Tuesday, July 29, 2008


For those of you that didn't know, the Internet at the hospital has been out for over a week and I do apologize for the delay. With that said so much has happened that once again it is going to be impossible to catch everyone up on everything.

I have told some of you through email and maybe a phone conversation or two about the little girl I found in the mountains. It was in the middle of the survey and because of strict protocol in selecting houses it was a miracle that we stumbled upon sweet little Guerline. All the guys from the team were exhausted and were reluctant to stick to the protocol because of the distances you tend to travel in the mountains between houses. We climbed up and down the hillsides and threw the river beds until we reached this structure, Guerline's home, that looked as if one swift wind could send it to the ocean.

Guerline was inside the house and we didn't actually get a look at her until the mother had begun the survey answering basic questions about their location and home. I wondered over to the door of the house and peered in to find little Guerline there lifeless on a piece of cloth as her bed. It had to have been close to 90 degrees inside the house and she looked as if her lips hadn't felt the cool touch of water in days. She was lifeless and struggled to even maneuver her eyes to see who this stranger was in her house!! Of course, I immediately knew that we would be taking her with us to the hospital in the morning to begin protocol to hopefully bring her back to life.

When we found Guerline she was a little over a year and a half old but weighed less than some newborn babies in the states. At a little over 8 pounds there was hardly anything to her but skin and bones. Needless to say, it broke my heart!! The mother of Guerline new that she was sick but didn't have the money or means to seek help. Like I said before, it was a miracle that we found sweet little Guerline that day.

Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of her state when she was first brought into the hospital, but, honestly, I would want to spare most of you guys the heartache!! Thankfully the best thing about my story is the ending. 

The following morning after we had discussed logistics with the mother and father that we would pay for transportation, treatment, and etc. They pack their belongings put on their nicest clothes and carried Guerline 3 hours over three mountains to rendezvous with our driver where we hand another hour and a half drive back to the hospital. 

We just sent Guerline and her mother back home last week because she has made so much progress!! The mother is suppose to return to the hospital tomorrow to pick up more food, but if we see nothing of her by Friday I am headed back up to take supplies!! I think it is safe to say the Guerline stole my heart and I already told Kara, the program manager, that if her parents don't live through the time I spend here I am bringing here home...haha!!

The more she ate the more her personality began to reveal itself!! Everyday for about 10 days we would check on her progress multiple times a day and saw with our own eyes her growth and what was basically a "rebirth" of a beautiful Haitian girl full of personality and life!! The last day she held my fingers in the palms of here little hands and wanted to walk all over the hospital room laughing and smiling from ear to ear!! It was incredible...there is really no other way to describe it!!

Thanks for the prayers and be encouraged...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Burn So Good

With the survey coming to an end and Evan, one of the interns for the survey, leaving on Tuesday of this week a group of friends decided to celebrate by taking a day trip to Jacmel. For those of you that don't know, Jacmel is only 40 kilometers away from Leogane but you have to cross some of the highest mountains in Haiti. The road is quite curvy and reminds me of that piece of spaghetti that gets tangled around your fork!! On top of that, because of Haiti's enormous deforestation problem landslides are a constant problem, and the roads in the mountains are usually the first to go. Fortunately, rain has been absent this past week and there wasn't a whole lot of eroding road obstacles, but the back of a landcruiser is not the most desired place to be while traveling this highway!! 

Thankfully the anticipation of a day at the beach kept every one's bad attitudes aside while Jean Claude, our driver, gracefully maneuvered the landcruiser twisting and turning sometimes snapping our necks side to side like a rag doll. We knew that once we were on the beach and sipping a cold glass of Haitian punch "every little thing was gonna be alright", you know, like Bob Marley!! And it was...

The day was great!! We enjoyed a leisurely Haitian lunch, and I mean leisurely. The Haitians don't move at the speed of light let me tell you, but fortunately the rhum was a little quicker than the food. We ate a little of everything from conch (lambi in creole) to polenta and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it!! But rushed from lunch quickly to the beach...

We drove a little further east to find a cozy little beach that Kara had visited once and before Jean Claude had a chance to park the car everyone had plunged into the cool Caribbean sea tackling the waves like kids, well at least I did!! It was awesome. We threw the football, laid around a little bit, had a round of prestige and did it all over again for the rest of the afternoon. I am not going to lie, I had been dreaming about my body being submerged in water from the moment I stepped off the plane and the heat smacked me upside my head. Once again, it was awesome!!

Of course, the sun took it out of everyone and as the day came to an end the realization of the ride back home was looming. Thankfully the sun wore me out so much that I slept the second half of the hour and a half ride home! You would think that a day like this would end there from exhaustion, but Saturday night is salsa night!! 

So we showered and headed out... 

Friday, July 18, 2008

More Rice Please

After 2 hours in the car, trekking across some rather rugged terrain in the mountains just to the south of Leogane, we set foot on the trail to Bouca Lion. We set out at 9am where we had to hike 3 hours through several communities to reach the children for the day. The hike was beautiful!! In the ride leading up to the hike we had climbed ridge after ridge until we were at what had to be close to the highest point in Haiti. Therefore, needless to say, our journey began by descending rather steeply into a valley filled with corn fields and farmers tilling their land. It was wonderful break from the life of the city. The air was cleaner the people seemed to be a little friendlier and best of all the temperature was below triple digits!! 

Up and down, up and down we climbed ridge after ridge, and it was then and there I realized how appropriate the Haitian saying and famous book title "beyond the mountains, there are more mountains" or "mountains beyond mountains!" 

We arrived at Bouca Lion and went directly to our resting place for that evening. We rested in the shade of avocado and mango trees while picking kernels from the grilled corn ("Haitian Style") attempting to refuel from our journey. It would have been easy to drift to sleep in the shade. It felt sooo good to take a load off and relish in that cool breeze sweeping from atop the mountains gently brushing our cheeks. Unfortunately, we knew if we didn't get to work it meant more work for us tomorrow.

We embarked on our search for children, which, as I explained in a previous post this search is completely random and beyond our control. Therefore, sometimes this process can be completed rather quickly while other times drag like that last day of school. Fortunately for us God smiled upon us and granted a rather easy day. We found all children rather quickly and didn't have to venture to far from our home base, but we did make our way to the riverbed where we found children playing in the water, women washing clothes, others bathing, and a few men digging irrigation trenches with handcrafted hoes and pick axes. It was quite the sight!! At that moment it made me think about the rest of the world and what everybody else was doing? I find it amazing how experiences trigger thoughts...and how sometimes the thoughts aren't that relative to the experience...

I thought of all the women and children around the world that were washing clothes in a river and the farmers and how hard they work to survive...it was surreal.

We finished the survey around 4 o'clock and climbed out of the riverbed where the women of the house we were staying for the night had prepared a feast! In the time that I shed my pack and took a seat in the hand woven chair there was a plate in my lap with fried plantains, grilled chicken leg, avocado slices, tomatoes, and peklis (my favorite!!). Peklis (not sure how to spell it) is a spicy vinegar based "coleslaw" that blends so well with all other Haitian flavors. I don't think I have had a meal yet where peklis wasn't served along side. 

After dinner, oh yeah I forgot, of course we had rice and beans too, we played Haitian card games and sat around attempting to communicate and listening to the sounds of the mountains. I ventured off by myself to go to the bathroom and stood in the light of the moon gazing in amazement of the number of stars!! It was beautiful. The nights in Haiti end rather early, the sun sets around 6:30 and most people are in bed by 8 or 9 at the latest, especially in the mountains. There is no real entertainment other than what you provide yourself and plus most people are farmers and are up with the sun at 5am. Therefore, we decided to hit it around 9ish cause we knew the hike we had if front of us and plus we hoped to beat the unforgiving heat of the midday sun.  

In the picture above you see the house and all those that are shown, plus me, slept here!! For those that can't count, all 10 of us slept in what couldn't have been more than 250 square feet!! I can't say that I got a whole lot of sleep but I will never forget the experience. You know you always read stories or hear stories about living situation such as these but most never get the chance to experience it. I will say it again, "it is mind boggling how these people live!!!" They honestly know no other way...truly amazing!! 

I was humbled by the whole experience and the generosity shared! Sorry this post got a bit wordy but I hope that you can take a little bit away from my experience. I prayed that night while lying restlessly in bed that the good Lord would never let me forget this, and that it would change me forever!! There are so many "simple" things I take for granted and I never want to complain about them again. I will always remember my Haitian brothers and sisters in the mountains...

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Hey guys, the Haitian government decided to grace us with a little power this Sunday afternoon and I thought that I would pass around my phone number here in Haiti for those of you that have a little time on your hands and have nothing else to do.


Dial it as is and it should work just fine!! If you don't have international calling you can get calling cards online that make it pretty cheap. I know this is a little work but I would love to talk to you guys if you have the time. There will be more to come soon about my stay in the mountains this past week!!

Stay Tuned!!

Thursday, July 10, 2008


As far as work and what fills my days...

We are in the middle of our first health survey of Leogane and it's surrounding villages. Our main focus is the nutritional condition of the children between ages 6 months to 3 years and their mother's accessibility to health care and clean water. We hope from this survey we can see what progress the hearth program has made over the past years and what areas we can improve. Moreover, we hope to find other arenas where we can continue to help the families of Leogane.

We have a staff of 9 Haitian translators that we spent 3 days training on how to select random houses and to follow the protocol of a "cluster" survey. I am not very experienced or better yet have very little knowledge of epidemiology, but during the training I grasped enough knowledge to understand the importance of following a strict protocol. In order to survey a smaller quantity of children but obtain an accurate representation of the entire city there must be special attention given to the "randomness" of the houses/children we choose. We also spent time training on how to weigh, measure, and accurately determine the health of the children we survey. At the end of the training the Haitians were divided into 3 groups and 1 American was placed with each group making 3 groups of four.

We randomly selected 33 communities/villages that each day a different team will go to implement the survey until all are complete. If everything goes according to plan we will complete the entire survey in two weeks spending only one night sleeping in the mountains per team.

Today we completed the fourth day of the survey with the long hike and the overnight stay in the mountains on the horizon, that being tomorrow!! I am looking forward to heading up to my village because it is very close to a village that I visited in January and the hike up the riverbed was breathtaking. I hope to take pictures and look forward to reporting back on all the intricate details from the eating to sleeping to sharing times around the fire with the locals.

All in all the survey is going extremely well and with each day that passes teams are getting equally efficient at completing the daily tasks. Although the sun is hot and sometimes the breeze is insufficient we continue to climb up and down the mountains with a great attitude knowing that we are playing a big part in the future for the families of Leogane. Thank you for your prayers!!

One side note, I took my first mototaxi to the beach the other day with a friend of mine I met here, Brittany, to spend Sunday afternoon. We had hoped to read and relax but as always in Haiti as soon as a "blan" is spotted you can't hide!! You know the feeling you get when you feel like you are being watched...well, we were laying on our towels talking and reading and even attempting to polish up on what little Creole we know when I mentioned this feeling. At that moment I arose to see the most beautiful children in the world standing, some with their hands crossed behind their back as if they were patiently waiting their turn to ask us a question. Of course we failed miserably at what attempts we made to communicate, but we spent the rest of the afternoon teaching the children how to throw the Frisbee and of course they had a soccer ball to kick around as well. It was a great afternoon!! The children actually waded a short ways out into the surf to bring back some clams to give to us. I am still unsure what they wanted us to do with them but they insisted that we have them. Although we were looking for a relaxing afternoon these kinds of memories are everything and more than you could possibly want to take away!! I am falling more in love with these children each passing day...

Steven and Koral. I must find Winsky (sp?) and Johnny Lu!!!

Love to everyone!!! 

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Falling Mangos

I had plan to have more time for this post than I currently have, therefore, I apologize in advance if I don't go into all the details of my first week. First of all, thanks to all for comments and encouragement and for those of you that continue to want to know more of my involvement and my "on goings" in Haiti. I am very fortunate to have such great friends to support me and my journey here.
The smells of the burning trash quickly swept into and around the grounds of the hospital instantly bringing back those nostalgic thoughts when I arrived. We are fortunate at the hospital to have one rather large mango tree that drops it's fruit, without warning, like rain from the sky. The fruit is great for the employees of the hospital and a day doesn't past when someone is slurping the fruit from the skin while resting in the shade. The problem for us "blan" (literally means white, but is how Haitians refer to foreigners) is that we, or at least I, haven't acquired an ear for the snapping of the mango before gravity brings it quickly to the ground landing in a splat/thud. Therefore, the problem lies in the fact that one of these days I am gonna be knocked out from a falling mango if I don't learn quickly to hear the "sound". I have been fortunate thus far that the closes case of a falling mango has only been arms length and not on my head, and for those of you that aren't familiar with the fruit, a ripe mango can way 2 to 3 pounds and most of the time will fall from distances in the upwards of 40 feet!! Believe me, you don't want to get hit.
Life outside the hospital, unfortunately, is much the same as I remember it. Most days begin when the sun rises at approximately 5 am and continues, for those of us at the compound, until the bar closes across the street from the hospital. Island music fills the air every night and the streets are crowded with few cars, several motorcycles, and lots of people. Those that can afford it are sipping rhum and beer while others just seem to be catching up on the events of each others day. Some Haitians work the evening hours roaming the streets selling anything they can get their hands on. From bags of water to belts they hover the streets intruding on conversations and socialization trying to earn some money, which I am sure they need to feed their families and themselves. 
I ran into two particular ladies whom which you see in the picture above that were selling grilled corn. They were the sweetest ladies and it was then in that moment that I wished I knew their language more fluently, but I mustered enough Creole to ask them if I could take a picture and they kindly suggested it would be fine. Afterwards I showed them the picture and they laughed hysterically and found themselves almost hypnotized as they took the camera from my hands and stared for a few minutes. My thoughts quickly ventured to what their living situation must be like and how, if no one buys any corn that day what would they do for money? This roaming of the mind is a frequent occurrence for me as I wonder the streets of Leogane: 
I can't believe people really live like this? What are they eating? What is that smell? I can't believe the amounts of trash everywhere? 
It stems from there and roams wildly into more detailed thoughts of their life, just like our lives, and what they consist of daily. The obstacles they face daily that are as simple as clean water from which to take a drink or wash their face. It will send your thoughts spiraling into a corner of your mind that you don't frequent and you find yourself hurting for them. It is hard for me, but for the people here it is all they know. They are strong and somehow they keep hope close by. It is truly amazing!!
Of course, I want to include more personal experiences but they tend to get a bit wordy and with my novice writing skills I tend to not stay on track. I appreciate the patience's and I hope to have more soon.

Na we toutale m' fanmi ak bon zanmi!!!