Thursday, January 9, 2014

Haiti Day 5: Pulling The Pieces Together

After just two days out on the field, I went to bed feeling unsettled and discontent. In many ways, this trip has brought me much joy: traveling to a new country, immersing myself into a completely new culture, new language, different way of life and a new perspective towards the life I live. Riding in the truck back in forth to clinic each day has been a favorite activity: I love that I can stand in the bed, watching the people and streets as we drive by and feel the wind in my on my face. And I love the new friends that I have met!

With Jackie and Amparro on the way to Mt. Fleury

The mobile clinic team, including Dr. Calix 

In other ways this trip has challenged me deeply, as I suspected it would. To work in the clinic and see such real cases of malnutrition, to hear SO many stories of thirst and hunger, and to see children who are 13 but look like they are 8 because they just haven't grown... These are things that hurt me to the core. We are here to provide: those who are anemic or malnourished received iron supplements, a multivitamin or a few cans of ensure. But really, these are not long term solutions to the fact that their food supply is not sufficient or a that they cannot afford to eat. Many obstacles lie in challenge of a long term solution to these health and economic disparities that are outside of our control. 

So come Tuesday night I was feeling tired and generally a bit down. I wanted to be able to do more than just recognize and diagnose malnutrition. I wanted to be able to reverse it for many of these people, give them a reliable source of nutrients. I think a lot of us are struggling with whether or not we are making a difference here because there will be no follow-through on our part. We cannot stop by in a few weeks to see how the people we are treating are progressing. In some ways, it's disheartening to maybe not see the fruition of your hard work.

Wednesday morning I went the rooftop and opted for a quick workout while watching the sunrise. Working out here is not really possible on our end... Oh how I wish I could go for a run through the beautiful mountains around here! Anyways, I opted to focus on what I CAN do instead of what I cannot. It was an important reminder for me...I CAN do some body weight exercises ... I can eat healthy and stay well hydrated... I can focus on making a difference here and now, giving of myself and sharing love and trust that God will take care of the rest.

Not a bad view for my workout!

Wednesday was another full day spent in Mt. Fleury at the mobile clinic. I was excited to go back and see my newfound friends. I was excited to stop in at school and teach the kids about nutrition. I was excited to just be surrounded by these wonderful people. The community is just awesome! 

Overlooking Mt. Fleury from above

The kids in the community are in school from 7am to 1pm each day. Around 9:30, I walked to the school with Rubenz, a local staff member of CCH who was to be my translator. Rubenz is the rock that sort of holds CCH together here in Jacmel. He has such a heart for the outreach programs and is amazing with the kids. 

While I waited for the seats to be arranged, I played jump rope with the kids in the courtyard. I observed the building of a newer school next door and the community well, the lady across the street who was selling fried snacks. At one point the police came by and stopped and pointed at me... Obviously I stood out a little. Thankfully Rubenz stepped in and chased them off! Finally, the kids came back inside and it was my turn to talk. 

Children waiting by the school. The concrete walls us the start of construction of a new school by CCH! 

The school principal introducing us and why we are there. 

Rubenz was kind enough to give me a long introduction and then I went in to talk about the importance if fruits, vegetables, grains and protein in the diet. We talked about which foods were best in each food group, about sharing with those who have less, and about encouraging each other to be healthy. I would make a statement and Rubenz would go on and on expanding upon what I said. So much was said that I did not understand! But the kids were laughing and participating which made me VERY happy. It was just such a blessing to be welcomed into their world and share a bit of knowledge with them. To wrap up, I told them how the food we grow is a gift from God, that we should learn about and cultivate His gift and focus on eating these real, whole foods as much as possible. I told them that we only have one body that should be appreciated, cherished, and well nourished to the best of our abilities. 

Speaking at the school was without a doubt the highlight of my day and maybe even the entire trip. It was so cool that some of the children already knew my name when I walked in! They have good memories and don't forget! Though I cannot give away food to nourish them, I was able to give away the gift of education and there is great beauty in that!

The rest of the day was spent floating around the mobile clinic. I finally improved my blood pressure taking skills! I spent some time with the nurse doing intake interviews, and a lot of time just chatting and playing with the kids. It felt as if we had a slow day at the clinic, yet we managed to see more people than the previous two days! I did a little more nutrition education, mainly on a low-sodium diet for hypertension and increasing protein and iron for anemia and malnutrition. I saw one newly diagnosed diabetic and one man who was a high-stroke risk. 

Amparro taking the temperature of this little girl.

This man came in with extremely high blood pressure. I am glad we were able to provide timely intervention that may save his life!

Teaching these little ones about oral care with their new tooth brushes!

The end of the day came up quickly and we all were a little hesitant to go. How quickly we have become attached to the people of this wonderful community! The children are just beautiful and such fun. I enjoyed painting their nails, playing patty cake, exchanging hug fives and reminding them of the importance of saying please. They are fast learners and easily impressionable, so we are trying to be careful to set a positive example always.

Playing patty cake with Carmella!

Joel is the bodyguard here at the CCH headquarters. He took his day off to volunteer and us such a sweetie with the kids!

Here I am with Anderson, left, and Brisso, right. Anderson lisb20 and lives in Mt. Fleury, is an active contributor to the church and wants to be a politician or doctor someday. Brisso, 26, lives in Jacmel and has been our translator this week with CCH. He is a bit shy, but quite a gentleman with a beautiful voice and is a part of his church's praise and worship team. He hopes to come to the US to study psychology so he can one day work with kids. I have loved learning more about these two this week!

Wednesday was very uplifting for me as I feel the pieces are coming together and that we (and CCH) are truly making a difference in this community. Our work may be drawing to a close, but the work of CCH will continue after we leave. Wednesday night we sat on the roof of CCH and shared how we've seen God working this week and prayed together. It was a wonderful time of unity for the group.

This week a has been a steping stone towards building health in Haiti. A surgical team will be following up in February and many patients from the mobile clinic will be seen for follow-up visits at the CCH clinic in Jacmel next month. There are plans to finish the new school house in Mt. Fleury including a community garden next door, the yield which will be used towards a feeding program for the children. Hearing these plans gives me faith, both in the mission of CCH and in God's overall plan go strengthen this community and provide for the people of Haiti!

Thursday we will visit Mt. Fleury for the final day to continue the mobile clinic for a few more hours. Meanwhile, the PT Students will be doing some home visits around Jacmel which is sure to be interesting! Tomorrow Jordan will post again an update on the activities of the PT team... They too are doing so much good with the people of Jacmel. 

What a blessing it has been to be here Haiti and serve and I am looking forward to making the most of our remaining time here! 

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