01 October 2011


[Tuesday's Post]

It is only Tuesday, but this has been an incredibly busy week. I'm still recovering from an even busier weekend. 

Today, most of the expat staff took a trip out to Petit Harpon, the 13th section of Leogane. The purpose of the trip was to talk to community leaders about starting our PD/Hearth and feeding programs in their community. So, I skipped out on working at the PTA because I wanted to see the country side.  It was my third time out in the mountains and thankfully, this hiking experience wasn't so rough. CNP wants to bring biosand filters, a mill, and a clinic to Ti Harpon. 

[Biosand filters are a great technological innovation. It's kind of self-explanatory, but here's how they work: sand and gravel enclosed in a container of cement are used to create clean drinking water by filtering non-potable water. CNP plans to provide free biosand filters to the school, church and health clinic and sell them to other members of the community for a very low price of 200 gourdes (5$ USD). That is a great deal. I went to a restaurant called Kat Kwen (Four Corners) a few weeks ago and ordered rice and red beans with fried chicken and plantains for the same price!] 

First, we toured an already established health clinic. Then we walked to the church, which is near where the second clinic would be built. After walking around, we met with community leaders, told them about our potential programs, and fielded questions at the end of the meeting. The meeting was successful as the leaders and principal of the school were very receptive to our programs. 

When I returned to the office, I met with Guerleine to go over cases from the morning at the PTA. The PTA has maintained its momentum as the scheduled mother-baby pairs came in today and we had a new mother-baby pair register with our program. We currently have about 26 mother-baby pairs! This is much better than the 14 pairs we had when I started working. Guerleine and I have gradually turned this program around for the better and we are very excited about this. In addition to transportation services, I added toys, mats, and construction of a medicine cabinet and new table to our budget for the PTA. These should be ready to use in a couple of weeks and will give our work space a brand new face. 

As we wrapped up the case reviews, Guerleine told me about a severely malnourished child the monitrices had discovered in one of the mountainous sections of Leogane. As described by Meti (another coworker of mine at the PTA), the child had kwashiorkor, episodes of vomiting and diarrhea, and is on the brink of death. The child's mother had recently passed away and the father left soon after, leaving a very old grandmother to take care of a total of 7 children. The family also lived more than 8 hours from Signon, where we run our PTA and had no one to care for the child in town. They turned to me and asked, "What are you going to do??"  I immediately thought that we need to get the child down here somehow. I told Jill about this and we had Meti call the monitrice who discovered the case. We told her to find a neighbor that could care for the child during a stay at the Nutrition Stabilization Unit (USN) and to come down with them the next day to Chatulet. I thanked Meti for making the call and organizing everything. Meti is great at doing his job. All of our Haitian staff are, but sometimes they just need small boosts in their confidence to reaffirm that they can do their jobs well. I do that all the time with Guerleine and today as I thanked her for holding down services at the PTA while I was away; in addition to her regular cases, she had to provide transportation money, make appointments for hospital visits, and remind the mothers about an information session happening this coming Friday. I thought she would have forgotten to do one of these things with more mother-baby pairs than usual to account for, but she handled everything very well.

When in Haiti...

Last Friday night was the start of one of the most epic weekends of my life. Rachel and I were invited to a party at Marabu Creole, another resto-bar in town. There, we met up with Jimmy's friends Jon (IsraAID) and Ryan (Notra Dame Filariasis Program). The event was a going-away party for their friend who finished her employment with Save the Children. She had an open bar the entire night! Rachel and I ordered something to eat and drink, then headed to the dance floor. We were 4 out of maybe 10 people dancing to remixed American club songs, but we still had plenty of fun. We headed home around midnight to get some sleep for a 9am departure for Jacmel, a city located on the southern coast of Haiti. 

The ride to Jacmel was a fun road trip:  we listened to songs by Oasis, Arcade Fire and Celia Cruz.and also purchased baby bananas, star fruit and avocados. We headed to the port city to surf and tour the town. My plan was just to watch Rachel and the guys surf or continue reading Mountains Beyond Mountains or do both. Rachel almost made me go in the water with her on one surf board, but the water was a little to rough for my taste so, I decided to head back to shore. After about 45 min, Rachel got tired and gave me her board. I got over my fears and just went for it! She helped me get out into the water past the oncoming waves and onto the surf board. I started paddling and was able to sit up and lie back down! I was so happy that things went that well during my first surfing experience. The waves started to get more intense and I swam back to the shore. That was a good day for me and it wasn't over yet. We dried ourselves off and headed into town for some dinner at Jacmel's Pizzeria

The owner knew Jimmy very well and quickly cooked us some Louisiana chicken gumbo. We soon devoured our meals. T'was too good...Then, she made us BBQ chicken with the smoothest and creamiest mashed potatoes known to mankind. She has enchiladas, quesadillas, pasta, and homemade ice cream among other things on her menu and spoke English very well. I asked her where she had resided in the states and she told me Oklahoma, for about 20 years. I was so glad she brought the southern cooking back down to Haiti! While we were in Jacmel, we also visited some shops housing masks for Carnival, also known as Mardi Gras, and took a quick trip to the beach. The beach was a bit dirty, but it was a calm sight and we watched some locals play football.

Jacmel is a gorgeous town! The French colonial-styled buildings have preserved the port city's culture. It suffered minimal damage from the earthquake and there is plenty to do there. Rachel and I were planning to stay there for the weekend, but we decided to head back north with the boys - apparently, there was a party going on that night in Petit Goave featuring circus acts and Clowns Without Borders. Unfortunately, we didn't make it there in time to see the fun festivities :( However, we did see some musical acts that made us feel like we were watching performances from a talent show after summer camp...yes, some of them were that bad... 

Rachel and I decided to stay in Petit Goave after the "party" since it was too late to drive back to Leogane. We were near the beach and decided to go for a late night swim. I had a chance to experience the bioluminescent plankton Rachel tells me so much about. Any movement I made in the water allowed me to see the bioluminescence of the plankton on my body in the dark. It was awesome! 

Tour de Leogane:

The next day we all headed back to Leogane. Rachel and I decided to tour the town before heading back to our place. Jimmy decided to give us a ride on his mototaxi so that we wouldn't have to walk around under the hot sun. Thanks Jimmy! He took us to his favorite breakfast spot for egg sandwiches. While we waited for them, we went across the street and toured a rum factory. I got to check out rum in the making inside these huge barrels! It smelled like rotten molasses. We crossed the street, ate our egg sandwiches followed by some refreshing Coca-Cola and headed to the Notre Dame house where Jimmy used to work. I couldn't get over the residence - the house is practically a mansion! We talked to two members of the Haitian staff who were very familiar with CNP. One of them, Wes, had been cured of filariasis and told us about how we came to work with the university and the incidence, prevention and treatment of filariasis in Haiti. As Rachel and I talked to him, mosquitoes swarmed around our feet and we kept trying to swat them away. Wes told us not to worry about them, but I just thought it was ironic that the house had so many mosquitoes. After talking with him, Rachel and I decided to sit under a tree outside.

We then decided to visit this community on the beach called Ka Piti. It was like a mini paradise! We saw a number of houses built by the Food For the Poor along the shoreline and chatted with the locals. We also took off our flip flops and started dancing in the shallow water since music was playing near by.

We headed home around 3pm and slept. It was a great and relaxing weekend =] 


  1. Happy to have found your blog (from Paola's blog :) I'm glad you enjoyed your time in my hometown of Jacmel! I was in Haiti volunteering for a couple months and came back to the States in early November.