Thursday, November 12, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
After all the work of getting a Haitian to the United States for heart surgery, seeing these kinds of results is so gratifying. Marie could barely walk before surgery; now she doesn't have to worry each day if her heart will give out. We are grateful to everyone who helped make it happen.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
I agree fully that there are innumerable decent Haitian people.
That's not what's at issue. The issue is: How do people change the
reality of THEIR Haiti?
I recall a very imporant learning experience for me. I
won't identify the person or place for fear I would jeapordize things in that
area. But, it was way back in Duvalier days. I was deeply impressed
with the work in one area and offered to provide some financial aid. The
Haitian leader of that group told me, "No thank you." I was quite
astonished. Every other place people just wanted anything I might be able
to offer. This leader told me:
1. If I take money from you and it gets out, then the "gwo neg"
in the area will wonder what we are up to, want their share, and we will be in
2. Soon, YOU will be suggesting we do this or that....
Thanks, Bob, but no thanks.
Eventually I got this leader to agree to allow me to give his group
anenvelop each month with cash, no questions ever asked, and no mention of
it. That ended up helping what is today a rather successful group, but
part of that success is DEFINITELY related to this leader's understanding of the
need to protect such information.
The problems in Haiti are not a lack of decent and hard working and
ambitious PEOPLE. It's leadership. There is a political class which
is a complete sycophant upon the people. There is an economic class which
is a complete sycophant upon the masses. There is a force -- it used to be
army, now it is police or thugs, who enforce the will of the powerful and keep
the masses in conditions of shocking poverty and powerless over their own
Okay, there may be a period of history here or there that I've over
exaggerated the disgustingness of leadership, but not by much.
Again, given the hard reality of the PRESENT, I think the best bet that
people of good will have in helping Haiti and Haitians is to forget "Haiti" as a
nation, and go to the villages, the more remote the better, and go SMALL.
Help the market women who need some funds for an initial investment,
help the farmer who needs a hoe or gwo bef or seed. Help the community
that needs water, help the community organization that needs a local store
ordispensary of medicines. Help the local community that needs a school
building or a teacher.
Those are things that many of us in the outside world can DO. We
can either do it alone, or we can bond with a small group of others and get
At the same time, go small. Try NOT to be noticed. Try not
to attract the sychophants who will use power and force to steal the
THAT HAITI, the Haiti of the real people, the non powerful, the
politically insignificant, they are the hope of the future, be they in the slums
of the city or the more rural areas of tiny villages.
And pardon me if I step on toes here, but get the hell out of the
SPIRITUAL lives of the Haitian people. They can do that quite well
themselves. They need material help and medical help and educational help,
they don't need outside help with their spiritual lives.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
John is off for Haiti today. Because of the fruit-basket-upset nature of our lives, he's never quite sure he's going to go until the night before he is scheduled to depart. There's always a lot to coordinate here and in Haiti. He's pretty much got packing down to a science; the indispensibles are: two cell phones, computer, camera and attachments, batteries, headlight, passport, scrubs, and lots of medicines. John always has to make at least one run to a pharmacy to get meds for our Haitian patients. We are also grateful to the many people who donate medicines, including the Heading Avenue Sisters.
It's a relatively short trip this time, but John will get a lot done, like he always does. His plans include: working in the clinic at the Daughters of Charity's place in Cite Soleil; examining a child who has Down Syndrome and a heart problem which can accompany this syndrome; delivering medicines and other supplies to our patients and their families; examining new and old Haitian Hearts patients, bringing Frandy a TOEFL book and a surprise; attending the funeral of Father Gerry Jean-Juste at the cathedral in Port-au-Prince and also his burial in Cavaillon. Of course, the unplanned activities take up a lot of time too
When he left this morning, John wasn't sure where he would be staying during his trip. Some guesthouses and hotels are full, a good sign for the country. But he will manage, in this place that lays claim to a big part of his heart.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Sometimes in Haiti, you can work so hard trying to make something happen, something that shouldn't be that difficult to arrange and then it doesn't happen.
I'll quit being so vague. On John's last trip to Haiti, he identified three new heart patients. He then learned that there was to be a team of medical professionals, including a pediatric heart surgeon, from Florida going to Port-au-Prince the first week of June. He asked the team if they would examine these three new patients, and they said yes.
The good news is that we think two of the children made it to the hospital where the team had set up shop and were seen.
But we know for certain that one patient did not. And this was after dozens of e-mails and many phone calls setting up the appointment. When things fail in Haiti, there is usually more than one reason why. It can be a combination of techonological failure, language barriers, transportation problems, illness, human error, and the chaos of life in a developing country. Tasks that we take for granted here or that are simple to perform are far more difficult in a place like Haiti where every day life is hard.
We are disappointed that this patient wasn't able to be seen. But we haven't given up and we will think of new ways to bring her to the attention of those who maybe able to help her.
Sunday, June 07, 2009
Friday, June 05, 2009
Have you ever had the experience where you've learned something new and then, seemingly suddenly, you see references to this new topic all over the place? That's happened to me with the book Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System. I bought the book a couple of weeks ago from an independent book store, You Know You Love A Book, in Peoria Heights.
This isn't a book review, because I haven't even had time to crack the cover, though I am looking forward to reading it. But today on the Corbett list that I subscribe to was this link to the Brooklyn Food Conference, where Jean-Baptiste Bazaelais spoke on the program, Seeds for Haiti.
And also a speaker at this conference? Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved. You can read more about his book at his blog.
We are surrounded, inundated by food in the United States. Meanwhile, my husband John is haunted by the image of a little boy Jimy and his father, who were so very obviously hungry, if not starving, in Haiti. "The father didn't ask for anything," said John. "He had so much dignity."
We have learned that since John has returned from Haiti, Jimy has had two fainting spells. You know, when you don't get enough to eat, this happens. We have decided to adopt this family in Haiti and send them money for food.
This action doesn't address the systemic problems that Raj Patel writes about, but it will make a difference to Jimy and his family.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
This is five-year-old Jimi, a patient John came upon during his most recent trip to Haiti. Jimi has a Ventricle Septal Defect, VSD, which is a hole between the two lower chambers, or ventricles, of the heart. A VSD is a congenital heart defect, or, in other words, a heart problem a child is born with.
Jimi has had an echocardiogram in Port-au-Prince, which has been reviewed by an American pediatric cardiac surgeon. The good news for Jimi is that he may not need surgery; some VSD's don't pose much risk to a child's health. Jimi will hopefully be examined by the medical team from Florida and this prognosis will be confirmed.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Here is what I remember about Father Gerry Jean Juste:
Seeing him say Mass at his beloved St. Clare’s in Port-au-Prince. During his homily he said, “The first community of Christians were not in need because they shared. We don’t share. We say we are Christians, but we are hypocrites. We are only 600 miles from the U.S. and we are so poor. We are part of the Americas—a continent of Christians, but we don’t act like it.”
He brought a young girl up on the alter who had been severely burned when a propane tank exploded. She was covered in silvadene cream, and Father explained that her family had spent all their money on her medical care. He asked the people of his parish for donations for her family and the people gave. After Mass, Father, who was clearly exhausted, took the time to listen to each person waiting for him with their problems and concerns. When we remarked on his stamina he said, “As long as I have time to pray, and especially to say Mass, I am fine.”
Seeing him in prison in 2005, where he spent months on trumped up charges, designed to ensure that he was not free during Haiti’s presidential elections. My husband John Carroll, a physician, examined him and realized that Father’s swollen neck indicated that something was likely seriously wrong. “We will call it my freedom neck,” Father joked as we planned with others how to petition for his release to receive medical treatment. Despite his unjust imprisonment and his poor health, Father Gerry was amazingly cheerful for himself but very sad about what was going on in Haiti. “Peace and development,” he said. “These are the two things Haiti needs.” At the end of the visit we all held hands and he prayed for each one of us. As we left, we asked Father if there was anything we could do for him. He had heard earlier that we had been able to secure more medical care for the little girl who was burned in the propane explosion. “You already have,” he said.
Sometime when you meet a great person, you can be a little disappointed. Maybe they act pompously or even unkindly. Maybe they are too big to do certain jobs. Maybe they don’t live like they talk. Father Gerry Jean-Juste was the real deal. He spent his life living the Gospel and challenging others to do so also, trying to help those who most needed it. This extended to his preaching, his organizing, and the way he treated each person. And in all his labors and hardships, he exuded joy.
Haiti needs heroes like Father Gerry Jean-Juste. This world needs them. It’s a huge loss that he is no longer with us. As my husband said, “He’s the guy who would do the most for Haiti, and he’s the one who was exiled for 18 years, he’s the one who was in and out of jail, he’s the one who was prohibited from saying Mass by the Church, he’s the one who gets cancer, and he’s the one who dies at age 62.”
Sometimes it can seem like goodness is snake bit. But I feel confident that isn’t the lesson that Father Gerry Jean-Juste would want us to draw from his life. No, the lesson that he would want us to learn is that love can win on this earth. We just need to follow his example.
Saturday, May 09, 2009
Friday, May 08, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
In the above picture, which I found at Wyclef Jean's website, Clinton and company are visiting an oasis in Cite Soleil run by the Daughters of Charity. In their complex, the Sisters have schools, a medical clinic, programs to teach women how to sew, a malnutrition program for children and other things I know I am forgetting. In the squalor and harshness of Cite Soleil, the Sisters' place is a calm, beautful setting where people are safe and cared for, at least for awhile.
John has volunteered at their medical clinic. It is one of his favorite places to work in all of Haiti.
Clinton traveled to Haiti, where he is very popular, thanks to his role in restoring Aristide to power in 1994, to encourage the international community to invest in Haiti. There are a lot of people in Haiti who want work and who will work hard.
Also in the news recently was Cardinal Francis George of Chicago's welcome call for President Aristide to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitians currently in the United States. Here's an excerpt from the Cardinal's excellent letter:
Haiti meets the standard for TPS because it has experienced political tumult, four natural disasters, and severe food shortages in the last year, not to mention the devastation of Hurricane Jeanne in 2004. In April 2008, starving citizens took to the streets to protest rising food prices, causing political instability.
In August and September 2008, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike and Tropical Storms Fay and Hanna passed through Haiti, causing severe damage and the death of close to 700 persons. Massive flooding from the storms has destroyed homes, crops, roads, and bridges, and largely rendered areas like Gonaives inaccessible to relief workers. Over 90 percent of Haiti has been impacted. Tens of thousands have been displaced, and the fate of thousands more is unknown. More than 300,000 children have been affected.
As the Cardinal goes on to say, the conditions in Haiti are as bad as or worse then El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras, where TPS was recently extended.
Here's hoping the Cardinal's letter helps.
Thursday, April 02, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Ronald was accepted by the hospital two months ago. His American advocate hears various excuses when she attempts to get his passport in Port-au-Prince. Or she is told to come back another day and the passport will be ready, and then it isn't. We have heard that Haiti is out of the blue books that are used to make the passports.
When we were waiting in Haiti for our son's adoption papers--and at least this wasn't a matter of life and death--one of the things we needed was a particular agency's stamp. For weeks we were told that the stamp was broken and a new one was on order from Germany.
Excuses like "we are out of blue books" or "the stamp is coming from Germany" are hard to believe. It's difficult to know whether we're dealing with bureaucratic incompetence or bureaucratic lying.
In Haiti, we've noticed a lack of urgency about situations that are considered crises in the United States (like children dying). Perhaps this is because it happens too often.
We hope Ronald gets his passport soon.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Monday, March 02, 2009
Heurese is a lovely, soft-spoken woman who is a pleasure to be around. She understands a lot of English. I am trying to communicate with her in my broken Haitian Creole, and we're pleased that Luke will hear his native language.
Heurese is a wonderful addition to our home.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
After recuperating for a couple of months, Katia returned to Haiti in May 2005. We see Katia when we travel to Haiti and keep her supplied with the medicines she needs.
Katia sent John the following e-mail last week:
i got a problem, i don't work i don't go to school but you know in my country the situation isn't good but i want to make something to live; i haven't no one,then i want to ask you for seconde if you can help me in that case but i let choose for me any way you give i will accept to do it.please you know i considere you as my father. i don't feel me well cause every day i stay in my house.my mother would to help me but she can't.then please try to understand me. when you stay to do nothing that's bad please thinking about that for me please. i pray god for you for give you the possibilty.god bless you.kiss for every body.
Katia concerns embody Maslow's Hierarchy of psychological needs. Now that she has her pressing health need met, she can turn her attention to higher level needs. One of these is to be productive and contribute.
Katia's note is a good reminder that we work to restore people's health in part so that they can make their unique and necessary contribution to the world.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Sunday, February 08, 2009
Thursday, February 05, 2009
Once in awhile, though, you come across a person who for many reasons, is able to think of and work toward a better life. We know such a person in 20-year-old Frandy. We met Frandy seven years ago when he came to John about his heart.
Frandy lives on top of a mountain with his mother and two older brothers in the seaside slum of Carrefour, next to Port-au-Prince. He is very thin. I remember when we went to Frandy's home. We hiked and hiked and came to a two room, concrete block structure with a tin roof. Frandy welcomed us, and his mother served us Coca Cola that they had gotten for the occasion of our visit.
Frandy had a hole in his heart, and he came to St. Louis for medical care. His mother accompanied him. On the first night here, as his mother soaked up the incredible luxuries of this country, she said, "We are in paradise."
Frandy did not have to have surgery, which was a blessing. Another blessing for him was an opportunity to experience the blessings of the United States.
He returned to Haiti after a two month stay. Frandy was already a driven person who excelled in school. He was now motivated to work even harder and with the support of people in the States, he saw a way that he might attain the almost impossible goal for a poor Haitian of going to college.
Frandy's supporters paid for his education in Haiti. He studied and studied. He listened to the Voice of America. He practiced writing English through sending e-mails and speaking English with anyone he could. He became quadralingual in the process. Frandy speaks French, Haitian Creole, English, and Spanish.
He passed the Haitian equivalent of high school, a huge achievement for someone from Frandy's background. Later this month, he will take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). Passing TOEFL is a requirement for a foreign student to attend college in the United States. Say a prayer that he does well, will you?
I think Frandy is succeeding because he is: intelligent and driven. These may be God-given qualities, but Frandy is making the most of them. He also has people willing to invest in him. Without this, attending college in the United States would be a cruel dream.
Frandy sees a better life for himself and his family and that vision draws him on. I admire him a lot. God willing, he will succeed.
Friday, January 30, 2009
I've been railing to anyone who will listen--as I'm sure many have--about the outrageous greed, arrogance, and even criminality of the corporate executives whose companies have received bailouts from us and who are using money to reward themselves with bonuses that are insane in the best of times and to buy lavishly appointed jets and outrageously expensive office furniture that doesn't even make sense. And then to justify their actions, they say things like if we don't pay these bonuses, we won't attract the best talent. The best talent?!!! You mean the talent to drive the financial system and everyone's 401K into the ground?
I remember in the 1980's when Reagen took on the welfare queens--women who were scamming the system and collecting multiple checks--regaling us with stories about a Cadillac-driving, fur wearing welfare mom. These guys from New York make her look like a piker. The sense of undeserved entitlement is mind boggling. These guys think they are playing a game--a winner's game--where there are no consequences and no matter how badly you screw up, you never lose. And in this game, we all are the bank, like in a Monopoly game, dispensing endless qualities of money whenever they want it. What kind of fantasy universe are they living in?
Apparently the same one I am and this is where this post finally relates to Haiti. For I don't want to let the above guys off the hook--they truly are criminal--but when I examine my assumptions and expectations about my standard of living as it relates to the majority of people in Haiti and other developing countries, I find my world view too similar to that of the head of Merrill Lynch. I have my comfortable, warm, water tight home, a never ending supply of food, vacations to look forward to, my own car, my own computer, and really all the books I want to buy. And the Haitians? Well, they're eating too many mud pies or not at all.
How do the terrible living conditions (to put it mildly) of the people in Haiti relate to the way I--or you--live? Well, they do, my friends, they do, even if it's as simple as that I could use more of my disposable income to buy food for people in Haiti. The more complicated, systemic reasons that the developed world's standard of living comes at the cost of those who were unfortunate to be born in poor countries is detailed in Paul Farmer's book, "The Uses of Haiti" which I will summarize in future posts.
For now, suffice to say, there is plenty of blame to go around.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Monday, January 12, 2009
When Ronald was staying with his host family, and after consulting with Ronald's parents, this family decided they wanted to adopt Ronald. As is the case with many Haitian families, Ronald's parents were delighted that someone in the States wanted to adopt him. Life is very difficult for poor Haitian families, and the parents would love to give their children a better chance, even when it means giving them up. This is particularly true when the child has had serious health problems.
So Ronald returned to Haiti to await the completion of the adoption paperwork. Haitian Hearts continued to keep track of Ronald so that we could monitor his heart. This ongoing contact allowed us to diagnose that his heart needed more surgery.
Thankfully, the same hospital and surgeon that first operated on Ronald are going to do the second surgery. He will once again stay with his host, soon to be adoptive, family.
Ronald's heart is very sick, so the news of his acceptance came in the nick of time. Now, we pray that the passport and visa paperwork will go quickly.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
For example, Haitian Hearts mainly works in the downstream or mercy arena. We provide medical care to poor Haitians and bring children and young people to the United States for surgery. We respond to these emergency problems, most of which have their root in poverty. We don't more broadly address this poverty.
Some of our patients with heart problems have these problems due to rheumatic fever, a preventable disease. For rheumatic heart disease, upstream work might focus on educating doctors and people on strep throat and its treatment (penicillin) so that rheumatic fever doesn't develop. Work further upstream might be getting funds for more clinics and doctors and nurses in Haiti so that health care is more widely available.
A nun I know frequently talks to me about a friend of hers who runs an orphanage in Ecuador. This orphanage takes in mainly disabled children who have been abandoned. This seems to fall under the category of downstream or mercy work. But then it struck me: any work that benefits children must be considered upstream work, too. Children, we have so often heard, are the future. They will grow up and create the world anew. Helping children contributes to a just future, a future that is downstream for us now.
What could be better than that?
Thursday, January 01, 2009
Here's an interesting and important way that the Haitian war for independence affected American history. As Napoleon and France went down in defeat to the Haitians, the Emperor decided to sell the Louisiana Territory to the United States for $15 million dollars, or less than three cents an acre. The Louisiana Purchase, which now comprises 13 states, doubled the size of the United States.
With the loss of Haiti, called the Pearl of the Antilles for its rich agricultural output, as a French territory, Napoleon lost one of France's cash cows. Some thought that Napoleon had designs on North America, but the difficulty he had in Haiti forced him to forfeit these plans and sell the Louisiana Territory.
So the United States owes Haiti. We repaid them by not recognizing Haiti for more than 50 years, as we didn't want our own slaves getting any ideas about revolutions.
Fast forwarding to today:with four hurricanes and their resulting damage, skyrocketing food costs, widespread malnutrition and even starvation, more kidnappings, etc. etc., 2008 was not one of Haiti's better years. I guess that's true for the rest of the world too, Obama's election notwithstanding.
And on a personal level, I'm glad to see 2008 come to an end.
Let's work to make 2009 a better year for Haiti and all of us.