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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!!!

 

 

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.

 

 

As you know if you’ve been reading our previous blogs, we began an ambitious home rebuilding project after the hurricane, to help people in the area around our clinic rebuild their destroyed or badly damaged houses.  In the first stage of this project, we had our Community Coordinator, Gemi Baptiste, visit over 700 homes in communities closest to the clinic site to see how many of them were in need of repair and rebuilding.  The criteria for choosing homes to rebuild were simple:  the house needed to be severely damaged or destroyed, the land needed to be owned by the homeowner, not rented, and they needed to be willing to build their own house if they were given tin, nails and cement.  Furthermore, they needed to be willing to be photographed in front of their house, both before and after the building process.  500 homes were chosen for rebuilding and, over the past two weeks, 10,000 sheets of tin, over 3000 pounds of nails and 300 sacks of cement have been distributed to the homeowners.  Here are photos of the distribution process:

The tin sheets were carries from the storage depot out into the yard, counted and put in piles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Several piles of tin ready for distribution

 

Crowd of people waiting for tin and nails

 

The tin is wrapped in packs of 10 or 15 and secured with wire for support

 

Each recipient had their photo taken as they stood by the supplies they received.  Some only took tin and nails and will wait until they are further along in the building process to get their cement.  Others took all three – tin, nails and cement.

 

Woman poses with tin and nails she received

 

This man received tin, nails and cement

 

There were various methods of transporting the tin and cement back to their homes.  Some carried it on their heads, others paid motorcycle drivers to transport it and others used mules and donkeys to get the precious cargo home.

Transporting on his head

 

Loading cement sacks onto a motorcycle

 

Two packs of tin loaded onto a donkey

 

We were discussing the progress of the project with Gemi and he said that people are very motivated to get the frames of their houses built so they can receive the tin for the roof.  In fact, they are actually helping one another with the framing and with nailing the tin in place.  He says groups of men are going from one house to another to help one another rebuild.  For those of you who know Haiti, you know that collaboration is not a strong part of the Haitian culture.  In this small project that grew out of a huge need we saw in the communities we serve, we are finding two aspects of true community development.  First, the Haitians are building their homes themselves.  They’re using the design of their choosing, the size of their choosing and the materials they have available.  We’re coming alongside them to help them, but they have taken responsibility for their own homes, effectively rebuilding not only their houses but also their lives.  Since they’re doing the building themselves, they have complete ownership of it and the house is their home, their dwelling, their possession.  We are assistants in the process, not directors.  It’s a Haitian project, not an American one and they are proud of it.

Secondly, and this came as a total surprise to me, they are helping one another in the rebuilding process.  This is an amazing, empowering, positive unintended consequence of what we started.  Neighbors helping neighbors, young helping old, skilled helping unskilled, in a true spirit of progress.  That’s unusual in Haiti and we are thrilled to see it.  We’re praying that this spirit of cooperation and collaboration will permeate their communities and become a new way of living for them.  Cherlie preaches this message of service to the patients in our clinic every day, but now we’re seeing it in action and it is truly gratifying.

We give thanks to our very generous donors who have allowed us the privilege of serving these communities in their time of need after the hurricane.  Once we’ve distributed all of the materials for this first stage of rebuilding, we will move on to communities further up in the mountains and give them the opportunity to participate in the rebuilding project.

Grateful receipient with his home-building supplies

 

POLITICAL UPDATE

We are back in Jérémie now and our clinic is open and busy.  We’re staying up at the clinic site during the week, so as to avoid any demonstrations that might occur in town.  There are no new developments with regard to the situation with Guy-Philippe, but there is a great deal of discussion about possible disqualifying information that is being disseminated about the newly elected presidential candidate Jovenel Moise.  It remains to be seen as to whether he will be inaugurated as planned on February 7th.  Until then, there is always the possibility of unrest as his supporters react to the negative news that is being spread about him.  Political uncertainty is difficult for us, but it’s a common theme here, so we need to stay flexible, as do our potential visitors!  As always, we appreciate your prayers for us and for our ministry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

JANUARY 17, 2017

I think the number of gray hairs on my head has doubled in the past two weeks and yesterday certainly contributed. Cherlie and I had been in Port-au-Prince since January 6th, due to unrest and violence, not only in Jérémie, but on the road to Jérémie from Cayes. On Friday, the 13th of January, Guy-Philippe appeared in court and the charges were read to him, to which he replied, “Not guilty”. So, another court date was set. We were waiting to see the reaction of his supporters after this court appearance in order to decide our further steps. While there were still daily demonstrations in Jérémie, there was not widespread unrest as there had been last week. So, we decided to try to make the trip by vehicle from Port-au-Prince to Jérémie. We were going to “make a run for it”, so to speak. But, because of potential violence, we felt it would be best for me to “hide” in the jeep as we traveled, so that no one would see my white face and be tempted to kidnap me. I certainly didn’t want to end up as a hostage or something worse.

Yes, I realize it’s quite comical to think of someone my size “hiding” in the jeep! But, that’s exactly what I did. We put our duffel bags in the jeep behind the front seats and then packed the rest of the jeep with boxes of meds, groceries and supplies to take with us. We then covered the whole back of the jeep with a huge tarp. We left Port-au-Prince at 4am. After passing Cayes at 7am, with two and a half hours left to travel, I climbed into the back of the jeep and curled up with my knees bent, lying down on the duffel bags. A laundry bag full of dirty clothes was my pillow and my bare feet were pushed up against the side of the vehicle. Off we went with Miller, our driver, driving!

All weekend, I had been mentally preparing for this ordeal, thinking that my greatest problem would be pain from arthritis in my hips and knees. I was sure I could endure the pain because my desire to get home and back to our clinic was tremendous motivation. I really felt very much at peace with the decision to travel. I had taken some acetaminophen before we left Port-au-Prince and as I lay on the duffel bags, I felt quite comfortable. But, after only a few miles of driving, I suddenly began to feel claustrophobic. My face was up against the front seats, my head was pushed against one side of the jeep and my feet were pressed against the other side. The tarp covered my whole body with a thin slit of light coming through from the front of the vehicle. I felt like I was trapped in a cave and needed to get out immediately! So, I sat bolt upright, moved the tarp away from my face and said, “I don’t think I can do this!” Cherlie and Miller looked over at me with looks that said “What’s your problem?” So, after I sat up and gulped in some breaths of fresh air, I felt considerably better. We realized that I could prop up on my elbow and peer through the opening of the tarp except when we went through areas that were heavily populated or areas of expected problems. Then, I would lie down flat and stay out of sight. And, that’s what I did. In fact, in the two and a half hours that we drove, I propped myself up on my elbow so often that I got an abrasion on it! But, with the air conditioning blowing in my direction and a little light coming in and periodic views of where we were going, not only was I not claustrophobic any more, I didn’t even get car-sick. As it turned out, we got stopped at a couple of police stations but passed no road blocks or other gangs of demonstrators. At many, many places, rocks were piled along the road where roadblocks had been previously placed. And, there were a few areas where young men were sitting near piles of rocks, looking like they would throw some at likely targets. Fortunately, we weren’t targeted. As we drove through the town of Jérémie itself, Cherlie saw evidence of burned tires (I wasn’t looking at that point), but no active demonstrations were taking place. In talking with a friend later, we found out that very early in the morning, a group started to burn tires in town and the police came up and said to them, “No tires are to be burned today. You can demonstrate any other day of the week, but today, you can’t.” When I heard that, I thought, “Yes, Lord, you wanted us to get home safely, indeed.”

Our plans now are to go up to Gatineau tomorrow and re-open our clinic. The people up there have been asking about us and have pledged that we will be safe among them! So, we’ll stay up there through the week and only come down to Jérémie periodically (like to watch the Packers’ game). We are still concerned about the political situation here, as Guy-Philippe’s next day in court is January 27th and local elections are being held on January 29th. Until the next president is sworn in on February 7th, things are still unstable. As things develop, we will let you know. In the meantime, thanks for all the prayers and support from you, our Home Team!!

According to our staff in Jérémie, there continue to be daily protests on the streets and these will continue through the week. There is less violence, however, and businesses are open, but no Americans are visible on the streets, since the threat to them is still very severe.

Today there were very high winds and rain and many people lost the tarps that were covering their houses. This is devastating to people who have not yet recovered from the hurricane. They fear another storm is on its way.

Please continue your prayers for their recovery. Please pray also that the political unrest will be resolved soon and that we can return to Jérémie and resume our clinic activities as well as our rebuilding efforts. We plan to remain in PAP until at least Friday, which is the day that Guy-Philippe is scheduled to be in court. The result of that court appearance will most likely determine future activities and unrest among his supporters here in Haiti.

Not much new in terms of news today. The road to Jérémie is still blocked by gangs of protestors and there is unrest in the town of Jérémie itself. Extra Haitian police forces are out in number, according to our sources and there is less violence than there was yesterday. But, the situation is still volatile and we are staying in Port-au-Prince for the time being. Electricity is limited here but, otherwise, we are quite comfortable.

We appreciate all the prayers and emails that have been coming our way. We will continue to try to give frequent updates. There have been several articles about the arrest of Guy-Philippe on the internet. This has been a severe blow to the stability we all hoped would come with completion of the long drawn out Haitian election process. It is very disappointing

Cherlie and I were in the US for two weeks to visit family and take care of FHH business during the holidays. We were in Florida yesterday, getting ready to fly back to PAP, when we received news that there was unrest in Haiti. It was related to the fact that a politician named Guy-Philippe was arrested and taken to the US, supposedly on drug charges.

He is from Pestel, which isn’t far from Jérémie, and is a very popular politician in our area, having won election to the Haitian Senate in a landslide during the recent elections. We’ve met him and he’s visited our clinic and he is beloved by most of the people in the Grand’Anse where we live and work. Since his arrest there has been widespread violence along the road from PAP to Jérémie and in Jérémie itself, with tires burning in the streets and gangs roaming around town.

We were not fully aware of the situation yesterday and flew to PAP this morning, narrowly escaping being in Fort Lauderdale Airport during the shooting that occurred there. Since arriving in PAP, though, we have been informed by our friends in Jérémie that the violence is widespread and is especially directed to Americans.

It is a very dangerous situation and one that requires much prayer and wisdom. For now, we will remain in PAP, but if things deteriorate, it may be necessary to go back to the US. We are putting everything on hold until we see how things play out. In all my years in Haiti, this is the first time that the unrest has been so specifically anti-American, so we need to be very cautious, not only in terms of our own safety but also the safety of visitors. I will update this blog as I am able in the days ahead. With the Lord’s help and with your prayers, we will “be strong and of good courage”.

Upon seeing and experiencing the devastation of Hurricane Matthew and being witness to the uncoordinated response of relief and aid organizations, Cherlie and I felt strongly that we needed to do something to help Haitians in communities around the clinic to rebuild their homes.  Over 90% of the houses in the area were severely damaged or destroyed.  Roofs blew off, walls fell down, and during two months of daily rain, people were wet and discouraged.  Most of them lost clothing and personal possessions, livestock and crops.  They were destitute and hungry.  Some of them built small shacks to live in temporarily, built with old tin, bark from coconut trees or coconut leaves.  They knew it was a temporary solution but they didn’t have money or resources to rebuild their houses, until Friends for Health in Haiti came to their door.

Temporary shack made of tin

A temporary home not even as tall as it’s owner

 

Coconut leaves and bark make a shelter for this man

We sent our community coordinator, Gemi Baptiste to visit every home in the communities closest to the clinic site.  He had a proposal for them:  the clinic will supply you with 30 sheets of roofing tin, 10 pounds of nails and 4 sacks of cement on the condition that you rebuild your own house and allow us to photograph the house before and after.  Those who agreed to the conditions received a card with their name on it and the amount of materials they would receive.  At a later date, they would be informed as to when materials would be ready at the clinic for them to pick up.  In the meantime, they could start to clear the debris from their old house and build the frames for walls and roof.  Later, we heard about comments like these from recipients of the cards:  “We knew that if any help would come to us, it would be from Dr. Wolf, Miss Cherlie and the clinic.”  Others said, “We know that if something is given to Dr. Wolf and Miss Cherlie, they will share it with the communities and not keep it for themselves.”  This, to us, is what Christianity is all about – living out your faith and meeting the needs of those you are called to serve.  But, it also means meeting those needs in a manner that empowers the local people, by having them participate in the process, rather than creating dependency by doing everything for them.

Her house is destroyed so why is she smiling???

Roof is intact but the house fell down

Wet clothing and possessions lie where this house used to be

House skeleton remains

From the time of the hurricane until the beginning of December, rain poured down every single day, making our drive up the mountain to our clinic and down again a muddy, slippery trek.  There were days when we couldn’t get up the mountain and afternoons when we couldn’t get down, due to large buses getting stuck in mud in narrow parts of the road.  Our four-wheel-drive jeep with its big, knobby tires kept us going, barely.  Finally, the rains stopped, the road dried up but there were deep ruts and crevices where the rain and the buses had left their mark.  We wanted to start our house-rebuilding project but first we had to do some road repairs.  So, we hired some local young men and we had Miller, our driver, take up gravel and rocks and we repaired the worst portions of the road.  We decided it was better to repair the road than to risk significant damage to our dump truck!

Workers shovel fill dirt and rocks into the dump truck at the river

Dump truck unloading fill dirt and rocks on the road

Young men spreading out the fill dirt on the road

Unloading rocks in an area of the road with deep ruts

We were able to take 5000 sheets of tin, hundreds of pounds of nails and 300 sacks of cement up to the clinic before Christmas.  This past week, the materials were distributed to people who had been visited by Gemi, deemed to be in need of house repair and given a card.  This is just the start of our rebuilding process.  To date, we’ve given cards to 500 families in communities closest to the clinic.  In the ensuing weeks, we hope to visit and help another 1000 to 1500 families further up in the mountains, thanks to the generosity of our donors.  The area in which we work has 7800 households, and over 90% of their homes have been badly damaged.  So, there is still much work to be done.  But, when the people of God put their hearts and hands together, much can be accomplished.  Thank you, donors!  And, thanks to the Haitian homeowners who are rebuilding their own houses with grace, dignity and gratitude.  We’ll have more updates in the weeks to come.

 

 

 

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