Wednesday, April 16, 2014

By popular demand, here is the speech that Lizzy, our field director in Haiti gave at the Annual Celebration. 

“I can’t do this,” I thought, when I sat down to write my speech. How can I possibly write a speech about PID? PID’s work is too big for words. No sequence of words I can possibly string together could come close to representing the depth and magnitude of the work PID does, the number of lives PID has changed. The one word that stands out to me to represent PID as I reflect on what I’ve seen PID doing during my 3 years as Field Director in Haiti, is “hope”. If you’ve ever been on a PID trip, you may have an idea of what I’m talking about.

On your first trip to Haiti, you may be struck by the level of poverty that you see. It goes beyond the broken down shacks put together with scraps of corrugated metal, sticks, and ripped tarps. It goes beyond the heaps of trash burning in the streets, and the skinny little kids running around with orange hair due to malnutrition and no shoes on their feet. It’s a poverty so deep it’s nearly impossible to rise above. A poverty that breeds a sense of hopelessness. A poverty that has a disastrous affect on those imprisoned by it.

One recent volunteer who had put on a program for the kids of Mohea, a poor neighborhood by the dump, eyes filled with tears, asked me this: “what about these kids’ future? Do they even have a future, growing up in this kind of poverty? Do they even have any opportunities?” I could relate to this woman’s sadness, her feeling of despair. It was as if to say, “what good am I really doing here?” These kids come to PID and do activities for an afternoon, eat a hot meal, and then go back home to the dump, where harsh realities of life in poverty have been waiting patiently for them during the two hours they spent at PID. Tomorrow they may not get a hot meal, they may not go to school, and they will have piles of responsibilities to their families heaped on them as if they were not the little kids that they are. These beautiful young faces, that this woman has already grown to love after just one afternoon of time spent together, are doomed to a life of poverty, and there’s nothing she can do.

But in the despair of the dump at Mohea, as in the slums of Cite Soleil, the tent camp at the pig farm in Damien, and the desert mountainside of Canaan, there is an oasis, a ray of hope, in a little town called Blanchard, which is PID. What that woman didn’t know was, there is hope for a future for these kids from the dump. Several months earlier, Mr. Genois, our director of Social Services in Haiti, discovered the great need in the area. He had taken information for many of the poorest kids from Mohea for PID’s sponsorship program.

You may ask, “What kind of difference can sponsorship really make?” To answer that question, imagine yourself in this situation: you’re a single mother with 5 children from 3 different fathers. Each of the fathers, after making promises to help you and your family, ended up leaving you with his kids. Now you’re all alone with no one to help you, no source of income, and 5 hungry kids, 3 of whom are school age and you can’t even dream of coming up with the money for school entry fees, tuition, having uniforms made, buying shoes, backpacks, books. You’ve found yourself in this situation, and can already see that without education, your children’s futures are hopeless, doomed to be just like yours. It’s a situation we see all too often.

Now imagine yourself in the same situation, but this time, one of your children is sponsored through PID. Every month you come to the PID office to pick up some money to pay for school for your daughter. It’s a help that’s consistent. It’s something you can count on in a world of uncertainty. You’re not alone anymore; you’re a part of the PID family.  PID won’t abandon you as your husbands have. You and your family can get free medical care at the clinic. You can enroll in the small business program, where you can get a loan to do business so you can make a little income and don’t have to worry about your children going hungry. You can even receive a house so you don’t have to worry about getting thrown out into the street when you can’t pay the rent for your one-room shack.  And your sponsored child? She can get the education you couldn’t dream of for her. And at 18, when she’s finished with her classic education, she can go to University or learn a trade, so she doesn’t remain in the vicious cycle of poverty she was born into. Your family has hope for a future.


I can’t give a speech about PID without talking about the Emergency child program. I’ll start with a story. I remember the day when he came in to the clinic. He was one month shy of two years old. He weighed 11 pounds. He was skin and bones, literally, nothing else. He was limp. His dry skin folded like the wrinkles of an old man. His face was sunken in. His name was Estiven. I looked at his mother accusingly. How could you let this happen to your son? I watched as the nurse put an IV into his arm. I was afraid to hold him down, for fear I would break him. But he did not struggle or cry. He had nothing left in him to do so. Upon questioning the mother, I found her to be shockingly apathetic, seeming to shrug it off that her child was in this desperate near-death state. Hopelessness can do awful things to a person. It wasn’t the mother’s fault. She literally had nothing to feed him and no one to help her. There was nothing she could do. She had lost all hope for her child and resigned herself to the idea that her child just wasn’t going to make it.

So we put little Estiven in our Emergency program. We put him up on the website and he immediately got 4 sponsors. We told his mom to come in daily with him for formula, nutritious peanut butter cookies, called mamba, and a hot meal with leftovers to take home. We did a grocery shop for the whole family, buying them rice, beans, oil, milk, fresh fruits and veggies, and more. When we brought the food to their house, we saw the conditions in which they were living. The mom and her 5 very sad and skinny kids lived in a one-room, dark and dirty shack made of mud and sticks. They had no food and no possessions except for a few dirty clothes and a bed. But mom listened to us, coming into PID every single day with Estiven, just like we asked her. Changes were immediate. Estiven gained weight and perked up. I could see changes in his mom, too. She began to regain hope for her son. He is going to make it. A few months later, I overheard Estiven’s mom encouraging other moms of new emergency babies: “mine was worse than yours and look at him now, how big and healthy he is. All you need to do is persevere with PID and your baby will be better soon too.”

During my three years with PID, I’ve seen these situations way too often. To witness what these families from the dump, the slums, and the tent camps are going through, to see one malnourished skeleton baby after another brought into the clinic, the pervasiveness of poverty can make you feel helpless. But it’s not as depressing for me now, as it had once been, and as it was for that woman doing the kids program. That’s because I know we can do something about it. And it’s nothing Gale, or I, or Mr. Genois can do alone. But it’s you. You, who have chosen to sponsor a child, you who have taken a PID trip, or have financially supported PID. You, with God’s help, through PID’s programs, have made this difference in the lives of so many people. You are a part of the solution. You have brought hope for the future to so many families.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Yoga team arrives

On Sunday we said goodbye to the UMass Dartmouth group and we welcomed a new team. Lauren, Karen, and Jessica, 3 yoga team members, joined Tara, who had signed up to do construction but will actually be working with the yoga program for the week. Tamara is staying a second week here with the new group, and will continue seeing patients for (and with) Dr. Paul.

The yoga team had their first day of yoga today with kids from the orphanage. They had a great day with the kids, doing yoga moves and arts and crafts. The kids finished off their afternoon with a hot meal. The ladies are looking forward to a great week and lots of fun with the kids!

The rest of the week with UMass Dartmouth

We had a great week here with the UMass Dartmouth team. They did well child checkups for about half of our sponsored kids!! The nurses and students gave each child a very thorough head to toe exam. All of the emergency babies as well got to get seen by Margo, the pediatrician. We are so excited to be able to offer well child visits to so many kids!! Everyone did a great job, and the kids and their parents were so appreciative.

Tamara spent the week working in the clinic with several of the nurses and some of the students as well. Dr. Paul was in and out, seeing patients in between working on several projects with Guetchine. Samuel 2 had a big diabetic class on Thursday, with over 50 patients! The people from the big diabetic center of Haiti, Fhadimac, came and did a class for Samuel's patients. Each patient got a blood sugar test, blood pressure taken, and meds. Kathleen and a couple students helped Samuel.

Each student had one day out at the construction site, where they made great progress on the Blanchard house.

Throughout the week, many sponsors had the opportunity to meet or reunite with their sponsored children.

The team went on a tour of Port-au-Prince on Friday after work and out to eat at Epidor. On Saturday, Tamara taught a class for many of her sickle cell patients. Marceline also taught a class on family planning for many local young women. While Samuel translated for Tamara's sickle cell class, Kathleen ran Samuel's diabetic clinic. When the clinics and classes were over, the team headed to the beach to relax for their last day.

The UMD students prepared fantastic posters in creole to put up in our clinic on scabies and immunizations.

The students presenting their posters

 Diabetic class with Samuel

Friday, March 21, 2014

Last day in the village

Today the team finished up work in the village. They saw patients in Desierto and the Concepcion clinic in the morning and then a few patients in Concepcion in the afternoon. Around 3 pm they went with Maria Jose to visit Maria Francisca, an old lady who was injured by a falling box of chickens and sits on a rock all day in pain. Kelly usually goes and visits and brings some pain meds and tums. She really likes having visitors.

The afternoons have turned into art classes behind the clinic with a bunch of little girls who like to come and color.

Tomorrow we will go to Lake Atitlan to visit.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

First day in Desierto

Today the mobile clinic team set up outside the catholic church in Desierto. They were quite busy and saw many patients. They all came back exhausted in the afternoon.

In the clinic in Concepcion it was much quieter today. In the afternoon our newest cleft baby Jackelyn came in for a weight check. She only gained 1/2 ounce in a week. Ruth spent some time with the family teaching them how to properly feed her and also teaching the mom how to hand express her breast milk which is the best thing for little Jackelyn.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Well child checkups off to a great start

Yesterday, Tamara, Margo, and the UMass Dartmouth team had their first day of work. Tamara is replacing Dr. Paul this week as he works with Guetchine on several projects, including our public health licence. The team is doing well child checkups for 350 of our sponsored kids this week, and they are off to a great start for their first two days. The UMD students prepared fantastic take-home well child care cards, which were filled out at their well child visit, and children and families were instructed to keep the card and bring it back for future clinic visits and well child visits. We set up a waiting area in the eating area, where while the kids waited, they were given education on various topics, including dental care and hygiene. When they left, they were each given a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a bar of soap.

The students have been learning so much, while working with kids in the well child clinic, and sick people of all ages in the clinic. Today we had a patient who was 130 years old!

Some of the students went out to construction each day, and worked on the last single house in Blanchard. They started putting blocks up, and worked on sifting. They enjoyed being out in the neighborhood.

After work yesterday, the team went out for a walking tour of Blanchard and saw all the PID houses in the area. They got to meet some of the families, including Rosemarie, who took everyone inside her house.

Saw over 90 patients on day 1!

The first day in the village was a success. The mobile clinic in Saquiy saw 45 patients and the clinic in Concepcion saw 50. The nurses and students were busy attending to the various ailments that the patients were suffering. I went and did and home visit with Ruth to see a woman named Marina who had a c-section 5 days ago. She was in a lot of pain but we got her on a schedule for her pain meds. Today she was feeling a lot better.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Two great teams

Yesterday two teams left the US. One for Haiti and one for Guatemala. Both teams arrived safely in their respective country except for one team member who didn't find out until she got to the airport that her passport was expired. Hopefully she will be able to join the Guatemalan team tomorrow. So if you are heading out with a team check your passport. We ask you to send passports  in but we do not check the date. Don't be left standing at the airport while the rest of your team leaves:-(

Mobile Clinics to come!

After a day spent touring Antigua we dropped the team off at a hotel in Guatemala City last night and they flew out today.

Our next team arrived safely this evening. We had a yummy dinner and wnet over the basic information and the schedule for the week. It is a medical team so we will be able to see a lot of patients. We will be working in the clinic as well as doing a movile clinic in Saqui for 2 days and Desierto for 3 days.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Goodbye Gordon, Hello Umass Dartmouth!

Gordon College team had a great week. The cafeteria is finished, screened in, and painted! It looks beautiful. Pictures soon, internet willing. Paul also worked on furnishings for the sponsorship office in the new admin building and built benches for the cafeteria! Out at the construction site, the team not only finished filling in the foundation, but started putting blocks up on the duplex in Canaan. They made so much progress!! The team left with a lots of new experiences, a new perspective on poverty, and lots of great new friendships with the staff here and the children at the worksite.

We said good-bye to Gordon yesterday and Claudia today. Claudia spent a month here working in the clinic, helping in triage and wound care. We will miss her!

Today the UMass Dartmouth nursing team arrived, and Dr. Tamara and Dr. Margo. We are so excited to have this great team here! The bunkhouse is completely packed. The team brought so many PID bags and so much great supplies. We spent the afternoon unpacking all the suitcases and sorting out donations. Jeanne and I led an intro meeting with the team before dinner because everyone was so tired after a long day of travel. We are looking forward to a great week together!