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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!!!

 

 

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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!!!

 

By Executive Director Catherine E. Wolf, MD MPH

I finally have a slow but present internet connection so I can give you a personal update with regard to our situation here in Jérémie, Haiti.  As you’ve seen on the news and read on our website, Hurricane Matthew was a devastating storm with widespread destruction and Jérémie sustained the brunt of it.  We were without cell phone contact from early morning on Tuesday, October 4th, until Friday evening, October 7th.  Internet was down entirely until late last week.  We are grateful for all the prayers, emails, phone calls and concern that has been shown to us and to our staff here in Haiti as well as the people in the communities we serve.  We praise the Lord that all of our staff are safe, although several of them lost their homes.  Let me update you regarding our present situation and share some reflections about the tragedy and what it means for the future.

  • Our house in Jérémie was entirely flooded due to water coming under the windows, but we’re fortunate that no windows or doors were broken. We lost our solar panels, so we go without electricity except for a few hours in the evening when we use our backup generator or inverter and batteries.  Our water drums on the roof blew off and most of the plumbing pipes were broken, so we’re in the process of replacing them.  In the meantime, we have water in a cistern and are using buckets of water for bathing.  All the wet boxes have been cleaned up and the house is getting back to normal.  Our driveway, which was entirely filled with fallen coconut trees, finally got cleared last weekend and our yard helpers are cutting up fallen branches and clearing the debris.  A few flowers actually survived the storm!
  • The clinic was flooded also as many of our new, wooden windows broke in the strong winds and fell off. The room that had the most damage was the pharmacy, where bags of pre-packaged medications were blown onto the flooded floor and medication bins were blown off the shelves.  Cherlie and I spent three days last week up at the clinic cleaning things up and re-organizing the pharmacy.  We had to wash and re-package hundreds of medication bags in order to re-stock the shelves.  Some medications were lost entirely when water seeped into the plastic medication bags.  But the work is now done and we’re planning to re-open the clinic on Monday, October 17.
  • The drive up the mountain to Gatineau last Wednesday was a sobering one for Cherlie and me as we passed houses, churches and schools with varying degrees of missing roofs, broken walls and changed lives. Everyone we passed just shook their heads and shrugged their shoulders in resolute acceptance of the tragedy that God allowed to pass.  The Haitian fatalistic world view was evident in full force.  There was one thing that tied us all together, though.  As one person put it so simply, “Everyone got a piece of the cake.”  In other words, everyone was affected by the storm in some way.  Houses that weren’t destroyed were flooded, everyone’s crops were destroyed and livestock died, no matter who owned them.   As such, everyone has a burden to bear.  Many lives were lost, especially the elderly, some of whom were our patients.  For them we all grieve.  Many farmers who were up in the high mountains harvesting beans at the time of the storm perished, as their flimsy stick houses blew away, and steep mountainsides slid out from under them.  Our hearts ache for their families.  Some pieces of this cake were harder to swallow than others.
  • As we passed landmarks in town and along the road that are now changed, a landscape that will never be the same, lives that have been impacted forever, I realized once again how resilient and long-suffering are the Haitian people. When 2 rooms of their house fall down, they pack all 10 family members into the 2 rooms that are still covered.  When the whole house falls down, they put up tin walls and a coconut leaf roof and sleep inside.  When there’s no food for them to cook, they boil water and make sweet tea.  And, everywhere you look, you see smiles.  Smiles?  After a tragedy like this?  Yes, smiles because they’re alive.  And, that is cause to celebrate.  No attempts to blame anyone for anything, no analyzing to determine how the situation could have been handled differently, no moaning and groaning about lack of government services or safety net.  The Haitian safety net is the Lord and it’s obvious to all that He’s in control.
  • The last thing I want to share is the amazing rebirth that has already begun. Banana trees are starting to sprout from their cut-off trunks, leaves are starting to re-appear on the trees, grass is beginning to grow and wilted corn is beginning to stand up.  Things will never be the same, but the Lord and nature shows us that there is a future.  And, that’s what we are looking towards – rebuilding homes for people in the communities we serve, replenishing livestock, re-planting gardens and fields.  This is what you and we together can do for the Haitian people that we serve through our clinic.  Relief agencies are at work trying, in spite of security obstacles, to distribute tarps and food supplies and we are helping when we can obtain supplies from these larger organizations.  But, our focus is on the future, when the “big guns” have left and our people are hungry and in need of permanent housing.   We’ll be there for them, to help them rebuild their homes and their lives, to help them improve their health and to comfort their aching hearts.  We’ll be there with them, working alongside them, caring for them.  We hope that you’ll be there right beside us!

 

Photo by Associated Press.  Saint Anne church lays totally destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Camp Perrin. Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016.

Photo by Associated Press. Saint Anne church lays totally destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Camp Perrin. Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016.

By now, we’ve all heard of the catastrophe caused by Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean and within our borders. News channels have been documenting how Hurricane Matthew has destroyed communities of people, now surviving on the mercy of others. As a Haitian living in the United States, I sat in the comfort of my home and watched as the people of southern Haiti lost everything overnight.

I don’t know if any of us that have not been through it will ever understand how it feels to lose EVERYTHING in a matter of hours. Picture after picture of families you know, places you’ve lived, monuments that brought pride to its people, now gone. Trees that once provided food, ripped straight from the ground, roofs of homes that served as humble shelters lifted by Matthew’s ferocious winds, and the PAIN on the faces of the thousands of people. It is simply unbearable.

Approximately 80% of the people of Jérémie, Haiti are now homeless and with the loss of crops and livestock, the number of those in HUNGER from the lack of food will soon be incomprehensible.

I believe that there is a divine reason for everything, and I also believe that when we as people work together, we can move mountains. The devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew, although a large mountain, can be moved if we work together.

The first thing you can do is to make a donation to Friends for Health in Haiti’s Hurricane Matthew Relief Fund. We have people on the ground in Haiti who will ensure that 100% of your donation gets to the people who need it most.  I choose to believe that this mountain of pain and despair caused by Hurricane Matthew can be moved, if we lock arms and work together in rebuilding Jérémie and ultimately the lives of its people.

FHH and I are asking you to lock arms with us, by making a donation today to the Hurricane Matthew Relief Fund.

Together we are strong!
Judith Romelus
Director of Development

Now that regular communication with Dr. Wolf has been restored, we are learning of the full extent of the devastation from Hurricane Matthew and what assistance is most needed. Dr. Wolf explained that better than 95% of homes between Jérémie and Gatineau had tin roofs. Virtually all of those roofs were blown off and any household belongs within were largely destroyed by the ferocious wind and torrential rain. In many cases, the walls of the homes then collapsed as well. Thousands of people are now without shelter. In Gatineau, hundreds had gathered on the porch of our clinic to take shelter during the storm and have remained there since, their homes now gone.

The primary immediate needs are for temporary shelter and food. We are looking to procure large durable tarps to serve as temporary roofing for the homes that are still standing. Because we need these urgently, Dr. Wolf plans to make a trip into Port au Prince to procure tarps and supplies there. Any donations received here will go directly and completely to this effort. For those concerned about how their donation will be used, rest assured that 100% will go to helping the people affected by the hurricane. Any overhead costs for our organization have already been funded by our regular donors, so please don’t be held back by the fear that your money will not be well spent. If you want more information about that, please reach out to us and we can provide you with the details.  Click here to donate now!

We will also be looking to partner with other well established relief distribution organizations to help us get supplies from the U.S. shipped quickly to Haiti. We then hope to facilitate the local distribution of these supplies in and around Jérémie and the clinic to prevent that from becoming a corrupted process. Since Dr. Wolf and Cherlie have lived there for many years and we have a network of local community members we already employ, we are fortunate to have the network to get the supplies delivered securely to those in need. As is often the case, a key concern is rampant looting. While people have fled their destroyed homes, others are looting them and taking anything of value that remains. So reestablishing these homes quickly as safe shelter is critical to prevent the theft of what little they still have.

There is more to come, but for now please know that we are already taking action on the ground in Haiti to help those in need. With Dr. Wolf now able to communicate regularly, we will be posting frequent updates on the needs and our progress in delivering aid. Praise be to God for bringing good people together to help those in need.

 

This will be a brief update because, like so many of you, we are still awaiting news of Dr. Wolf and Cherlie.  We have spoken with contacts in Port au Prince but none of them have been able to reach those in Jérémie as of yet.  It is common after major storms for the communications to be down for up to a couple of days.  Hopefully they will be restored soon.  All we know at this point is that Jérémie was hit very hard and is dealing with severe flooding, many destroyed homes and damage to a key bridge, though we don’t know if or how that is affecting travel to and from Jérémie.  We will update this page and our website if and when additional information becomes available.  Your continued thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated.

We received news this morning from Cherlie’s sister Yasmine who spoke with her earlier. As of 5:50 AM, Dr. Wolf and Cherlie are safe but they are without electricity and have been up most of the night battling flooding in their home due to the high winds and rain. We have no details about damage in the area or across Haiti at this time. Winds and rain are near their peak with wind speeds of 140 mph and gusting over 160. The next several hours are expected to be the most ferocious period. The path of the storm did cross almost directly over Jérémie, Haiti where they live and the massive storm is now centered just east of them as it continues to move slowly north. For further updates and information, check back here, our Facebook page, or on our website at www.friendsforhealthinhaiti.org.

There was a death yesterday of a sixteen-year-old boy.  When we heard about it, Cherlie and I both lowered our heads and cried.  They were tears of pain and frustration, at the country we live in and the limitations of our own capabilities.  We had seen the young boy in the clinic on Thursday, orphaned at birth and cared for since then by his aunt.  She brought him in to see us in consultation.  She sat rather casually in her chair as he writhed around on his in pain.  “He’s had abdominal cramps that started about ten days ago”, she said.  “Then, he got a fever and diarrhea and the pain has been worse since then.  He could hardly walk to come to the clinic this morning.”  “Walk to the clinic,” I thought.  “This boy doesn’t look like he can walk across the room.”  His abdomen was distended, tight as a drum and tender all over, especially in the right lower quadrant.  “Well, “I thought, “it’s either appendicitis or typhoid fever but it’s mostly certainly ruptured.”  “Why did you wait so long to come in,” I asked.  She shrugged her shoulders and said that they were hoping it would get better by itself.  Tragic mistake.

“You need to take him to the general hospital in Jérémie immediately”, I said to her.  “He needs to have emergency surgery and you need to go right away or he’ll die.”  I was hoping the dire prediction would make her jump into action.  But, she just sat there, shook her head and said there was no way she could take the boy to the hospital, no matter how sick he was.  She kept talking as I quickly wrote out a letter of reference for her to take to the hospital.  Letters usually ensure faster care, although nothing can be assumed at the government hospital.  But, it was his only possible chance for survival.

When I was finished, I asked Cherlie to talk with the aunt because I was concerned about her nonchalant attitude and wanted to be sure she understood the possible consequences of not taking the young boy to the hospital.  So, Cherlie talked with her in the frank way only she can and when they left, we knew the aunt wasn’t going anywhere except home.  The boy died later that night.

Our prayer is that some day we’ll have another jeep and a driver on salary and thousands of dollars in a Poor Fund so we can personally take a patient like this young boy to the hospital and be responsible for their initial care.  We can’t do it with everyone but we certainly can try with the urgent ones.  As things are now, we’re left with difficult decisions because we can’t leave 40 or 50 patients sitting in the clinic in order to drive an urgent patient to Jérémie to the hospital.  Someone else in the waiting area might be as much in need of our care.  So, we have to rely on the families to take responsibility for their loved one, and we often do give them money to help them out.  But, they have to make the ultimate decision on what to do.  Life here in Haiti is always a series of small choices that become more significant due to the poverty and lack of resources.  Money is only one of them.  Having others help at home and at the hospital are others.  Understanding how to get around in town is another.  Finding a place to stay and cook the patient’s food are others.  There are no safety nets here, no community resources, no social services, no one to go to outside of their own circle.   And that lack of resources sometimes makes us cry.

As many of you know, we have been functioning in the clinic with our pharmacy temporarily located in the same room as our registration desk and medical records.  The “actual” pharmacy is located in the adjacent lab/xray/pharmacy building but we were unable to move into that area because we didn’t yet have wooden windows installed.   Well, thanks to our most recent employee Viel Laurent, our windows are now in place and two weeks ago we moved the pharmacy into its rightful place.  Look at the results below:

Shelves in the new pharmacy with bins for medications

Shelves in the new pharmacy with bins for medications

Cherlie and pharmacy technician Guy-Johns Chevalier stand in front of the new pharmacy shelves.

Cherlie and pharmacy technician Guy-Johns Chevalier stand in front of the new pharmacy shelves.

Over the next few weeks we hope to be able to move most of the stock medications from our house down in Jérémie up to the clinic pharmacy.  What a relief that will be!  Pray with us that we will soon be able to install windows in the laboratory area as well and get it set up to do more advanced laboratory testing.

 

There is no doubt that Haiti is a difficult place to live and work.  Many of the things that we take for granted in the US are lacking or limited here in Haiti – things like electricity, clean water, good roads, internet access, etc.  So, we learn to make do with limited resources and to protect the precious resources that we are given.  Acquiring medical equipment and supplies and shipping them to Haiti, bringing them out from PAP and getting them up the mountain to our clinic can be a logistical challenge.  It is truly a situation where “anpil men, chaj pa lou” (many hands make light work).  Below is an instance of people working together for the good of our ministry and the people we serve:

We recently were given permission to have some medical equipment and supplies shipped down to Haiti through HarvestCall, the mission outreach of the Apostolic Christian Church (ACC).  ACC is now responsible for managing the mission hospital (Hopital Lumiere) where Cherlie and I previously worked in the 80’s and 90’s, in partnership with the MEBSH church denomination.  ACC has a large warehouse in Bluffton, IN and regularly ships containers to Haiti with medical equipment and supplies for the hospital.  We had some supplies in Milwaukee that we packed in drums with the help of Don Richmond, Ray and Donna Moon and Yvonne Ducharme in April when we were in town.  Then, Cherlie and I, along with my mother Virginia, went with the Moons to IN to deliver them to the ACC warehouse.  At the same time, other large medical equipment was donated to us by the Avera Hospital system in Sioux Falls, SD and shipped to IN.  It all arrived at the warehouse at the end of April and was shipped on a container to Haiti a few weeks later.  The container was cleared through customs by ACC’s very competent broker and staff and delivered to its Construction Department in Cayes, Haiti.  We were notified that the shipment had arrived and made two trips to Cayes from Jérémie (three hour drive) to pick up the equipment from Brent Wagenbach, an ACC missionary, who did a wonderful job in getting the crates loaded onto our truck with a forklift.  We then brought them out to Jérémie and up to the clinic.

Unloading two crates from the truck, each weighing over 1400 pounds, without a forklift presented a logistical challenge.  We figured it would take at least 15 men to even lift the crates, much less move them off the truck and put them on the ground without dropping or tipping them over.  Here’s how the process unfolded:

Deciding how to get the two large, heavy crates off the truck and onto the ground outside the clinic

Deciding how to get the two large, heavy crates off the truck and onto the ground outside the clinic

Contemplating moving the crates from the truck onto a pile of plywood where they could be opened and unloaded

Contemplating moving the crates from the truck onto a pile of plywood where they could be opened and unloaded

We decided that even if the first crate could be pulled onto the plywood, it would most likely tip over before it could be moved onto the clinic porch and unloaded.  So, we decided to take the crate apart inside the truck and unload each item separately.  Our helpers did a wonderful job and within a couple of hours, both crates were unloaded and all the equipment was safely inside the clinic buildings.

Taking equipment off the truck with the help of local Haitian men

Taking equipment off the truck with the help of local Haitian men

Carrying a heavy operating room light into one of the storage depots.

Carrying a heavy operating room light into one of the storage depots.

Carefully taking an infant isolette (for future use in a maternity center) off the truck

Carefully taking an infant isolette (for future use in a maternity center) off the truck

Infant warmer safely in one of the clinic rooms

Infant warmer safely in one of the clinic rooms

We give thanks to the Lord first and to everyone who helped in this process.  You are all wonderful!  We especially want to thank the following people:

Micheal Stebbins and Kathy English and the Avera Hospital system, SD

Brent Wagenbach, Mary and Bob Honegger, Cindy Shorb, Gary Barger with Apostolic Christian Church

Ray and Donna Moon

Yvonne Ducharme

Don Richmond

Our Haitian staff and workers who helped unload the truck

 

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