lanterns to illustrate that God is light in their lives. They each got to color designs on their lantern paper to make it unique.

 

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The children proudly hold up their lanterns.

 

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This colorful parachute made for some fun games!

 

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The older children participated in small group discussions regarding teamwork and leadership, led by Pastor David.

 

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The adults get serious about their crafts!

One of the highlights of the team’s visit was the showing of the “Jesus” film in Creole on the front porch of the clinic on Thursday evening.  Over 100 people from the immediate area around the clinic attended, including many children.  It was the first time we had shown the film in Gatineau and it was very well received.

 

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The clinic benches are nearly full as local Haitians watch the “Jesus” film.

 

The following day, Friday, we hosted a 2 ½ hour long worship service to which we invited 11 of the churches in the area around our clinic.  Each church came with 10 – 15 members and they each presented a musical number during the service.  Local musicians were present to provide musical backup and they were joined by team members Laura Meyer, playing guitar, and Josh Riebe on the bongos.

 

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Josh and Laura help out the keyboard player during the worship service.

 

There were congregational hymns in addition to the special music by the churches, Scripture readings and prayers by some of the pastors from the churches.  The service was led by Adrien Jean Jacques, our clinic chaplain and registration clerk and the worship was led by Anderson Joseph, husband of our clinic nurse Vetelie Charles.  Over 200 people attended, some of them standing for the entire service.  It was considered to be a huge success and the pastors are already asking that we make it an annual event!  Much thanks to the Eastbrook/Town North team for helping us out with the service and for Pastor David Rogers, who gave a wonderful message.  Everyone felt truly blessed.

 

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Anderson Joseph leads the congregation in songs of adoration during the worship service.

 

Standing room only

The front porch of the clinic was packed with people on benches and extra chairs were set up along the sidewalks.  A tarp hangs down from the roof to block the sun.

 

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One of the 11 church groups performs a song for the audience.

 

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Pastor David preaches the sermon as Delice Dorvil translates.  The theme was “Hope in the Lord” based on Lamentations 3: 1 – 24.

 

Cherlie giving thanks

A white sheet and plastic table cloth made an impressive background for the speakers at the worship service.  Here Cherlie gives thanks to everyone who attended and to the Lord for blessing the service.

 

Team with staff

The Eastbrook/Town North team poses for one last photo with the staff of Centre de Sante de Gatineau after the worship service.  Top (from the left):  Miller (driver), Josh, Gemi, Guy-Johns, Adrien, David, Viel, Alan, Joel.  Bottom (from the left):    Ti Madam, Katherine, Cherlie, Charis, Laura, Vetelie, Josiah, Katie and Geri.

 

It was a very blessed week and we thank our Milwaukee and Texas friends for supporting us in our ministry in such a vital way.  Praise the Lord for all of you and for our Haitian brothers and sisters who were so appreciative of our time of fellowship together!

AUGUST 7, 2017

 After ten years of hearing that it was going to be fixed, we were thrilled a few months ago to see the beginning of construction on the road up to our clinic in Gatineau.  Parts of it are being paved, and the rest is being graded with drainage ditches being built to handle the heavy run-off from rains that normally ruin roads up in the mountains.  Or so they said!  As is often the case here in Haiti, after about a quarter of the work was finished, word had it that the money had been used up and everything came to a standstill.  We’ll leave it up to you to figure out where the money went!  We’re still hoping that work will resume and that one of these days, the 15 mile trip up the mountain will take only 30 minutes, instead of more than an hour.  Stay tuned!

One of the side benefits of the road construction is that we were able to get the heavy equipment operators to make a new entry onto our site, widening the entry road so that we can eventually put up an entry gate and retaining walls along the road.  Here are some photos of the work in progress:

Road grader making new entry road onto our clinic site

New entry road on the right with previous road on the left. The roads not meet and go down the bridge.

 

Looking at both entrances (1)

Large area where both entry roads meet, looking back towards the main road. This is where the new entry gate will be built eventually.

 

BEWARE THE LIST!

I don’t know how other physicians feel, but whenever I see a patient sit in front of me with a list of their complaints, I groan inside.  It means that we’re going to be talking for a while and I need to make sure I respond to every one of the issues they present.  The patient has obviously taken time and effort to compile this list and wants to be sure that every one of their concerns is addressed.  It’s all very understandable but seeing the list automatically evokes negative emotions in me.  I think it’s because the list takes away the spontaneity of our conversation and, rather than being able to control the conversation, I’m controlled by the list!  I have to say that it is one of the refreshing things about working in Haiti; most of our patients are illiterate, so there are no lists!  Or, so I thought.  You can imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when one of my patients held in his hand a LIST!  Only, this wasn’t any ordinary list.  The patient is a tailor and repairs upholstery on chairs and motorcycle seats.  So, his list was actually written on a piece of plastic upholstery material!  I had to laugh and, of course, I took a photo of him and his list.  It was especially funny to me because he’s a long-term patient who we know very well.  I guess this time, he had so many things wrong, he wanted to be sure he didn’t miss telling me about them all!

Patient holding his list, written on upholstery material

 

MAKING SOMETHING POSITIVE COME FROM A DISASTER

We are privileged to have a partnership, of sorts, with Christian Aid Ministries (CAM), which is a mission organization located just north of Port-au-Prince.  CAM supplies us with medications and other medical supplies that help us greatly in our medical ministry.  After the hurricane, they distributed various relief materials and have been helping to rebuild houses in several communities outside Jérémie.  They also sent two large gas-powered long saws to help communities cut up logs that were downed by the hurricane.  We heard they were in a community near our clinic and convinced them to bring their saw to our site and cut up logs for us and for people in the communities around the clinic.  Well, come they did and they have been busy the past week cutting up over 30 logs each day for people who are able to bring them to the site.  The wood includes mahogany, veritab (breadfruit), mango and other wood commonly used for making doors and furniture.  Some of the logs are so heavy, it’s taken up to 15 men to carry them from their community to our clinic.  Some of the logs are being rolled down mountain slopes to get to us.  And, once they are cut, the planks are carried on their heads back home again.

 

Site of saw (5)

Our staff helped the CAM team set up their saw on a flat area of land near where our clinic was located. A tarp keeps the sun and rain away.

 

Arranging log on saw (1)

The CAM crew arranges the log on the saw to prepare it for cutting

 

Cutting the log into planks (1)

CAM short-term worker Josiah runs the saw all day, cutting the logs into planks

 

Finished planks (1)

Pile of planks after being taken off the saw. The owner of the log is responsible for taking them home.

 

Carrying planks home (1)

Young boy helps carry a plank back home

 

Cherlie looking on

Ever the supervisor, Cherlie looks on as the saw team does its work.

 

Log to site

It takes a team to bring one of  our logs to be sawed into planks

 

Logs to be cut

Logs remaining to be cut at the end of the day

We’re grateful to CAM for this wonderful service to our communities.  To give a little perspective on the enormity of their contribution, here is a photo of local men cutting a log into planks by hand, using a long saw:

 

Sawing planks

Cutting a log into planks by hand

 

It usually takes several days to cut one log into planks and the quality of the work is dependent on the skill of the worker.  This is one case where we’re willing to put some people out of jobs in order to benefit the greater population!  Thank you, CAM!

 

JULY 23, 2017

In the months after the hurricane of October 2016, the staff of Centre de Sante de Gatineau has been busy distributing relief supplies and housing materials to people in communities around the clinic site.  We have been assisted in our hurricane relief endeavors by the 24 Community Promoters who we had previously trained in our Water and Sanitation community development project.  They were tremendously helpful to us in distributing food supplies in their communities and in helping us decide what families were most in need of rebuilding their homes after the hurricane.

We are now trying to get our Water and Sanitation project back on course, so that we can expand our efforts to educate communities on the need for drinking treated water, using good hygiene and washing their hands with soap.  You may recall that we built 210 latrines in the six communities we initially worked in with this project (35 latrines per community).  Many of these latrines were damaged in the hurricane.  So, one of the tasks these past few months has been to visit each latrine, determine the extent of damage and estimate costs to repair these latrines.  Here are some photos:

Latrine without a door serves as a storage room (this is specifically taught to latrine recipients as something NOT to do).

 

Latrine walls are down, leaving only the cement slab and seat

 

Latrine with old tin in place of its broken walls

 

Once we have determined a budget for repair of these latrines, we will seek funding to meet this budget.  If you want to help repair a previously built latrine, please let us know!

Last year, we trained another 12 Community Promoters from six new communities, ones that are further up in the mountains.  These promoters had just started their educational activities in the communities when the hurricane struck Haiti and things came to a halt.  Now, we want them to get back to their initial objective of educating their communities on water and sanitation issues, under our direction and supervision.  Earlier this month, we brought in all the promoters for a half-day seminar at the clinic.  We spent some time having them share stories about the hurricane – miraculous stories of survival, neighbors helping neighbors, everyone trying to live day to day in the midst of destruction.  We also heard about the ongoing needs in the communities for food and permanent housing, needs that were repeated over and over throughout the day.

One of the most important aspects of our time together, though, was to review the training materials and lessons that they had learned in their initial training.  We quickly ascertained that not all of the Promoters have appropriately mastered the educational information nor are they as familiar with the teaching aids and posters as we want them to be.  So, Gemi and Viel, our community supervisors, will be making frequent visits to these communities to listen to the promoters in action as they teach in order to be sure they become adept at teaching the fundamentals of the water and sanitation lessons they are supposed to be sharing with others.

Community Coordinator Gemi Baptiste introduced each promoter to the others, telling what he most appreciated about that particular promoter.

All 24 Community Promoters participated in a feedback and continuing education seminar at the clinic July 2017

 

New and old promoters paired up to share training lessons with the group.

 

We are encouraged by the success of this Water and Sanitation project and want to see it continue to make a positive impact on behaviors.  We appreciate your prayers for these dedicated Community Promoters.

BLAST FROM THE PAST!!!

This past week was spent reliving the past as we had a visit from nurse Jayne (Benninghoff) Henderson, someone I grew up with in New Jersey and who spent a summer working at the hospital Cherlie and I used to work at in Bonne Fin, Haiti.  Jayne was immediately comfortable in her surroundings here, both in our home and at the clinic, and quickly settled in to help us out.  She helped Cherlie with initial patient evaluation, observed me doing consultations, helped pack medications in the pharmacy, took photos of the clinic and grounds, gave out gifts to the patients, organized storage rooms and supplies, helped us cook supper and washed a lot of dishes!  In the midst of all the activity we had plenty of time to catch up on one another’s lives and she was able to get a good feel for our ministry here.  She even helped me do some shopping for Haitian crafts to send back for our annual banquet in Milwaukee in the spring.  It was a wonderful week with a true sister in the Lord!

 

Good friend and helper Jayne Henderson 

 

We have been blessed to have visits several times each year from our friends from the Avera Health system in South Dakota. This group of hospitals and clinics has a tremendous commitment to mission work in the world and we are blessed that they have chosen to partner with Friends for Health in Haiti as a global mission outreach. They brought a group of 11 to Jérémie two weeks ago and most of them were return visitors. Six members of the group worked with us at the clinic and five of them stayed in Jérémie where they performed breast cancer screening at the government hospital. The breast team did come up to our clinic on Wednesday to offer breast cancer screening for our patients. It was a great chance for them to see our clinic and for us to offer another service to our patients.

The director of the Avera mission teams is nurse Kathy English. She has been to Haiti dozens of times and handles all the logistics for the participants. We were thrilled that on this visit she was accompanied by her husband, Dr. Gil English, an OB-gyne specialist. We announced ahead of time that there would be a specialist at the clinic during the week and we were inundated by patients wanting to take advantage of his skills and the opportunity to get Pap smears for cervical cancer screening. This is one of the wonderful services that Avera offers to our patients and, on this visit record numbers of Pap smears were performed by Dr. English and the nurses on the team. He also saw lots of general medical patients and became quite adept at prescribing medications for hypertension and acid reflux. One day he and I (Dr. Wolf) saw 111 patients! That was definitely a record for our clinic.

Dr. English and Dr. Wolf made a great team for the week

Most days there were over 100 patients waiting for consultation. 50-60 of them spent the night on the benches outside the clinic in order to be seen the following day.

Nurses Kathy English and Cherlie Severe confer in the nurses’ triage room

Gerri Malsom does dental teaching with patients waiting for consultation

Nurse Barbara Pratt assists a patient getting a Pap Smear

In addition to the medical personnel, we were blessed to have as part of the group biomedical technician Steve Kruger and mechanic/rancher Jerome Malsom. Steve and Jerome fixed several pieces of equipment that were broken, put up blood pressure cuffs and wall otoscopes and stained and varnished numerous shelving units that had already been assembled. It was the second visit for both of them and they benefitted from their familiarity with our workshop and staff.

Jerome puts a blood pressure cuff on the wall of one of the examination rooms.

Steve confers with Cherlie about the placement of a wall otoscope unit

On Wednesday, May 24th, we were privileged to have the rest of the Avera team come up to our clinic to provide breast cancer screening for our patients, as they were doing the rest of the week down at the government hospital in Jérémie. The team, led by Dr. Andrew Soye, did a great job of screening those women who came for evaluation of breast masses. They obtained ultrasound exams on those with definite masses and did biopsies on those with suspicious findings.

Dr. Wolf confers with Dr. Andrew Soye in the Emergency Room of the clinic which turned into a breast cancer screening site.

One of the most exciting things about the Avera visit was that they brought us a wonderful used gastroscope (endoscope), complete with light source and video equipment so that we can do our own endoscopy for patients with complaints of acid reflux. This enables us to look directly into the esophagus and stomach of these patients to see if they have peptic ulcer disease or not. It helps not only with diagnosis but with treatment decisions for these patients as well. We see hundreds of patients with acid reflux symptoms each month in our clinic, so the need for such a procedure is great.

The equipment is used but has a trade-in value of $20 – 30,000, making it an incredibly generous gift to us. We want to give huge thanks to the CEO of Avera McKennan Hospital, Dr. Dave Kapaska, who made this gift possible, as well as Chad Bare, Director of the Avera McKennan Endoscopy Center, and Kathy English who initiated the request on our behalf. This is an exciting new development for us and for our patients and we appreciate it very much.

Dr. Dave Kapaska stands with the endoscopy equipment in his office prior to sending it to us in Haiti.

Chad Bare packing the endoscopy equipment for shipping in the Avera team’s luggage.

Biomedical technician Steve Kruger got the endoscope and video system all set up and he and Jerome Malsom stained and varnished the wooden cart that a group from NJ had built for us last year specifically to hold the endoscopy equipment.

Steve checks out the endoscopy equipment to be sure it is in good working order prior to setting it up on the endoscopy cart.

Dr. Wolf and Cherlie stand in front of the new endoscopy equipment with Steve and Jerome who set it up forus. The wooden cart was made specifically to hold this special equipment.

THANKS TO ALL WHO MADE THIS GIFT POSSIBLE!!!

 

 

Cherlie and I spent a few weeks in April in the US, visiting with churches and family in the NY/NJ area and attending an annual fund-raising banquet and board meeting in Milwaukee. We visited lots of people and churches, did multiple presentations and enjoyed the comforts of life in the US! The banquet was very successful and we are grateful for the generosity of all who attended and contributed to our ministry in Haiti. We raised funds to pay our clinic staff, hire more employees, purchase our medications and laboratory supplies, continue with our Water and Sanitation community development project and build houses for hundreds more people whose homes were damaged in the hurricane. Many thanks to all who made the banquet a success, including the Banquet Committee Chairperson, Lin McKenney and her committee members Jeanette Schweitzer and Judith Romelus. It was a small but effective committee. THANKS TO ALL OUR DONORS AND SUPPORTERS!!!

FHH’s Founder and Executive Director, Dr. Katie Wolf addresses banquet attendees with an inspiring message

Banquet attendees purchasing authentic crafts at the Haitian Artists Colony

Director of Nursing, Cherlie Severe shares heartwarming patient stories

Long time supporter and auctioneer Steve True encourages bidding during the live auction

 

Now that we’re back in Haiti again, Cherlie and I are catching up on business here. One of the things we always like to do is to tell you about the visitors who come down to help us out in our clinic and our ministry.

We had a wonderful visit in late March from a group from my home church in NJ – Kingston Presbyterian Church. This faithful congregation has been sending visitors our way nearly every year since we’ve been in Haiti. Twice they’ve had their visits cancelled or postponed due to political violence, most recently in January 2017. So, this was a smaller group, but they were a huge blessing and encouragement to us and to one of the local churches in our area.

The group consisted of Janet Rubinstein, who has been on every visit to date and who directed the group, Scott Hodge, David Raduzycki, and Steve Parker from Kingston Presbyterian Church. This was Steve’s second visit, the first being in October 2007. Obviously, a lot had changed since that first visit! Scott and David have been here several times. David’s daughter Emily also made her second visit and brought a good friend, Anna Morris. And, making one of many visits was architect Tom Lee, who designed our residence quarters and who has been instrumental in helping us with our construction projects.

NJ team consisted of Janet and Cherlie in front, Steve, David, Katie, Anna, Emily and Scott (L to R) with Tom taking the photo.

 

Steve Parker and Janet Rubinstein on their first visit to us in 2007

The group was busy during the week helping out in the clinic and doing some construction projects for us. Here are some photos of their hard efforts:

Tom and Scott work on putting together screens for the residence.

 

Steve screwing screen frames together

 

David works in the shop with Viel, our Haitian carpenter

 

Scott works on a shelving unit for the Medical Records room

 

David and Scott puts shelves together

 

Janet helps in the construction by varnishing frames

 

Anna painting the iron windows in the residence

A highlight of the visit was a day spent with one of the local churches in a community near the clinic.   One of the ways in which we are expanding our spiritual ministry at Centre de Sante de Gatineau is to partner local Haitian churches with US churches, so that they can share their faith journeys together and help to build up their respective congregations through mutual sharing and encouragement. We partnered Kingston Presbyterian Church and others who come to visit from the New Brunswick, NJ Presbytery with a local Baptist church pastored by Pastor Noel, who is a good friend of ours. Janet, David, Emily and Anna spent a day with Pastor Noel and his church family, who welcomed the visitors with open arms. Their church was destroyed by the hurricane, but that didn’t deter their enthusiasm for celebrating together the joy of being in the Lord!

The roof is off and the walls of the church were destroyed by Hurricane Matthew

 

The NJ Team meets with the adults in the morning under tarps

 

The tin roof is gone but the trusses remain

 

David presented a new Creole Bible to Pastor Noel

 

Emily and Anna direct the children in a game during an afternoon VBS session

We want to thank the team for their dedication to us and to our ministry in Haiti and for their willingness to come visit us so regularly. We loved having them and look forward to the next visit from members of the New Brunswick Presbytery churches.

YOU ARE AWESOME!!!

 

Two or three times each year we are blessed to have visitors come assist us in our ministry from Avera Health, a large hospital system based in South Dakota.  The teams are composed of both medical and non-medical personnel who all have a connection to Avera and a love for Haiti.  They are led by nurse Kathy English, who does an excellent job, both in preparing the teams ahead of time, and directing them once they are in the country.  We were thrilled to have an Avera Haiti team join us in our work earlier this month.  The team consisted of family physician Dr. Patty Peters, respiratory therapist Sharon Haverty (both she and Dr. Patty were making return visits), nurse Caitlin Powell, her mother Julie Semmler who works in communications, Ember Dale, from the Wellness Department and retired pharmacist Bill Bradfeldt.  They had a busy week helping us in the clinic and going out into the communities to get a firsthand look at our hurricane house building.  Much thanks for their enthusiasm, warmth and generosity in bringing us needed medications and gifts for our patients and for all they observed and accomplished!

 

Dr. Patty stands with a family she saw in consultation, one of whom was the recipient of a huge stuffed animal!

 

Sharon gives diapers to a mother on the front porch of the clinic. The diapers are hand-made by women in SD and brought by the Avera team to Haiti.

 

 

Team leader and nurse Kathy English helps Cherlie with vital signs and initial patient evaluation

Caitlin and Bill count pills on paper plates in the residence in the evening after work.

Julie (L) and Ember (R) give gifts to pediatric patients at the clinic

 

In addition to their work in the clinic, Ember, Julie and Caitlin had the opportunity of going out into some of the local communities to see the hurricane house building project in action!

House with new roof on and the walls being finished.

 

Visiting a house with its new roof

 

They also had the opportunity of visiting a nearby school with tarps for its roof and walls. The teacher were diligent and the students were learning!

 

 

As the Avera team walked along the road, they were able to see the shiny new tin roofs on homes across the mountains.  Nearly all of the new roofs were built by FHH, thanks to our generous donors.

Shiny new tin roofs sparkle in the mountains around the clinic

 

Before the hurricane, Avera supporters started a special fund to help us rebuild some of the houses near the clinic that were in particularly poor repair.  The hurricane destroyed one of them and severely damaged the other, so we made a special effort to build both of the houses during the recent dry season.  They were nearly completed in time for the Avera visit, allowing them to see the results of their diligent fund-raising:

 

This is the house in front of the clinic driveway, with its walls and windows in place.

 

This is what the house looked like after the hurricane.

 

This is the second house Avera built, nearly completed.

 

We are grateful for all of the visitors who come to help us out here in Haiti.  Their presence with us is a huge source of encouragement and support.  Thanks, Avera family, for your faithfulness to Friends for Health in Haiti!

Several things happened to us at our clinic in Gatineau this past week that remind Cherlie and me that the Lord’s timing is quite amazing.  Since the hurricane in October, we have made an effort to acquire donations of relief supplies to augment our service to the communities around the clinic.  Our first priority, obviously, is providing them with health care, which we do in our clinic.  But we cannot help but feel empathy for their living situation and the needs that dominate their lives.  It is because of this that we initiated our home-building project, helping people to rebuild their houses and, in the process, re-establish some semblance of normalcy in their lives.

We were recently informed that we were to receive a truckload of rice and beans to distribute to needy people in our area.  The donation was from Texas businessman Gary Heavin and his wife Diane, who have been assisting with relief efforts in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake.  I met Gary at the airport in Jérémie a few months ago as he was flying in food supplies to the Grand’Anse immediately after the hurricane.  A more compassionate couple you will not find!  We were told that we would receive 250 sacks of rice and 150 sacks of pinto beans and the person coordinating the transportation of the food out to Jérémie would contact me.  Acting on faith, I instructed Gemi and Viel, our community workers, to give out cards to 475 families in 8 communities in the mountains above our clinic so each family could receive ½ sack of rice (25#) and 2 gallon cans of beans (1/4 sack).  In two days, all the cards had been distributed.

Last week, I got a call from Rocky, the person who was coordinating transportation of the food for Gary and Diane.  We decided that Monday, February 20th would be a good day for him to come out to Gatineau.  Since we were advised that the food would shortly be on its way to us, Gemi and Viel informed the communities to come to the clinic on Saturday, February 25th for the distribution.  We wanted to get it to them as soon as possible.  (You have to realize, of course, that information like this is mostly passed from mouth to mouth, since few people in these mountains communities have cell phones.) But, the message was given, nonetheless.

Monday morning passed and no word from Rocky, so I called him around noon.  The truck he was going to use had a problem with the shocks and he had to find another truck.  We decided to try for Wednesday.  Wednesday morning came and went with no news.  Wednesday afternoon brought the news that the truck was stuck in traffic in PAP due to some police activities and they couldn’t get through.  “Okay,” I said.  “Better to try first thing in the morning, since the road to Jérémie is long.”  That brought us to Thursday.  Way last week, Cherlie and I had decided that we would stay overnight at the clinic Thursday night and do a distribution on Friday of some kitchen kits (with cooking pots and eating utensils), plastic jerry cans and blankets that we had been given by IOM (International Organization on Migration).  We were giving these supplies to over 200 families in several communities that were close to the clinic, including the community of Gatineau itself.  So we had hundreds of people coming to the clinic on Friday and hundreds more on Saturday.  What had we gotten ourselves into?!

Thursday came and went and no food due to more problems on the road.  I began to get apprehensive.  What were we going to do with hundreds of hungry people walking for hours from high up in the mountains to get food that wasn’t there?  I didn’t want to think about the possibility.  Cherlie and I kept busy Thursday evening cleaning and organizing several storerooms and packing newly acquired clinic supplies in drums.  Rote tasks always help to clear the mind and leave it free for reflection and prayer, I’ve found.  That was the case Thursday evening as I worked!

When we opened the doors of the residence Friday morning, the yard was already starting to fill with people, clutching their little “cards”, which were actually just pieces of paper on which was typed the name of the clinic and the materials or food that were to be distributed.  We’ve given out several batches of “cards” since the hurricane; cards for bean and corn seeds for planting, cards for house building materials, cards for food packs (still stuck in customs) and blankets, cards for rice and beans and cards for kitchen kits and jerry cans.  There have been lots of cards due to lots of needs and, thankfully, lots of donations.  Deciding where to give out each set of cards has been a challenge but we’ve tried to take care of people in the communities closest to the clinic first and then move up further into the mountains based on their needs and whether other resources have been available to them.  Gemi and Viel have been the ones responsible for distribution of the cards and they have walked miles in the process, doing a great job of covering the territory and connecting with our Community Promoters to help in the process.

Friday was a full day with distribution of the kitchen kits, blankets and jerry cans, as well as more tin for Stage Two of our house building project.  Here’s how the day progressed:

People starting to gather for distribution of the kitchen kits

Heavy wool blankets being prepared for distribution

Each group had their photo taken after receiving their supplies

Cherlie and Viel giving out the kits after the cards were collected and names recorded

One of our patients (middle of the photo) helps out with     the distribution

After their photo, they all put their kits on their heads and walked on home

Recipients of the kits walk along the road from the clinic

At the same time the kitchen kits were being distributed, Gemi and his crew were busy distributing more tin for Stage Two of our home building program.  Another 750 homes in need of repair have been identified and their homeowners are coming in now to receive their supplies of tin and nails.

Piles of tin fill the clinic yard for distribution for home building

In the midst of Friday’s activities, we had very little phone contact with Rocky, who was supposed to be bringing our food supplies out to us.  Gemi spoke with him several times but we had trouble figuring out where he was and then estimating when he might arrive up at the clinic.  Rocky promised Gemi that he would be there before Saturday and we didn’t need to cancel the distribution.  All we could think about was the hundreds of people who would be walking for hours to come to the clinic for food the next day.  If the food wasn’t there…..!  We didn’t want to entertain that possibility but the situation was looking more and more discouraging by the hour.  It was obvious that Cherlie and I were going to spend another night in Gatineau as we waited for the food delivery.  We packed up all of our belongings that evening, realizing that if the food wasn’t there and hundreds of hungry people were, we might need to get out of Dodge quickly!  We prayed and prayed as we worked.

At 10:30pm Rocky called to say they had just crossed Riviere Glace (the Ice River), so they were still several hours away.  I slept fitfully, alternately thinking and praying my heart out.  “Please, Lord, make the impossible possible,” I prayed.  My cell phone lost its signal, so Rocky called Gemi at 1am to say that he was in Jérémie and didn’t want to wait until dawn to come up the mountain.  So, Gemi gathered up Viel and two other friends and they drove their motorcycles down the mountain to meet Rocky and the truck in order to show them the way up to the clinic.  At 4am Gemi drove up outside our residence and honked his horn.  I was already awake, having heard the sound of the large truck in the distance.  The truck had made it up to Gatineau but got stuck in a small stream that they had to cross a short distance from the clinic.  They couldn’t budge in the mud, had a flat tire and we didn’t have another vehicle to come pick up the sacks of food.  Cherlie and Gemi and I discussed the situation over coffee.  If we unloaded the truck and put the sacks of food outside without protection, we knew the hundreds of people who were supposed to receive it wouldn’t have a chance because the “locals” would take it all for themselves.  All we could imagine was chaos.  Been there, seen that, don’t want to be a part of it today.  We discussed all the possibilities and as we talked, the clinic yard began to fill with people who had been walking since midnight to get there.  They had little pieces of paper in their hands – precious pieces of paper that meant that their families wouldn’t be hungry that night.  My heart ached as I looked at them streaming into the clinic yard.  “The food was here but would they get it?” I wondered.

Gemi went on down to where the truck was stuck and a few minutes later Rocky appeared at our door.  We invited him in and listened to him recount the hardships of the trip out to Jérémie.  Having driven that same road hundreds of times myself, I nodded as I listened.  “What would you like us to do, Rocky?” Cherlie asked, cutting to the quick.  It was obvious that Rocky wanted to get out of the mud-hole and back to Port-au-Prince as quickly as he could.  So, we decided that the truck would be unloaded immediately and the sacks of rice and beans would be put into the public school that just happened to be very nearby.  The school had been damaged by the hurricane and was missing its roof but the rooms were intact and its doors were open.  How convenient!  So, Rocky went on back to the truck and Gemi explained the situation to the people waiting in the clinic yard, who followed his motorcycle down the road to the mud-hole.  And, that’s when the miracles started to happen.

By 8:00 AM the truck had been unloaded by Rocky’s and Gemi’s men and all sacks were accounted for and placed in a room in the school.  Then, the crowd of people got behind the truck and in one massive effort, they freed it from the mud so Rocky could be on his way back home.  By this time, a large crowd of “locals” had gathered – the same “locals” that we thought would run up and steal the food.  Instead, they placed themselves at the doors of the school and not only helped maintain order but they helped measure out the rice and beans and put it in the recipients’ sacks.  Dozens of Gatineau community members stayed all day long, helping us distribute food to those who were without.  It was an incredible example of benevolence begetting benevolence.  You see, the Gatineau “locals” were the ones who just ALL received tin and cement to rebuild their houses.  And, yesterday most of them just received kitchen kits and blankets from us.  So, it was apparent that they realized that this time the gifts were for others.  And, they helped us provide them with enthusiasm.

All the sacks of rice and beans were distributed that day.  There were some people who came from far away and did not have cards and they were served also.  And, there were a few local people who wanted food and were turned away as well as a few who had cards and there was no more food to give them.  But, overall, over 500 people were served and they went back up that mountain knowing their families would eat for a few days at least.

As Cherlie and I drove back down the mountain to come home that night, we thanked all the local people we saw along the way, including the pastor of the Baptist church in Gatineau.  “Please tell your people in church tomorrow that we appreciate their help,” we said.  “It’s what they needed to do,” he said.  No, they didn’t need to do it, but they did because maybe, finally, attitudes in the community are changing as they see compassion at work in their midst.  Praise the Lord for His perfect timing and for many lessons learned that day.

Sacks of rice and beans in the public school in Gatineau after being unloaded

Crowd of people waiting for food from the school

Measuring cans of rice into sacks for recipients

Every once in a while, I come across something in our clinic that makes me smile in spite of all the patient problems I listen to all day.  Sometimes it’s seeing a child’s face light up as I present them with a gift of a toy car or a Beanie baby.  Sometimes it’s a t-shirt that is incongruous in its setting, like the one that has an arrow pointing down to baby and is being worn by a man.

Last week, I saw the ultimate smile-maker which was the plastic cover to a tennis racket being used as a handbag.  I thought it was quite ingenious and didn’t want to embarrass him by asking about it.  I did take a photo to prove my point, though:

A patient sits in the examination room with a tennis racket cover as his handbag.

 

KEEPING THE EMERGENCY ROOM BUSY

My medical career in the US has generally been spent working in Emergency Departments in Milwaukee and surrounding communities.  Although trained as an internist, Emergency Medicine has allowed me to see patients of all ages and do procedures that help save lives and prevent illness and disability.  When we built our new clinic, we made sure that we had a small but functional Emergency Department, equipped with gurneys and supplies that allow us to provide at least a first level of care to those who are acutely ill or injured.

The ER has been getting a lot of use lately, as we see patients on an almost daily basis who are brought by stretcher or motorcycle with acute medical problems.  We give nebulizer treatments for asthma, put in Foley catheters when patients are unable to urinate, drain abscesses, do wound dressings and, frequently sew up lacerations caused by anything from a machete to a sheet of tin roofing.  Just this week, we saw two patients who were cut by tin as they worked to put up a new tin roof on their house (thanks to our home-building project).  Not only do they get their tin roof, they get their laceration taken care of by us as well!

 

With the help of a donated bedside examination light, Dr. Wolf sews up a patient’s thumb laceration, caused by a sheet of roofing tin.

 

 

Cherlie puts the final dressing on the young man’s wound

 

We appreciate the partners who help us acquire gloves, gauze and suture materials that we use to take care of patients  like this young man.

 

 

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