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by Dr. Katie Wolf

For several years now, I’ve been trying to get the FHH Board of Directors to hold a board meeting in Haiti, rather than in Milwaukee. We finally were able to set it up for November 2nd this year and all the appropriate plans were made for the board members to come down for the meeting and a brief stay in Jérémie.   Well, as you know, when plans are made that involve Haiti, they are often subject to change and these plans were no exception! The excitement began a few days before the board’s arrival, when I discovered that Tortug’Air flights were still on hold due to problems with the airplane. So, the first test of the board’s resilience was the 7 hour drive from Port-au-Prince to Jérémie in our jeep and another vehicle. They crossed that hurdle in flying colors when we arrived in Jérémie around 8pm Saturday evening, November 1st. The discomfort of the rough roads was more than offset by the meaningful conversations that took place in the vehicles. And, when we got to Jeremie, we were treated to a wonderful spaghetti dinner, thanks to the efforts of Cherlie, Tim and Ralph (they were with the Montview group and stayed on for the board meeting, helping Cherlie with laundry, bed-making and cleaning in preparation for the board members’ visit).

We woke up on Sunday morning, the day of the board meeting, to the sound of rain outside. It wasn’t just a drizzle, it was pouring rain. Having been through many months of drought, we were glad to have rain, just not on this day! But, rain it did. Our plans had called for going up to the clinic site so the board members could have a grand tour of all the construction, seeing first hand the buildings we have worked so hard to complete in the past few months. Then, we were going to hold the board meeting in the living room of the newly completed residence quarters, looking out on the beautiful valley below. Well, it seemed that the Lord and Mother Nature had other plans.

We slipped and slid our way up the mountain in the pouring rain, determined that everyone would at least be able to see the clinic site and buildings, even if we couldn’t do the “grand tour of the grounds” that I had envisioned. As we went further up into the mountains, we came to several areas where flooding had occurred, covering the road with water and threatening to overflow the banks of the creek running along the road. As we made it through each flooded, muddy section, we breathed a prayer of thanks for a sturdy vehicle and knobby tires! About half a mile from the clinic, though, we encountered an obstacle that required some contemplation – the creek we had to cross had become a raging river and the rain was continuing to fall. We piled out of the two vehicles and stood by the banks of the creek looking at the water swirling in front of us. The general conclusion of the group was that it wasn’t worth risking the jeep and our safety in order to get up to the clinic site. But, if we didn’t go up, the five members of the board who had flown in for the board meeting (other than Tim and Ralph who had been there the previous week) would have made the trip to Haiti somewhat in vain. So, we stood and watched, thinking through alternatives, weighing risks and benefits, counting the cost, etc.

The creek turned raging river

The creek turned raging river

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Weighing our options at the creek crossing

And, then something happened that made us stop in our thoughts. A local Haitian man, in barefeet and shorts, began walking across the raging creek. The water came up to his thighs, but he was able to cross without losing his balance or being washed downstream.  Mmm. Food for thought. If he was able to cross and didn’t get washed away, maybe we could indeed cross in the jeep. Still, there was hesitation. Maybe if the jeep went with a few people and proved that it was safe, the rest would follow. Well, that didn’t make sense, since we need all the weight we can get in the jeep in order to keep the tires on the stone creek bed and not have it whisked downstream. Okay, so it’s everyone or no one. Still there was indecision. What should we do? And then the same Haitian man crossed the creek again. And, again he kept his footing and didn’t get swept away. Finally, everyone was agreeable to take a chance and cross the creek. I turned the wheel over to our Haitian driver, Miller, and we all piled into the back of the jeep. As we held our breaths and prayed a few prayers for safety, we went down the bank on one side, across the creek and slid a bit down stream as we made it up the other side. As we drove up the other bank, we all clapped and saluted Miller for getting us across safely. He, of course, took it all in stride, wondering why these people were so worried about a little water in the first place!

We made it up to the site, walked around all the buildings, took a tour of the clinic, lab/xray/pharmacy building and the beautiful, but very wet residence quarters (without doors and windows, the rain was blowing into the residence living room).

View of the clinic, storage depot and pouring rain from the second floor residence

View of the clinic, storage depot and pouring rain from the second floor residence

As the rain continued to come down, we decided that the better part of valor would be to get back down the mountain and have the board meeting at home, rather than risk not being able to get back across the creek and on home later. So, we went home, regrouped, had a four-hour board meeting and thanked the Lord for all the small miracles of the day. Life and work in Haiti is not usually easy, but it is often exciting!

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By Dr. Katie Wolf

Late October brought to us a work group from Montview Blvd. Presbyterian Church in Denver, Colorado. Included in the group were board members Dr. Tim Bedient and Ralph Minor. Tim is a critical care and pulmonary specialist and is my nephew (Katie’s) and Ralph is an engineer who is our information technology consultant, among other things. A few months ago, Tim and Ralph had a meeting with Youth Pastor Sheri Fry from Montview and plans for a visit began to develop. The plans culminated in a wonderful team of 12 who spent a week with us in Jérémie and Gatineau. Their visit required more than the usual degree of tolerance and flexibility, as Tortug’Air, the local airline, was grounded due to a faulty engine on the one plane that is able to fly to Jérémie. As a result, they had to drive both ways between Port-au-Prince and Jérémie, not an easy task on a road that is improved, but still rough and under construction.

The team helped us out in several areas. Physicians Tim Bedient and Stephanie Knudson and nurse practitioner Eldonna Sylvia saw all the patients while I helped out in the pharmacy and did lab tests. It was great to have Tim’s expertise with my asthma patients and Stephanie and Eldonna gave me a break from patient consultations. All the other members of the team spent some time in the clinic as well, some observing what Cherlie and our staff were doing and others spending time interviewing our patients, in order to learn more about their lives and the things that affect them. When not busy in the clinic, we had some painting for them to do in the pharmacy building and residence quarters on the second floor.

Tim Bedient, Gene Rose and Phoebe Bawmann busy painting the outside of the pharmacy building

Tim Bedient, Gene Rose and Phoebe Bawmann busy painting the outside of the pharmacy building

Pastor Sheri Fry doing some painting with the team

Pastor Sheri Fry doing some painting with the team

 

There were two new activities that we were able to do with this unique group. First, we were able to offer animal vaccines to livestock that belong to people in the communities around the clinic site. Under the expert direction of veterinarian Nancy Willerton and her husband Craig Mills, the team vaccinated 395 animals (cattle, horses, mules, donkeys, pigs, goats and sheep) in 8 different communities in 4 days. It was definitely a team effort, involving the Montview visitors, who helped draw up the vaccines, change needles and syringes, two translators who registered the livestock owners and collected a small fee from them, Haitian veterinarian techs who helped restrain the animals and our own community coordinator Gemi Baptiste. The communities were extremely grateful for the service to their livestock and we were thrilled to be able to offer a new service to our patients and their families. Assisting with livelihood development goes a long way in terms of improving health in our communities. Kudos for the great teamwork demonstrated by our visitors and Haitian staff during this busy, productive week.

 

Several animals waiting for vaccines at one of the vaccination posts

Several animals waiting for vaccines at one of the vaccination posts

Veterinarian Nancy Willerton vaccinates a pig

Veterinarian Nancy Willerton vaccinates a pig

Nancy giving oral anti-parasitic medication to a steer while Vet tech Bruny Chevalier restrains him

Nancy giving oral anti-parasitic medication to a steer while Vet tech Bruny Chevalier restrains him

Another activity that the Montview group did as a “first” for us was to hold two Vacation Bible School (VBS) sessions with local children in the area on two days after school. We invited about 25 children and had more than 35 attend! Word got around and the children came marching up the road to the clinic, freshly bathed and clothed in neatly pressed, clean clothes. Little did they know what was in store for them, but come they did! Pastor Sheri and her team led them in craft activities, Bible stories, songs and games. During the two hours they were with us, I think the children smiled and laughed more than they probably had in the past few months of their lives. It was great work on the part of our visitors, the translators and the children.

 

Children sitting in the waiting area in front of the clinic during VBS

Children sitting in the waiting area in front of the clinic during VBS

Children laying out paper “people” on benches so they can decorate them

Children laying out paper “people” on benches so they can decorate them

Two young girls looking over their beautiful craft items

Two young girls looking over their beautiful craft items

All the children showing off their crafts

All the children showing off their crafts

Children learn how to play the game of “duck duck goose”

Children learn how to play the game of “duck duck goose”

Getting ready to “go” during game of “red light, green light”

Getting ready to “go” during game of “red light, green light”

 

by Dr. Katie Wolf

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog, which can mean one of several things. One, there’s nothing interesting that’s been going on, two, I’ve been having problems with internet and/or computer or three, there’s too much going on and I’ve been too busy to report on it! In this case, it’s definitely not the first reason, since there has been a lot going on. I’ve actually had significant computer problems lately, since my computer crashed several weeks ago and I didn’t have easy access to my saved files (had to use a Dell instead of my Mac). And, I have been very busy as we’ve made significant progress on several fronts. So, let’s catch up and see what’s been going on in Gatineau!

We had another wonderful visit in early October with students and faculty from Johns Hopkins School of Nursing (JHSON). Under the direction of Nicole Warren and Sara Groves, the 8 students worked with us on our ongoing Water and Sanitation Project in six communities near the clinic site. They did a year-end evaluation for us of the Community Promoter activities, going into the communities and making random home visits, meeting with community members and leaders and interviewing the 12 Community Promoters regarding their activities. They found that the Promoters have, indeed, helped people change their behaviors by building tippy-taps to use for washing their hands, treating their water and cleaning up their water sources.

In addition, the students and faculty directed a two-day seminar for the Promoters on the subject of “Community Motivation”. This was extremely well received and the Promoters loved the games and demonstrations that were done to make the subject come alive. Here are some photos from the sessions:

Promoters and students divide into groups to discuss their experiences in the communities

Promoters and students divide into groups to discuss their experiences in the communities

A promoter discusses how his group made a “house” out of tongue depressors, demonstrating the topics of use of available resources and planning ahead for a project

A promoter discusses how his group made a “house” out of tongue depressors, demonstrating the topics of use of available resources and planning ahead for a project

Smile on the face of a Promoter as he learns valuable new skills

Smile on the face of a Promoter as he learns valuable new skills

Game with yarn demonstrating teamwork and inter-connectedness of the Promoters and students

Game with yarn demonstrating teamwork and inter-connectedness of the Promoters and students

Faculty member Nicole Warren looks on

Faculty member Nicole Warren looks on

Retired faculty member Sara Groves returned to JHSON to teach this course and help evaluate our Water and Sanitation Project. Sara led a group of students to us last year to do the initial evaluation at the beginning of the Water and Sanitation Project

Retired faculty member Sara Groves returned to JHSON to teach this course and help evaluate our Water and Sanitation Project. Sara led a group of students to us last year to do the initial evaluation at the beginning of the Water and Sanitation Project

Stay tuned for more updates about a recent visits from members of Montview Blvd. Presbyterian Church and our FHH Board of Directors.

In early November, 2014 the FHH Board of Directors held their board meeting in Haiti for the first time, instead of their usual meeting location in Pewaukee, Wisconsin.  Several board members have visited the clinic previously, in various stages of construction, and some were there for the first time.  Here is the first guest blog post by our visiting board members.

Tom Mahn, MD

Tom Mahn, MD

I recently visited Haiti to see Katie Wolf MD and Cherlie Severe who are Christian medical missionaries in Gatineau. I met Katie many years ago when she was working as a physician at St. Joes. Now she is a full time medical missionary along with Cherlie, an RN who also worked at St. Joes. Cherlie is from Jeremie, Haiti which is down the mountain from the clinic in Gatineau. Several years ago when I visited, they were seeing patients two days a week in a tin roof hut. Now there are beautiful buildings there including a clinic, pharmacy, storage depot, and residence. Plans are underway at some point for an inpatient unit and women’s health center among other things. There is a community outreach program that has included water, hygiene, and seed program. Last week a visiting group even did regional animal vaccines!

The road from Jeremie (where they live) to Gatineau is like nothing you have ever ridden on. The 10 mile trip takes 1 ½ hours each way. They go through tires like crazy. When the residence is finished they (and visiting teams) will be able to stay at the clinic during the week which will be a big help.

Katie and Cherlie are full time in Haiti. There are three Haitian part-time employees: a chaplain, community outreach coordinator, and clinic/pharmacy administrator. This is a locally sustainable clinic that has become the pride of the local people. Patients are charged a little for visits and medications, though no one is turned away for financial reasons. People come dressed to the nines and walk up to four hours to get there.

I am on the board of this organization: Friends for Health in Haiti. If you want to know more or contribute, let me know, visit our website: www.friendsforhealthinhaiti.org, or best of all – come to our fund raising banquet April 25. FHH has done a lot to get the clinic to this point but there is a lot more that can be done.

-Tom Mahn, MD

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