Health care in Haiti is very scarce and often inadequate. On our ministry trips there each year, we have been stunned by the lack of access to even the most basic care, yet it has always been our goal to work with our Haitian counterparts to help them achieve THEIR goals, on their timeline. We try to share any expertise or resources that we might have, but it is always our wish to empower the people of Dos Palais and allow them the dignity of guiding their own futures.
In 2004, Father Elizier asked first for a school for his village. St. Michael parishioners rose to the challenge with their hearts and prayers. A school was built in 2006 and a daily feeding program was added in 2007.
On occasion – very intermittently – a mobile clinic came to Dos Palais. There was never a solid plan in place for regular visits to the village, and it shortly disappeared. Soon after, Father Elizier wanted to provide medical ‘coverage’ for the students. A nurse was hired, but without a facility to care for the children, little could be done to provide health care for them. A ‘clinic’ – a 10x10 room, was built on school grounds. Michaelonians once again rose to the challenge for their brothers and sisters in Dos Palais & donated medical supplies and money to purchase more . Pilgrims hand carried the supplies to our village. Basic education on hand washing and teeth-brushing became a primary focus for our new nurse. With limited audiovisual (and electrical!) capabilities, this became a monumental undertaking. Something we in the US take for granted!
In 2010, the nurse was replaced with one from the village. Not only does she see children at the school, she has been able to offer assistance to other villagers. A relationship with a physician in a larger city was established and more comprehensive healthcare oversight became possible. Recently, we were able to send her to a two-day training with Midwives for Haiti on Infant Resuscitation and how to stop maternal hemorrhaging after giving birth.
Also in 2010 (the year of the earthquake, followed by the outbreak of cholera), Father Elizier requested that St. Michael's consider building a clinic in his village. We have spent the last two years researching best practices of other clinics in Haiti; putting together a Health Care project team, now led by Dr. Joel Schmidt; visiting health care sites in Haiti; meeting with villagers to assess their needs; and working with Father Elizier to find other financial partners in this endeavor.
In February, the pilgrims from the Haiti Ministry attended the dedication of the new St. John the Baptist Health Center in Dos Palais. Bishop of Hinche St. Hillien blessed the work we have done with our Haitian partners, and mass of joy and thanksgiving was celebrated with the entire village, guests from other parts of Haiti, and our Michaelonians.
We have also been blessed to have found wonderful collaborator in IMEC (http://www.imecamerica.org/), an organization out of Boston that provided us with like-new medical equipment for a fraction of the cost. With the help of our fantastic medical team working in conjuction with IMEC, the clinic is now operationally ready with equipment, furnishings, medications and supplies. The center will be staffed by Haitian personnel, currently being vetted by Caritas Hinche (the charitable arm of the Catholic church....see caritas.org). By early March of 2014, doors will open for the very first time to permanent medical care in the Dos Palais zone.
We believe this project will make a profound change in health care for the community. We continue to work with advisors from established health care facilities in Haiti, to look for other partners to help us with expenses and expertise, and to monitor ways in which we can provide our assistance and expertise to this incredible endeavor initiated and now run by our counterparts in Haiti.
How You Can Help:
1. As St. Paul said, "Pray without ceasing." Our brethren in Haiti need our daily prayers, and our efforts to improve their health will only come through your constant intercession.
2. Continue to use your monthly Haiti envelope (the red one) to help fund our efforts to bring love and light to a village that was once all but forgotten by the world, until you Michelonians began to put your focus there.
3. Get involved. Call Nancy Kunkel at 364-4953 to see how you can help.
A Computer Lab for St. Jean-Baptiste School
In October, the Haiti Education Foundation of the Diocese of Richmond offered St. Michael Church a wonderful opportunity for our school in Haiti. The HEF (which promotes the education of teachers and children in Haiti, in collaboration with Catholic parishes in Richmond with twins) would provide us with 15 laptop computers, programmed and loaded with educational software, if St. Michael's would use those computers to create a computer lab at the school. The computers were donated by Literacy Volunteers of Fauquier County, for which we thank them profusely!
Thanks to a very responsive team at St. Michael, we were able quickly to make a decision to accept the donation, even though it came with a catch...we would have to provide funds to install an electrical source at the school, and hands-on training to the teachers in how to use the laptops. In November, our pilgrims hand-carried the laptops (along with all the dresses provided by our sewing ministry, and clinic medications) to Dos Palais. We hired a Haitian company to install solar power for the lab, which was completed in January. In February, our pilgrims began to train the teachers in using the laptops, who in turn will teach the children. Most of our teachers had never used a computer, but they all were quick learners, and their excitement was overwhelming. Principal Renald Anger proudly said "My school will be the first in the entire area to have computers!"
Dresses for Haiti
Thank you to all the seamstresses of St. Michael's who have sewn the beautiful dresses for the school girls in Haiti. Father Elizier recently sent these photos of the children at St. Mark's (a chapel of St. Jean-Baptiste) modeling their new dresses. These special outfits are a true outward sign of your love and faith!