Friday, October 17, 2014

Tackling Guatemala’s Parasite Problem

“PID gives the poorest of the poor hope, above all, and I feel lucky to have observed it in action.”

Julie (right) and Rachel in the lab.
Julie Merriam went on her PID first trip at age 12. “The memory of seeing such malnourished kids, who were only a few years younger than me, still sticks with me,” she reflects. Over the next decade, Julie took two more trips to Haiti and two to Guatemala. These trips, she says, are what inspired her to become a doctor.

“During my sophomore year of college [as a pre-med student at Yale], I decided that I wanted to go abroad over the summer.” Having fallen in love with Guatemala during her two trips at ages 15 and 16, “I couldn’t think of anything better than to go back.” Julie teamed up with fellow PID pre-med intern, Rachel Cooper, and began working on a parasite project in Guatemala.

Food- and water-borne parasites are particularly common in Guatemala’s rural communities. Lack of knowledge and limited access to clean water contribute to the spread of infection, which leads to intestinal trouble and malnutrition, similar to what Julie witnessed on her first trip. 
 
Julie and Rachel spent the summer of 2012 screening kids in the village schools for parasites, organizing well checks and treatments, and teaching sanitation classes for kids and families. “It was an incredible experience,” Julie says. “We both returned the following summer to do a formal parasite study with PID and our respective universities.”

Julie collecting a fecal sample for her study,
They probed deeper this time, examining the efficacy of Albendazole (a common deworming drug used around the world) and gathering data on the demographic variables that contribute to infection. As part of this research, Julie and Rachel asked local families where they got water for everyday chores such as bathing, cooking and drinking. Many answered, “The river.” When asked where they went to the bathroom, many answered the same. “Hearing people answer, ‘The river’ for those questions was disheartening,” says Julie. “This is why the water filters that PID has installed are so important.”

Also important is hygiene education. “PID’s mission is to help people help themselves. I hope that by increasing awareness about parasites and how they are transmitted, people will be more conscious about how important hygiene and handwashing are.”

Now a freshly minted Yale graduate (May 2014), Julie is back in Guatemala again--this time with a 10-month Yale fellowship. She is expanding her parasite project to two new schools and will begin to map the prevalence of infection in kids younger than school-age.


When she returns to the U.S. next year, Julie will begin applying to medical school with the hope of realizing the dream that began during her early PID trips. “The doctors I have met on teams have all inspired me with the love and care that they give to each patient. Their mentorship has been invaluable. I hope to someday be able to contribute as they have.”

Be part of the solution: Learn how you can contribute to PID’s medical efforts in Guatemala.

Gustavo, a boy in the village, learning how to use the microscope and identify the parasites.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Long-Awaited Administration Building!

Woohoo! This is a shot of Director of Social Work Mr. Genois standing at the entrance of our much-needed and long-awaited administration building on the PID clinic campus. Its right next to the clinic and will serve as the office building for department heads and directors.

 Up until this point, the heads of small business, sponsorship, administration and clinic were all sharing basically one office, so we are all pumped to have our own space. Its especially necessary for the social work/sponsorship department to have this new space, which includes a waiting room to accomodate Child Sponsorship families while they wait for their monthly follow-up meetings, drop off report cards, meet with Mr. Genois, etc. Previously they had to wait outside the clinic, in the patient waiting room, wherever. Needless to say it will be nice to have a designated waiting room for them. 

Gale is also here this week and helped orchestrate the move into the new building. She was also the one who made a pretty random (and lucky) discovery: the floor of the building (the brand new building) had a lot of white paint splattered on almost all the floors while they were painting the walls. It wasn't going to be the end of the world, but it was a huge shame because the floor design was actually really beautiful before it was ruined. We have tried like three different times to get the paint off with turpentine, etc. Well, Gale comes to find out that the magic combo of brillo pads and windex will take  the paint right off the floor. (Its like My Big Fat Greek Wedding- Baha!) 
So tonight Gale, Saintilia, Murielle and I cleaned one of the floors that way and it turned out pretty good. The floor design is cool- its like colorful swirls. Very artsy.

This is a short work week for the clinic and office- tomorrow is a national holiday so we will start off in the new office after the long weekend.

Will post again soon!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Agustin Toc Family : Transformation Tuesday

Introducing the Agustin Toc family. 



Single mother Dominga has 5 children. When we first met them Dominga was depressed and having thoughts of suicide. She confessed that it was usually her oldest daughter Vanessa (9yrs old at the time) who would talk her out of killing herself. Such a heavy weight for such a little girl. They lived in a small house made of scraps of plastic, tin, cardboard and bamboo. The only son Jackson was sleeping in a bed with a man who was in and out of the family's life. Dominga and her four daughters slept on the dirt floor. Rainy season was awful since the floors turned to mud. Dominga cried with me in my office because she couldn't go out and work to support her family because she couldn't leave her young baby alone. Vanessa would often go and wash dishes at a neighbors house after school to earn a little money to buy at least some tortillas for her family. 




Two children are now enrolled in PID sponsorship and the family received a house last year thanks to a church fundraiser in Ipswich, MA. They still struggle to make ends meet, but Dominga now has a job and they live in a safe, dry house. Dominga is usually seen with a smile on her face because she now has hope for a better future for her and her children.



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Nicole's new home!

You may have noticed that we are starting to share some of the fruits of PID programs here on social media by publishing some before and after's with the hashtag #transformationtuesday. This is one of the first transformations I saw here in Haiti since starting my job here. JnOnes introduced me to Nicole (photo below) and she explained what her previous living situation was like.



For 7 or 8 years she and her son Christopher (now 8 years old) lived in the courtyard of an apartment building not far from PID. There was a rickety tarp structure on the property, but it left them very vulnerable to Haiti's harsh weather and also to their unfriendly neighbors. At one point Nicole's son was beaten up by tenants of the apartment building. Nicole then found a temporary housing situation through a local church and has been able to stay there for the past months. But that was only temporary. Now Nicole and her son live in a PID home. Last week when JnOnes, Mr. Genois, Wilner and I all handed over the keys to Nicole we also stood in the foyer with her and we prayed for her and her son.

Before:



Before: The courtyard where Nicole and her son lived for 7 years. The tarp structure is very similar to where Nicole lived and in the rainy season the family had to move inside the building to sleep in hallways or on the porch.

After:



After: Nicole's PID home just after we gave her the keys and prayed for her well-being.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Carline at work

Carline is a lead by example kind of person. She is learning about different medical programs by participating. Here are some shots of her and Samuel running the diabetic clinic last week. They talked about what works with the diabetes and hypertension programs and what could change and they got started on making some smaller changes for next week's clinic.






Monday, September 29, 2014

Update from Guatemala

Things here in Guatemala have been pretty low-key since the last group left.

I have been busy taking two sponsored children with hydrocephalus to their doctor's appointments in a city called Quetzaltenango which is about two hours away. The national hospital there has pediatric neurosurgeons.

Julie has arrived for her 10 month internship! She will once again be examining the efficacy of the de-worming medication that is given to children when they have parasites.

PID has also been able to help a few children receive surgeries for their cleft lip and palate.

Yaquelin with her sister a few weeks before her surgery
Yaquelin today - 2 weeks post-op

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

First few weeks!

Hi all,

I've been meaning to post here for a while but the first few weeks have been really busy... but truthfully, its also been really great. I arrived September 5th and Gale was down here shortly afterwards to train me and help me get adjusted. Some things about the role seem familiar to me since I interned for almost a year here while Lizzy Barnes was FD. But interning for Lizzy and watching her work is of course really different than actually working here in that role. :)

A couple of moments and pictures I wanted to share with you guys:

First, last Friday before Gale left threw a party introducing me as the new Field Director and JnOnes St Paul as the new Small Business Director. She made lasagna, salad, garlic bread and pineapple upside-down cake for all the staff.

Here are some pictures from the party introducing myself and Jn Ones as new directors:

Alexandra and Gale plating food for the staff. Sept 12, 2014.

Robert and Rosemarie (and Michaelange at left in background). Sept 12, 2014. 

Sept 12, 2014.

Sept 12, 2014.

Also while Gale was here PID hired the new Director of the Medical Clinic, Carline Mongerard. She and I are both on a learning curve in our new jobs and I really appreciate her sincere approach. Example: this morning first thing when the work day started she sat down next to me with an open notebook and she wanted to know EVERYTHING about PID's history, mission, and the Guatemala and Mississippi locations.

Yesterday we had an introduction party for Carline, but I burnt the cake ( ha ha! - no pictures of that one, sorry!). Carline, on the other hand, did great: she spoke to the staff about why we do the work we do. We do it for the patients, for the people who need our services.


I'll post again soon!

Sandra


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Welcome, Sandra!

Sandra and fiance Abdias
We are excited to welcome a new member of our PID team! Meet Sandra Sonley, our new Haiti Field Director.

Hometown:​ I grew up in Warrenton, VA. But I've been around the Beverly, MA, area since college and that has felt like home for the past few years.

Education:​ Bachelors degrees in Biblical Studies and French from Gordon College. Master of Social Work from Salem State University.

Family: My parents, sister (Beka) and extended family are all in Virginia and Maryland.​ My fiance, Abdias, and his family are in Haiti. My church family is in the North Shore of Massachusetts.

Hobbies:​ I used to knit and I brought knitting supplies with me to Haiti to try and get back into it. I like a good story to read or listen to. My mom gave me a copy of Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende. It takes place in Haiti in the 18th century. I started it a long time ago but I'm just now getting into it. Also, the past four months I was doing (or attempting - haha!) CrossFit where I was living in Beverly. Really tough, but really kicked me into shape!

How did you first get involved with PID?
​I always had hesitations about short-term service trips, but my friend from Gordon convinced me to volunteer on a service trip in May of 2010. Gale was there at the same time as our team, and I was sold on their model of partnership and their transparency as a service organization. A few years after that​, I ended up intern​ing​ for about 11 months for PID in Haiti.

What were you doing before you became the field director?
I just finished my MSW degree at Salem State University at the end of August. It was a long ride, but I learned a lot.​ I also worked as a case manager for a social service organization, which taught me a lot about what low income families face in the US.

Why did you decide to come on board full-time with PID, and what are you most excited about in your new role?

If you've ever been to PID in Haiti, or spent any length of time there, you know it’s pretty easy to fall in love with the people and their mentality and resilience. The work PID does can get complicated and there are some very hard aspects (at least it seemed to me as an intern), but I see the fruit of their commitment and I know it is all really, really worth it! ​I am most excited about working with the same people and lots of new staff as well. I was there for the better part of a year for my internship, so I know a lot of the people who work there. The laughter among staff and the culture of the clinic is pretty irresistible. I know that the relational aspect of how Haitians approach work will make the harder parts of the job worth it.

You're now about a week in to your new position. What has surprised and/or challenged you so far?
So far so good! The hardest part and most surprising part has been driving here; it takes all my concentration and I feel like the roads are a maze. But it hasn't been as hard as I've though. ​

What is your greatest hope for Haiti?
Since Haiti receives so much help from so many thousands of organizations, it’s possible to feel like they are all coming in to try and “fix” Haiti. When you come down here the airplane is full of volunteers and workers from dozens of charities and NGO's, which is great on the one hand. Sometimes, though, it’s possible to forget that despite the good intentions we can bring in, people and communities are transformed when they make things happen for themselves. Outside help can simply provide encouragement, tools and other resources for that. My hope is that progress for the country really will be a partnership between people of Haiti and the outside organizations that come in, and will take Haiti to a place that the people of Haiti want to see it go. I also have a hope for us who are “outsiders” coming in, that we will be open to how much we gain from partnerships like this, and let that inform the nature of our service.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Transformation Through Education

In the spirit of back-to-school season, here’s a little quiz for you: How many years will a typical child in Haiti or Guatemala spend in school during their lifetime?

Before you answer, let’s first consider how many years most of our children spend in school. For many, we’re looking at 13-14 years to start, plus another four for college and potentially more after that. Some of our kids will spend upwards of 20 years in school.

How many years do kids in Haiti and Guatemala spend?

Four.

And those four years come at a cost, too. In Haiti, families must pay tuition for each child in school; in Guatemala, tuition is charged after 6th grade.

At 40% primary school completion rate, Guatemala is ranked lowest in Central America. 10% of students complete lower secondary school and only 8.5% pursue higher education. There are further disparities between genders and in rural areas.

In Haiti, approximately 35% of youth are unable to read. The government has little to no involvement in closing this gap.

Because Haiti and Guatemala are some of the poorest places in the world, families need “all hands on deck” to make a living and keep food on the table. A child in school means one less set of hands to help run the family business or till the fields. After just a few short years of schooling, children are often forced to drop out in order to work and relieve the family of school expenses (such as tuition, books, supplies and uniforms), which present a significant financial burden.

Children who leave school to work become trapped in the cycle of poverty that has shackled their family and community for so long. Education is essential to breaking the cycle of poverty and transforming individuals, families and communities. Children who receive a quality education open their world to immense possibilities.

PID’s child sponsorship program helps kids stay in school well beyond the average completion time by covering the cost of school expenses and providing medical and nutrition care, which are essential to fostering learning. Once they reach high school age, our higher education program jumps in to help them complete their education and even go on to college. These programs are changing lives and transforming families by making education accessible.

  • Learn more about our child sponsorship programs in Haiti and Guatemala
  • Learn more about our higher education programs in Haiti and Guatemala

As the school year kicks off, you’ll probably find yourself waiting in the school pick-up line or sitting in traffic behind a frequently-stopping school bus. In those moments, image what it would mean to have only four years of schooling in your entire life. And, maybe, as you gather last minute back-to-school supplies this year, consider throwing a few extra items onto your cart. Our list of needed supplies includes everything from medical supplies and clothes to soap and peanut butter, and helps PID continue serving the poorest of the poor through educational support and many other programs.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Team arrived safely and is working hard

Team all arrived safely on Weds. We are currently having electrical issues so please forgive us for not reporting sooner. 

The construction people are working hard to finish the floor of the administration so we can paint and move in. 

The Antioch group is working hard counseling and running a study in the afternoon. 

The yoga group is running a kids program. 

Gena is working hard in the clinic and loving it.