In June 2018, I was in Haiti enjoying the street celebrations that were taking place after the World Cup matches that were shown on large screens in local town squares. Then the mood changed and protests started quickly. The government had announced fuel price increases as a result of reductions in international subsidies. Over the last year and a half, protests have intensified and then died down, however, again, when I visited Haiti in mid-September this year with other SHH members, we saw that the situation had become dire. There have been protests in Haiti in the past, but these are different.
Roadblocks and protests have shut down the country for several day stretches, but more recently, the entire country has been in a total lockdown called peyi lòk, or Operation Lockdown. Schools, businesses and government offices are all closed. Hospitals are running out of resources and have limited staffing. Patients can rarely make their way to the facilities. There are pleas on an Internet group for medical providers in Haiti for basic medications and supplies such as oxygen as asthma inhalers. Clean water is scarce which is intensifying the healthcare crisis. People are locked in their homes and when they do venture out to buy food and water, they either find nothing on the shelves, or exorbitantly priced supplies.
Flights to Haiti are empty since there is almost no way to get out of the airport once passengers arrive, and to put stress on hotels or friends to support more people would be counterproductive. At times like this, I believe that bearing witness to the tragedy, spreading the word about the suffering of 11 million people, our neighbors, in an honest and open way, lobbying our elected representatives for action, and propping up people and institutions that we have faith in, both financially and with networking support, are all ways we can help.
This past August, SHH celebrated its tenth anniversary. We had planned many great things for this fall including another medical trip with 15 doctors, nurses and medical technicians, the building of the courtyard and shower, and a kick off of the agricultural program. While all activities that require travel to Haiti are cancelled indefinitely, our work continues. We are selling bracelets and greeting cards, holding a fundraiser at a restaurant, continuing to design the courtyard, developing the educational programs for primary health and nutrition, and following the progress of the girls’ basketball team. We also need to dig a new well to renovate the showers in the children’s dormitories which are substandard and affecting their health.
We look forward to our next report providing positive updates on all these initiatives but are asking all of our supporters to be good witnesses on behalf of the Haitian people in their suffering.
While Planning and Building mean something very specific to those of us in the Design and Construction industry, in this case, it means we are focused on carefully thinking through our programs and funding opportunities for the children of Haiti.
In June SHH presented at an end-of-season concert for a local non-profit called the PluggedIn Band Program. This program creates bands for teenagers to join, teaches music, runs special workshops and supports many important local initiatives throughout the area. They not only provide education but are deeply committed to addressing the many and varied needs of all teenagers. PluggedIn had selected SHH from more than ten other nominated organization to be its beneficiary for their benefit concert and there was great enthusiasm in the crowd for SHH's mission and projects.
SHH’s Board Member Lyris Liautaud, ran a booth at the Harvard Club in Boston for the Harvard Nonprofit Board Recruitment Fair in May. As expected, she generated a lot of interest and we have identified two potential new Board members who will provide important assistance with accounting and IT.
SHH and Northeast Haiti Medical Partners presented at the Connecticut Children's Hospital’s Conference, The 2019 Global Healthcare Symposium in May. Also, two of our high school members who are both EMTs developed, for their first time, a medical poster for presentation during the poster sessions. The poster focused on our data collection which we are using to drive decisions about future healthcare programs and projects. The SHH and NHMP team met other Global Health colleagues and learned about many exciting initiatives around the world that will help SHH build programs in Haiti as well.
And finally, also in May, SHH presented a proposal for its agricultural project and education center building at the Rotary Foundation Concord Club meeting.
Plans are underway to continue to develop the agricultural program which not only provides the opportunity for the children to grow their own food, but to learn about nutrition. It also will create jobs for the local community and vegetables for sale on market day. The sales component will be used as an educational curriculum for the children to learn about personal finances.
And planning for the next medical mission in November, which includes crowd funding a long list of medical equipment needs, supplies and basic medications, is also progressing. The team will include a Haitian optometrist and dentist and one full day will be dedicated to health worker training sessions conducted by medical educators from the US who will be volunteering their time for this mission.
Over the winter and into early spring, Sustainable Healthcare for Haiti has been and will be making several presentations around New England. We welcome all supporters and interested parties to join us at these various events.
In March, SHH presented at a local non-profit called the PluggedIn Band Program. This program creates bands for teenagers to join, teaches music, runs special workshops and supports many important local initiatives throughout the area. They not only provide education but are deeply committed to addressing the many and varied needs of all teenagers. SHH's Board Member, Miriam Tuchman, made a presentation to the teens about her career journey, explaining that a specific profession doesn't always dictate a career and pursing a professional passion allows you to build important skills and connections to pursue your own path in life. PluggedIn then selected SHH from more than ten other nominated organization to be its beneficiary for their benefit concert in June.
SHH’s Board Member Lyris Liautaud, will be at the Harvard Club in Boston. SHH was selected to participate in the Harvard Nonprofit Board Recruitment Fair on May 9th. SHH will be looking to recruit some new Board members, however based on last year’s fair, we know that this is an excellent opportunity to network and find out about other successful nonprofits in the area as well.
SHH and Northeast Haiti Ministry will be presenting at the Connecticut Children's Hospital’s Conference, The 2019 Global Healthcare Symposium on May 17th. A presentation is being prepared which provide the history of both SHH and NHM and describe the commitment by the organizations to provide sustainable programs that promote both health and education. Also, two of our high school members who are both EMTs will be developing, for their first time, a medical poster for presentation during the poster sessions. The poster will focus on our data collection which we are using to drive decisions about future healthcare programs and projects.
And finally, SHH will be presenting a proposal for its agricultural project and education center building at the Rotary Foundation Concord Club meeting on May 30th.
The initiatives that we are working on in the meantime include:
1. Doing some additional renovations to the Clinic building to improve patient flow and the number of exam spaces available simultaneously. This will allow us to see more patients, with appropriate levels of privacy, throughout a clinic day.
2. Working with a company that provide underwear for girls, that is reusable, during their menstrual cycle. This technology and product is of major importance to our organization as it ensures girls can always attend school, is a one-time cost rather than a monthly cost for supplies, and it is sustainable in that it doesn't generate trash which isn't easily biodegradable or recyclable. Our Board member, Michelle Freshman, is also working to develop an educational curriculum for the girls around this product.
3. Designing the courtyard which is the next steps in our overall design plans for the campus. Ultimately, we will be constructing a twin building to the healthcare clinic building which will be the educational center. SHH's goal is to always provide access to healthcare and education together.
4. Developing the agricultural program which not only provides the opportunity for the children to grow their own food, but to learn about nutrition. It also will create jobs for the local community and vegetables for sale on market day. The sales component will also be used as an educational curriculum for the children to learn about personal finances.
5. Planning the next medical mission which includes crowd funding a long list of medical equipment needs, supplies and basic medications. Also, the team will include a Haitian optometrist and dentist and one full day will be dedicated to health worker training sessions conducted by medical educators from the US who will be volunteering their time for this mission.
In January, a group of medical professionals and other volunteers from the States joined Haitian Doctors, Interns and Translators to inaugurate the Sho-Ping Chin Clinic for Healthcare and Education Building.
Sustainable Healthcare for Haiti (SHH), Northeast Haiti Ministry (MHM), PoumonTEK (PT), the Alphonse Brothers Translation and Transportation Services (AB), Sniffen Pictures (SP), Environmental Products (EP) and Fondation Montesinos (FM) kicked off the wellness program for 500 children who attend the FM school in Titanyen. SHH and PT already team up to provide a primary healthcare program for the 90 children who live and learn at FM under the guidance of Father Charles. This clinic began what the partners hope will be a sustainable program for wellness for all of the children on the campus.
During the five days in January, the team worked to finalize the water filtration system so that it can produce sufficient water to supply the community as well as a future agricultural project that will be run by the children; set up the operational flow and stocked the clinic for future use; trialed a new electronic medical documentation system; saw 500 new pediatric patients and a few adult patients who are staff; traveled to the Artibonite valley to finish gathering video and images for an upcoming documentary; provided professional training for medical staff; identified and secured treatment for a child in crisis from a genetic disease; and brainstormed together for the future. We were all struck by, and affected by, the fuel shortages that have been plaguing Haiti. The history of this situation dates back centuries. However, thanks to the design of the clinic building and despite the lack of electricity due to the lack of fuel, the clinic remained bright and cool from natural solar and wind sources.
Our goals as partners will always be to provide a sustainable program that includes the children as partners in developing knowledge for their own well being and that of their community; and education is an integral part of the process. As the clinic process progresses, the team’s plans will expand to include professional training days, education days, patient follow up visits and new patient visits. Electronic documentation and programming are keys to the sustainability of the program. We saw that many children suffer from basic infections and genetic diseases which the world has long since had cures for. Sometimes the cure requires medication but it always requires education and access to information. It also requires partnerships which reach beyond government borders and which provide the strength to combat the idea that people should also have borders.
PT will continue to provide weekly primary healthcare and education to the children of FM. The full team will return in the fall to continue to program for all the children. We welcome anyone who has an interest in participating to contact SHH. We will be hosting a fundraiser to support the fall trip which requires financial support to purchase medications and equipment. We also look forward to the release of the documentary by Sniffen Pictures this summer.
Hillary Clinton once said: “Our greatest monument on this earth won’t be what we build, but the lives we touch.”
About two years ago we spent several days with the children of Fondation Montesinos, in Titanyen, Haiti, asking them what they thought a building of wellness should look like. They inspired us and helped us build a beautiful building, that is, more importantly, theirs. This past September we opened the doors to the Sho-Ping Chin Clinic for Healthcare and Education, named for one of our co-founders who died in 2016. Through this building and our programs, we are teaching a generation to take responsibility for their own well-being which will create a sustainable healthcare model, and will affect long term change for future generations.
We held a dedication ceremony on September 28th, attended by Sho-Ping Chin’s family and Friends, as well as the family of some very special donors. Sustainable Healthcare for Haiti is fortunate to be a part of the partnership that this building represents. It may look small and unassuming but it is powerful because of the lives it will allow us all to touch. More than ever, we believe we live in a global society and it is all of our duty to help strengthen our neighbors when they are vulnerable.
Word of this new clinic building has spread and we are developing partnerships with several new organizations to ensure that all of the children who come to the school, as well as all of the residents of the community, have access to high quality and consistent healthcare.
Thanks to the connections of one of our Board Members we were introduced to Northeast Haiti Missionary, a group of medical practitioners in the Connecticut area who have run medical missions to Haiti in the past. We are excited to announce that SHH, PoumonTEK and NHM will be partnering on a medical mission in January that will focus on the 600 children who come to school at Fondation Montesinos from the surrounding community.
We would like to include below excerpts from the speech given at the Building Dedication. For those who could not attend, but would like to join in the celebration, we are holding a cocktail party on December 13th at The Social Restaurant in Newton, MA at 6 PM. All are welcome.
Excerpts from Speech Below:
Today I’m speaking on behalf of Sustainable Healthcare for Haiti whose Board includes:
Lee Silverstone and Lyris Liautaud who are here today as well as Gerard Georges, Cassie Grey, Carolyn Hern, Anthony Ishak, and Margaret Woodruff who all wished they could have been here.
Sustainable Healthcare for Haiti was founded 9 years ago. Some of our earlier projects included drilling a well to provide clean water to 400,000 residents who had moved to an area after the earthquake that had no source of clean water. Since then and along with our partners we've been providing healthcare for children including primary care, OBGYN, dental, optometry, nutrition and sports medicine programs. We also supported disaster relief after Hurricane Matthew. All of the services were delivered in temporary spaces and now there is a home for the wellness programs thanks to everybody standing here today and all of our extended supporters.
And I want to speak about our partners as well.
The building is named after our co-founder, Sho-Ping Chin, who died in June 2013. Her family is here and will speak more about her personally, so I’m going to speak about her as part of SHH. It was a joy to be on this journey with Sho-Ping in every way. As a partner, she knew when to say “yes, let’s go,” knew when to say “hold on, let’s think about this,” knew when to say “THIS is how we are doing it.” She put the word and the meaning of “sustainable” into our organization which has guided us throughout the 9 years we’ve been working together. We think about sustainability in our building, our operations, our footprint in the community and our outcomes. We all miss her and we hope she would be proud of this accomplishment.
Sandra and Reginald and Dr Joey, who are here today, are our partners in healthcare and wellness delivery. While I could talk about how impressive they all are with their medical knowledge and experience, I’d rather just say that we’ve found our soul mates when it comes to caring for the children here.
The Alphonse Brothers
Stephane and Wendell who are here, are the ones who literally get everything done on the ground. If we ever need anything, all we need to say is “call the Alphonses.” They are two of the most resourceful, kind and fun people to walk this earth.
Lionel Bauduy, who is here, built this building. All I can say is, he not only provides us with a true place of comfort overhead but it’s a joy to spend time with him and talk about everything from construction to politics.
Shyang Puri and Derzen Fan who are here, on behalf of Leah and Naresh Puri, our wonderful donors who believe in us on every level. Sometimes when it's hard to know what to do next, all you need is someone saying “we believe in you” and then the path opens up. We thank RDF for helping us find the path.
All of our other donors who are too numerous to name and cannot be with us today, we are humbled by the trust they have put in us.
Jim Ellis, who is not here but visits often, brought us water. And water is the source of all life.
He is the heart of this campus. He is the driving vision behind change and represents hope for not just the children but for all of us.
And speaking of the children,
The children are the guests of honor. About two years ago we spent two days with all of them asking what they wanted their building to look like. They inspired us and made this building not just better but more importantly, theirs. There are some important things I will point out in this building because the children are the ones who created it out of their own imaginations. This is all for them and for a healthy future for generations to come.
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