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.