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Friday, July 23, 2010

sea container

Tom , Bob , and Patricia Larkin arrived in Cap Haitien, Haiti yesterday. They were met by Fr.Dorcin and traveled to his parish in Roch Platt. On the way the truck broke down ( a usual occurrance in Haiti), but fixed it and after crossing 2 rivers made it to Roch Platt. Fr. Dorcin had already received the container and had gotten it thru customs and all the way to Roch Platt and offloaded. The container itself had to go back to Cap Haitien. Tom said he cannot imagine how they were able to get the 40 foot container to Roch Platt, but they did! I'm sure there was a large audience as nothing that large has ever been there before. Today they will begin organizing everything for delivery to Jacquesyl, Pilette ( our soon to be new clinic), Haiti Hospital Appeal, and St.Anthony's clinic. Carwyn Hill of Haiti Hospital Appeal said it is like waitng for Christmas Morning for the arrival of a desperately needed Xray machine. Besideds distributing all the medical, dental and school supplies, Tom and Bob have many meetings lined up to check on the inventory of medicines in the clinic since there has been an influx of people from Port-au-Prince since the earthquake, plans for the building of the school, salt project, sewing project progress, and meeting with the new Cap Haitien Health Network liasons. They are bringing tools for the carpenter who will help with building projects needed in the town ( school benches and desks). They will be talking with the teachers to see how the first year of the book program (made possible through a donation from St.John's Parish in Wellesley MA) went. This program ensured that for the first time every child had a full set of books to use in school. Patricia Larkin, who will be a nursing student in the fall at Marquette University, will be assisting in an art project between Jacquesyl children and the Haitian students from the Brooklyn Art Incubator Project. She will also be the photographer of ongoing projects. With the help of a translator, Brunel Louis she will be interviewing students for educational grants for the 2010-2011 school year. Our phone line connection worked well last night for about 5 minutes, then we were disconnected, but hopefully I will hear more during their stay.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Update on Port au Prince - more mixed news

April 20, 2010

by Joan DeFrances

Though the hard work of our school director in Port au Prince, Abner Romelus, we have been able to secure several grants of 300 large (80lb) sacks of rice and gallons of cooking oil on 5 separate occasions. Each sack has been reported to be enough to feed a family for a month. We have used your donations each time to rent a large truck with armed guard to discretely pick up the food and safely deliver it to families in great need. Thank you for your generosity. You can see how your money goes right towards saving lives!

Unfortunately, as expected, the situation in Port au Prince is getting worse as the rainy season begins.

Please see the following excerpt from an email by Sherman Malone to the Haiti Marycare team.

"Abner called today with a report on the fear and confusion in Port au Prince as the government begins to move homeless people out of the makeshift camps which are already flooding. The rain falling now makes it clear that the rainy season has already arrived and will get worse. One of the sad things Abner said is that there seems to be almost no gas in PAP. It's expensive and hard to find.

Some people who have family in the north/northeast do not have money for a ticket or cannot get a place on a bus going to Cap Haitien. Many other families are being evicted from the camps and told that their only option is to go to Cap Haitien and they are put on a bus to go there. They are frightened because they know no one in the north/northeast, have no idea how they will survive in a strange locality, and have heard of no government or international efforts to receive big refugee populations in the north/northeast.

Our work, over our history and especially now in the aftermath of the earthquake, has been extraordinarily quickly responsive, effective and efficient. I believe that has been possible because all along, with Father Dorcin, we have been building the collaborations and grassroots community connections that are necessary to our mission."

The Food Has Arrived, but with Mishap

by Joan DeFrances

We all hope for good news resulting from our mission and hard work in Haiti, but sometimes there are mixed results. I have received permission to post the following emails detailing the progress of the food donated by Feed My Starving Children.

excerpts from email by Sherman Malone:

Dear Team,

Let us rejoice!!

Father Dorcin has got the food for malnourished children safely from port to depots. Haiti Marycare has demonstrated that we can ship to Haiti in impossible conditions.

Father Dorcin writes: "Ouffffff, nou soulaje!!!!!! " Father Dorcin says, ", We can breathe now, we are comforted, we are at ease!"

I'm saying that we should be very proud of our hard work, our teamwork and our great success in getting food to the children who urgently need it.

Father Dorcin has got the food shipment through customs and out of the port and on its way to malnourished children in Jakzi and in Roche Plate/Pilette. Father Dorcin sent this letter to us and also called me to add some more information to his report. It took constant vigilance and several trips to the port, but Father Dorcin managed all the fees, customs, formalities successfully. We can now be confident that the system he has put in place for receiving shipments from Sante Mannas will work for the shipment of medical supplies and medicines that is coming.

The problem: Transportation from the Port to Village Destinations
Transportation from port to villages required 2 trucks.

Father Dorcin borrrowed the first truck from Caritas to ship food to Jacquesyl. The drivers arrived on time and loaded the food with no problem, but as they passed through Cap Haitien, the truck was attacked by robbers who broke the glass window at the back of the truck and began to steal the food and threatened the drivers who fled for their lives. MINUSTA (the UN Peace Keepers) arrived rapidly, saved the drivers and regained possession of the truck and the food. A very, very small amount of food (2 boxes) was lost; the rest of the food was saved. MINUSTA accompanied the truck until it was safely outside the city. The drivers did not want to go on the rough road directly to Jacquesyl after their bad experience and because they had used up so much time and so they took the truck and the food to Fort Liberty where the food is safely stored now, awaiting transport to Jacquesyl very soon, and the truck will be repaired.

The second truck was late arriving. That was good.
Having had this bad experience with the first truck, Father Dorcin was able to arrange in advance with MINUSTA to accompany the second truck (provided to Father Dorcin by the Ministry of Public Health) from the minute the food was loaded as the truck left the port, passed through Cap Haitien and arrived safely outside Cap Haitien. The truck went on to Roche Plate to deliver the food safely with no problems.

The underlying problem is the stress and confusion in Cap Haitien where so many refugees have arrived with nothing and there is now no electricity in the city and there is a great shortage of gas and other necessities too and so some people are stealing what they can.

Unfortunately, there was confusion on the US side about the severity of the losses. Please see the following update from Father Dorcin.

Hi Sherman,
You have done a great job. About the damage on the truck container, I would like to clarify for you and the team that the robbers had broken the main front glasses, the laterals, and the back door to get access into the container. It is not only two boxes, but many ....

God bless,
Fr. Dorcin

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Leaving Jacquesyl

Our last day in Jacquesyl always makes me feel sad.

I would so much like to stay a little longer. We work hard and sometimes as I walk through the village for the last time, I get get a little time just to chat with friends I've made there. It is always hard to say goodbye.

However, this year before that last walk we were BUSY!!! VOSH saw 325 people, Kris saw many people and extracted 27 teeth, and between Jennifer, Jim and myself saw over 100 kids, some sick, others not really but they were happy to receive vitamins and de-worming medicine.

Sherman met with the teachers and set up a tutoring program to help the kids who fall behind due to the large classes in the lower grades. (Many quit school after the 4th grade if they don't pass the standardized exam.) To have any hope of secondary school children must pass a very difficult 6th grade exam. We are beginning to have some success with the 6th grade and are aiming to work to help more children pass. Our school in Port au Prince has a very high success rate. Our school in Jacquesyl was the first in the area to open after the earthquake when schools throughout the country closed.

We said our good-byes to VOSH and Jennifer's team as well as the translators who worked so hard. New friendships were formed and plans for our next trip to Haiti were already in the planning stages.

As always, I receive more from Haiti than I give. This time was no exception. I received hospitality everywhere I went by people whose lives have been devastated in one way or another. I received a visit in PaP from one of the people my daughter used to work with, Jean Baptiste. He'd lost his home, but he came to make sure I was all right. The workers at the ruined guest house made us so comfortable and prepared us food in the midst of the rubble. A nurse from La Plaine came to assist us at the clinic we did there, and I learned she had been doing the best she could to treat people who weren't hurt badly enough to be accepted at a hospital although in the US they would certainly be hospitalized. At EVERY home we visited, someone found us a chair to sit in even if they had to run to a neighbor's house to get one.

I again witnessed the resiliancy of the people of Haiti. Everyone was doing something. Life was still going on. Some cleared rubble, some cared for orphaned children as well as their own. Those who still had jobs went to work even if they weren't getting paid, because the banks were closed. People still prayed and sang fervently. In the tent cities, people were banging together shelters, waiting in food lines, washing their children and the kids still played and smiled. It was amazing. Just for the record, I NEVER felt like I was in danger and I saw NO violence anywhere, and I was in plenty of RED zone areas.(places not considered safe for NGOs)

Hospitality, Strength, and Faith are the gifts I receive from Haiti.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Working with VOSH and running medical clinic in Jacquesyl

By Mary Lou Larkin

Thursday Feb.17th

Everyone rose early to go to Jacquesyl. It was pouring rain and it took us a long time to check out of the hotel. But we finally were on our way with the VOSH (Volunteer Optometrics in Service to Humanity)team, Jennifer's team of nurses and 5 translators. It was still raining when we got to Jacquesyl and I was afraid people wouldn't come out, but the church was at least half full with people waiting to be seen by the opticians. We quickly rearranged the benches for people to wait their turn and teachers carried over tables from the school to set up the stations for VOSH. The teachers also brought over some of the children we had identified that needed eye care.

VOSH was a class act. All of them had been to Haiti before and seemed quite relaxed amongst the activity of assuring everyone that they would be seen, figuring out where they could work, who would translate for whom and who from the Jacquesyl community would work at registration. The noise level got pretty high at times and I for one got a little frustrated, but they were cool. Our Jacquesyl teachers were great and helped to keep order. ( I think we exhausted them) VOSH set up stations for acuity exams, glaucoma exams and various other stations which made me realize how little I know about eye exams. At the end there was every possible prescription for glasses was available and those who needed them received a pair. Everyone also received sunglasses. ( The kids thought they were very cool) One person needed a prescription they didn't have and it will be made in the US and sent to Dr.Maklin.

Meanwhile Kris along with Louise one of the nurses and a translator held a dental clinic in the back of the church. Most of what Kris did was extract teeth in the elderly and a few not so elderly and treat gingivitis with Tylenol and amoxicillan. People loved her because she so quickly put an end to their pain and misery. One man came by the center later that night to tell her how much better he felt. Louise was amazed at the procedures and the strength it takes to pull some people's teeth. It's pretty gross, but it sure makes people feel better and I saw a lot of immediate gratification.

Over in the clinic, Jim Morgan, a pediatrician from Hew Haven, CT, and Jennifer Schmidt NP, two nurses, and myself saw pediatric cases. One of the biggest things I learned on this trip was the importance of Haitian translators. Not only did they understand everything mothers and patients said, but they understood problems and nuances and cultural things that it would take an American a long time to figure out. Also because they were not from the town, people seemed more comfortable talking about some things, knowing that they wouldn't be repeated or judged. I was extremely grateful to these translators. These were well educated people who spoke at least two languages well and couldn't find work in this country of too few jobs. When we paid one of them his eyes filled with tears. He told Jennifer that he just volunteered to help because it was so much better than sitting at home doing nothing and never expected to be paid. I am happy that we were able to give him four days of work and hope that he will join us in the future.

It finally stopped raining (I know we were all praying that it wasn't raining in PaP) as we finished for the day. We were all tired and took a little break to rest before getting together for dinner. At dinner we talked about the day. The VOSH team (Dave, Linda, Paul, Anita, Mike and Jack) saw about 125 people. There was a family of 5, all with trachoma, a disease that is spread easily within a family and can cause blindness. It is spread by hand to eye contact between children with the disease or by the feet of flies who feed on the exudate from the eyes. Megan and I had seen a young woman earlier in the week who was blind. She was seen by VOSH who told me her blindness was due to lack of Vitamin A in her diet as a young child. In Jacquesyl all children are treated with Vitamin A supplements, but this young woman had only recently come to Jacquesyl. As so often happens people are sick because they are poor. Poor diets, poor living conditions, lack of soap and water, screens on windows, Kleenex... all things we take for granted.

Mary Lou Larkin

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Last days treating patients in Haiti

Traveling to Nativity Village through the mud and giant puddles.

Haitian Border with the Dominican Republic

Saying goodbye to Jakzi (Dr. Morgan and children of Jakzi)

Patient with severe Vitamin A deficiency

by Dr. Jim Morgan

February 17 (Wednesday)

I’m blogging the next 4 days “post facto” since Megan left today with her iPhone and we had no way to communicate. We went to Cap-Haitien this AM and took Megan to the airport. Sadly we lost a major player on our team but still had a lot to accomplish. We met Jennifer (Pediatric PNP from Northern VA), her team, and VOSH (a long established optometry/ophthalmic group) at Mont Joli Hotel (Haitian 5 Star hotel which is equivalent of our 2 Star hotels). I didn’t realize places existed like this in Haiti. I had a room with a beautiful view of ocean (from a distance that is), electricity all day (as compared to just 4 hrs. in Jakzi), a TV with 4 fuzzy channels, and a hot water spigot (sadly no hot water came out).

Jenn had arranged for us to do a clinic in Nativity Village which is one of the most poverty stricken areas in Cap-Haitien. Basically a swamp with too many people. When we arrived, we had to somehow portage the large puddles of contaminated water with our supplies. The motorcycle taxis arrived and saved the day! They not only carried our supplies, but all of us across deep, dirty water. They were amazing how they drove their bikes and didn’t dump our stuff (OR US!!!) into the mud. The clinic itself was a huge success both medically and for the patients seeing VOSH. The problems were the same – malnutrition, worms, scabies, diarrhea, fungal infections. Dr. Maklin helped us and we saw dozens of patients. The absolutely worst conditions I have seen so far in Haiti!!! I don’t know why the flies wanted to stay near me.

We went back to Mont Joli that night for a dinner conference with Haitian Health Network at Hotel Roi Christopher. Got to meet the leaders of many of the voluntary health organizations like Haiti MaryCare to see what they were doing in Haiti. Ted Kaplan, who we had all worked with @ Pillette, organized everything with his wife Elizabeth. Best meal of the entire trip and gave us a broad overview of all trying to be accomplished in Haiti. So many organizations trying so hard and I felt proud to be a part of one of the best, Haiti MaryCare.

February 18 (Thursday)
Left early that AM to return to Jakzi. with our team, Jenn, and VOSH. Starting to realize that everything in Haiti is relative. Jakzi is so fortunate to have a clinic that functions daily as compared to other areas that rarely see a medical person. Again, we saw many patients as did VOSH who were doing eye exams and providing glasses if necessary (and if not they got sunglasses which they loved). It was quite cool that day (Haitian perspective that is). About 65 degrees. Rain had stopped, but clouds persisted. Made for great working conditions. We wore shorts, but many of the villagers were in ski coats! Saw a blind mother raising small children who had severe corneal clouding from earlier Vitamin A deficiency. I also saw the worst failure to thrive baby I can ever remember. Six months old and only 6 pounds. I’m learning in Haiti that I have to approach problems totally differently – no lab down the street, tests cost money the patients can’t afford, and you really have to rely on clinical judgment (its sad this is being lost in the USA or that fear of litigation inhibits its use). A trial of a medication for a parasitic infection is all I can do and hope it works. I wanted to test for HIV but not available. We returned to the Center for Formation that evening for a nice dinner with VOSH. Even enjoyed a few cold Prestige before lights went out.

February 19 (Friday)
Last work day in Jakzi. Started to get sad about leaving, but ready to go home to see family and friends. Took a walk from the center to the village to cherish the sites, sounds, and people along the way I’ve met this week. Once there, not much time to reflect. Everyone knew it was our last day and came out to see us. We saw ~100 children in a 4 hour time span, but gladly had to turn no one away. Said our goodbyes at the church and slowly walked home just reflecting on the past two weeks. Before leaving village, went to see Yudinx one last time. He was thrilled to get my cap that read Doctors Have Patience. He wants to be a doctor and I have faith he will accomplish his goal. Quiet evening of packing to get up at 3:30 AM to start our trip home.

February 20 (Saturday)
Awoke at 3:30 AM & got to see beautiful stars of Haiti one last time before going home. Fenalin took us to northern border dodging all of the cows and goats sleeping both in and alongside the highway. It still amazes me I never saw a car hit an animal, person, or another vehicle this entire trip! Two hour wait before the border opened. Small glitch with passports, but easily walked across the bridge into the Dominican Republic. We missed our direct bus to Santo Domingo, but with the help of a new-found Haitian friend Gary, we took another bus to Santiago and transferred to Santo Domingo. There we saw Papito one last time before we went to the airport. How good it was to see his smile before we left! We easily got to the airport on time (a little nerve racking since we had to travel in Haiti, cross the border, and then go 6 hours by bus in the DR). Flight home quiet and even getting through customs a breeze.

This was my first trip to Haiti and suffice to say it was the most life changing journey I’ve ever traveled. Even for the regular team members of Haiti MaryCare, this trip required so much coordination for it all to happen it defies imagination. Especially in Haiti where NOTHING is predictable. This was all do to the efforts of Mary Lou, Sherman, Papito, and the unsung hero Tom behind the scenes at home. Considering we flew to the DR, traveled by bus to PaP, then again by bus back to the DR, back to Cap-Haitien by bus, clinics in Jakzi, Pillete, and Cap-Haitien, and then back to DR by bus and flight out to NYC. Exhausting to even put all of this in one sentence. One always comes away from Haiti appreciating EVERYTHING we have here in the USA. I was so glad to have a roof over my head, a clean toilet and shower, healthy food and water, and 4 hours of electricity at night. It’s so easy to take all of these things for granted. I realized how much time I waste at home sitting in front of a TV, computer, or on my cell phone. How nice it was to even read some books. The old saying “early to bed, early to rise” really applies in Haiti, especially when the roosters start crowing at 5 AM. You really learn a lot about yourself.

I was immersed in a culture that has so little, but is so kind and appreciative of everything people do for them. They work tirelessly without complaining just living from day to day. Many only get one meal per day, yet have a resilience that is extraordinary. I’m convinced this is why so many survived the earthquake is horrendous conditions. I am grateful for my new Haitian friends – Papito, Father Dorcin, Dr. Maklin, Dr. Vaval, and the entire village of Jakzi. I look forward to returning to the village that so embraced me. Hopefully my Creole will be a little better next trip. All prayers and God’s blessings are now needed for those who suffered loss in the earthquake as well as the millions of other Haitians who strive everyday just to survive and hopefully have a better life.

Bus ticket dilemma

by Mary Lou Larkin

When I first went to Jacquesyl everyone asked us for shoes. Then people began to ask for money for their children to go to school. Today everyone had shoes or at least flip flops. Today the majority of the kids go to school and we need to expand the school.

But this trip many, many people asked for bus tickets. Yes bus bring their loved ones from Port au Prince where there is absolutely nothing for them, to Jacquesyl. I wondered would our donors consider this as disaster relief? After what I saw in PaP I would certainly consider it disaster relief.

When the rainy season begins there will be malaria,typhoid, and dengue. Women and girls live in fear of being raped in the massive tent cities. There is little available clean water and no privacy. Away from PaP people will at least have a chance at rebuilding their lives, yet without seeing the devastation and repercussions will people understand this? It is something we need to talk about. Several of us just decided to give our personal money to families we knew to help them bring their families to Jacquesyl.