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Our website has been quiet for several weeks, but it doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a lot happening! Cherlie and I were in the US for most of November, visiting family and churches in New Jersey and attending a board meeting and other activities in Milwaukee. It was a productive time and provided a nice change of pace for us.

The clinic has been very busy lately and we were blessed earlier this month with having a team from Avera Health System in South Dakota here to help us out. Joining their group was Dr. Bruce McIntosh, a pediatrician from Jacksonville, Florida. The team had a very busy week helping in the clinic, putting up doors in the pharmacy building, getting a sterilizer working and giving out lots of clothing, diapers and sanitary kits to our patients. In addition, they brought us some much needed medications and supplies as well as patient numbers with the clinic logo on them. It was a fun week and we appreciated their help.

Team leader and nurse Kathy English holding an infant with a new handmade knitted cap on her head

Team leader and nurse Kathy English holding an infant with a new handmade knitted cap on her head

Dr. Bruce McIntosh helping with patient consultations in our Gatineau clinic.

Dr. Bruce McIntosh helping with patient consultations in our Gatineau clinic.

Dan Irvine and Steve Kruger busy putting up doors inside the pharmacy building.

Dan Irvine and Steve Kruger busy putting up doors inside the pharmacy building.

Nurse Jan McGrath with one of the clinic patients

Nurse Jan McGrath with one of the clinic patients

Mary Fargeness shows patients how to brush their teeth with the help of a translator, a huge toothbrush and a large stuffed crocodile “Croc”.

Mary Fargeness shows patients how to brush their teeth with the help of a translator, a huge toothbrush and a large stuffed crocodile “Croc”.

We have been having record numbers of patients lately in our clinic and have had to occasionally turn people away. All the school children are on vacation and many of them are home with their families out in the country. So, when they get sick, they’re coming in to see us! We’re glad to be of service to them, we just hope the overwhelming patient volume will let up soon!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

It’s always a little hard to feel much in the Christmas spirit here in Haiti due to the tropical climate and lack of visual evidence of celebration around us. This holiday season has been an especially difficult one for the Haitian people because of uncertainty and unrest related to the recent Presidential and parliamentary elections. A date for the final runoff election hasn’t yet been decided and many people are restless and upset with the unfair practices they perceive have taken place. It is in the midst of uncertainty in the world that the Gospel of Jesus Christ becomes most comforting – the Rock of Ages, the One on whom we can throw all our burdens and cares. We rejoice in celebration of the birth of the Christ child – sent to earth by the Father to redeem us from our sins and give us New Life in Him. All of us with Friends for Health in Haiti wish for you a very blessed and peaceful Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

Merry Christmas!

All of us at Friends for Health in Haiti would like to wish you a very Happy Easter weekend. In Haiti, Easter weekend is a time to eat special foods (eggs, cassava bread, cabbage made from palm hearts, beets, fish, etc.) and attend special church services celebrating the resurrection of Christ. This weekend we share with other Christians the joy of knowing that our Lord conquered death and gives us hope for redemption and renewal in our lives.

Cherlie and I will be traveling this weekend, on our way to the US for a few weeks of fund-raising activities, meetings and family visits. We will be in NJ and NY first, touching base with family members and supporting churches. Then, in the middle of the month we’re heading out to Milwaukee in order to be there for the 7th annual FHH fund-raising banquet which is being held on April 25th at the Wisconsin Club. We hope that many of you will be able to attend this fun event.

We appreciate your prayers for us as we travel and for success for the Milwaukee banquet and our board meeting the following day. We hope to see many of you and look forward to saying “thanks” for your faithful support and encouragement to us in our ministry here in Haiti.

I recently returned to Jérémie, Haiti after spending several weeks in the US.  Here are some highlights of my visit there:

1.  The second annual Hope for Haiti fund-raising banquet was held at the Wisconsin Club in Milwaukee on April 17, 2010.  Over 250 people attended and it was an enjoyable evening for all, with silent and oral auctions, Haitian market, wonderful food and great company.  Much thanks to all the volunteers, banquet sponsors and participants.  Our fantastic volunteer planning committee, headed by Barbara Tyler and Carla VonRoenn, is already planning next year’s banquet!

2.  Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) has chapters in 41 high schools throughout Wisconsin and they chose Friends for Health in Haiti as their state-wide service project this past year.  They held a final recognition dinner in the Wisconsin Dells on Monday, April 26, 2010 which was attended by myself, Dr. Gregory VonRoenn (FHH Vice President) and college student Becca Mahn.  We were presented with 299 backpacks for school children in Haiti, replete with school supplies, hygiene supplies, tennis shoes, socks and underwear.  In addition, the HOSA students raised money for shipping the backpacks to Haiti and for conducting school exams for the participating school students (checking for anemia, giving vitamins and treating for parasites).  The backpacks were packed in 55-gallon plastic drums and taken in a truck to New York, where they will be put on a shipping container.  It will take a couple of months for them to get to Port-au-Prince and be cleared from customs, after which they will be taken on a truck out to Jérémie and distributed to schools around our clinic site in Gatineau.  There will soon be 299 very happy Haitian students and their parents!

3.  In order to fill in the spaces between the backpacks in the drums, I asked for donations of used clothing and shoes from people in my home church in NJ (Kingston Presbyterian Church).  Well, it is definitely true that you have to be careful what you ask for, because the outpouring of donations was incredible, so much so that we had to buy another 12 fiber drums in which to pack everything.  Members of the congregation stayed after church on May 2nd to help pack the additional drums and they also were taken to NY for shipping.  The clothing will be donated mostly to earthquake victims in Port-au-Prince. The backpack project and NJ clothing donation was featured in an article in the New Brunswick News on April 28, 2010.

4.  While in the US, I was able to share some updates about our work in Haiti with several groups from Eastbrook Church in Milwaukee, Elmbrook Church in Waukesha, the Center for International Health (affiliated with the Medical College of Wisconsin), Kingston Presbyterian Church and other churches in the New Brunswick Presbytery in NJ.  It’s always good to share with others what we’re doing here and encourage their continued participation with us.  In addition, I met with several individuals who are interested in our ministry.  Important contacts were made and we’ll see where the Lord will lead us all in the future.

5.  While I was in Port-au-Prince, I found out that the final paperwork was submitted for release of our new jeep from customs.  Hopefully, we will soon be able to bring it home!  Thanks for your prayers

I recently spent a few weeks in the US, and my activities included a wonderful fund-raising banquet that was held in Milwaukee on April 4th.  We’re thankful to Fund Development Corporation, who helped with the planning of it, in collaboration with a great group of volunteers and our administrative assistant Tracy Bernhardt.  Over 230 people attended the event, which was held at the beautiful Wisconsin Club, and I think everyone had an enjoyable evening.  It was a wonderful chance to share what Friends for Health in Haiti is doing here in the Jérémie area and what our vision is for the future.

I realized, after getting back to Haiti, how much I became accustomed to the luxuries of life in the US when I felt surprised that:

  • I turned on the light switch in my room and the ceiling light didn’t come on (we only have electricity when we turn on a generator or inverter/batteries).
  • I stopped at one of the local gas pumps and they were out of gas.
  • I put on my seat belt and realized that no one else in the pick-up was wearing theirs.
  • I turned on the hot water faucet in the shower and no hot water came out.  In fact, no water came out because the pipe bringing running water to our house was broken and took a day and a half to fix.
  • There were 30 people in front of me in the line at the bank and no one seemed to care that they would be standing there for an hour or more.

This just goes to show that the daily activities of life are much more difficult in Haiti than they are in the US.  So, don’t take 24/7 running water and electricity for granted!  They are a luxury to people in many parts of the world, including Haiti.

Happy belated New Year! I trust that you all had a happy holiday season. I spent ten days in Milwaukee helping out in two Emergency Departments over the holidays, so I was able to experience the snow and cold of the Midwest once again. I was glad to return to the warmth of Haiti again last week!

Our clinic is off to a good start after all the holidays. Each time we talk with patients, they tell us how grateful they are that we are there and how much they consider this “their” clinic. This sense of ownership is something we are glad to see. It shows us that our relationship with the surrounding communities is growing as is our reputation. I asked a young man this week what they say about our clinic in his community. He said people who have been here tell everyone what good results they’ve gotten from their treatment. And another patient said “people say you have good medications here”. We give glory to God for providing the experience and wisdom that allows us to make good decisions about the medications we give! We appreciate your prayers with us in this regard.

As we look ahead to the future, our most immediate goal is to continue to develop the clinic, and through it to deepen our relationships with the surrounding communities. It is through these relationships that behaviors can change, allowing people to use the resources around them to improve their health themselves and to positively influence the health of those around them. We use “teachable moments” during patient consultations to begin the process of community education. Everyone in the clinic listens closely as we give instructions to patients regarding their own specific illnesses. They even enter into the discussion as Cherlie explains to others how to take their medications. “She said to take it twice a day. Didn’t you listen?” they’ll say to the patient having difficulty understanding Cherlie’s instructions. Then, when their turn comes, others listen closely to see if they “get it”. Community participation, community education, all occurring in a small little clinic in a house!

Greetings once again from Jeremie, Haiti! As I mentioned in a previous blog, Cherlie Severe and I recently spent a few weeks in the US, attending conferences, visiting family and taking care of business related to our Haiti ministry. The first conference we attended was the annual conference for Christian Connections for International Health. This is a wonderful organization which seeks to provide resources and networking information for faith-based organizations working in global health. There were about 125 attendees at the conference, which was held at a retreat center near Fredrick, Maryland. The conference sessions and small group activities allowed us to learn some valuable information and develop relationships with others involved in community-based work like ours. If you’re interested in more information on CCIH, I encourage you to visit their website (www.ccih.org).

The second conference, which was held in Washington, DC was the annual conference for the Global Health Council and had around 2200 attendees from over a hundred different countries! It was a whirlwind week of panel discussions, lectures and small group sessions, but allowed us to hear first hand about the most up-to-date activities in the field of global health all around the world. And, it provided us with many valuable contacts for the future. Their website is www.globalhealth.org if you’re interested.

The political situation in Haiti is calm for the moment.  The person who was nominated for the position of Prime Minister, Ericq Pierre, was not confirmed by the Parliament, which was a disappointment to us here in Jeremie.  Mr. Pierre is from the Jeremie area, and, if elected, he would have helped fix our roads and make other improvements in the infrastructure in our area.  We’re waiting to see who will be nominated in his place.  In the meantime, we’re hoping that there won’t be further unrest as the political process moves along.

This has been a record-setting week for us in the clinic, as we saw 60 patients on Tuesday and 40 patients on Thursday, despite pouring rain all day.  It was quite a feat for just the two of us!  The high volumes are partly because we are closing for a few weeks, as Cherlie and I go to the US for some conferences, business and family visits.  We’ll be attending the annual conferences of two organizations, Christian Connections for International Health (CCIH) and the Global Health Council.  The theme of both conferences is on community-based primary health care, which is our interest, so we’re hoping to learn a lot and make some valuable contacts.

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