Heart to Heart Responds in Haiti

Photo credit: Reuters

New Photos below, just arrived from the town of Belle Anse, on Haiti’s southern coast.  Heart to Heart supports community clinics in the area…

Tropical Storm Isaac has moved on from Haiti, but its effects may long be felt.

Haiti is a country where a large section of the population hangs in the balance.  Their future dictated, many times, by the forces of nature: an earthquake, a tropical cyclone…

Fortunately, Isaac did not do great damage to most of the country, however in the South and in the Southeast he did bring near-hurricane strength winds and torrential rains.  Residents suffered the loss of homes (shelters), their livelihoods in the form of crops, and are now at risk of diseases like cholera rearing their ugly heads once again.

Heart to Heart is uniquely positioned as the lead NGO in the remote and mountainous Southeast District to respond to the needs of residents.  And we are doing just that – Responding!

Currently, Heart to Heart is coordinating with in-country partners to deliver relief supplies, in a replay of the supply chain that helped to stem the outbreak of cholera in this same area in 2010/2011.  And like then, it is imperative that these supplies reach these remote communities.

“There are no other relief groups in those mountains, we’re it,” said Heart to Heart’s Dir. of Operations in Haiti Josh Jakobitz. “And is always the case with diseases like cholera and natural disasters like Isaac, speed is of the essence. If Heart to Heart is able to respond, people live.”

Speed is of the essence.  So is your support.

Note:  Heart to Heart International is also following Isaac’s movement as it pushes into the Gulf of Mexico.  HHI is planning a mobilization to the Gulf Coast, as needed, possibly consisting of humanitarian relief supplies, medical aid and our Mobile Medical Unit.

DW HHI

“Don’t Cry In Haiti” – A Guest Blog

One fantastic organization that has worked with us hand-in-hand and arm-in-arm in Haiti ever since the earthquake of January 2010, is the American Joint Jewish Distribution Committee, or the JDC as its more commonly referred to.
Not only has the JDC provided material and funding support for our efforts broadening access to healthcare in Haiti, the JDC has also pointed numerous volunteers our way.
What follows is a story recently penned by one of their medical volunteers from London, as she reflects on her time spent working in Haiti following the earthquake, and how the experiences changed her.
It’s a very personal account, quite moving and is written from her heart.
DW HHI

DON’T CRY IN HAITI
By Vered Schimmel-Lifschitz

Can it really be one year and 10 months since I left Haiti?  Every day, I have been longing to return.  How I wish I could have stayed there longer.  I returned home to a new house in north London, gleaming with bright new paint and filled with cosy soft furnishings. Then came a fun-filled summer holiday with the children in Israel and Greece, followed by our return to London to settle in to my studies and family responsibilities.  Back to real life!  But real life for me, in suburban London, is very different from the real life I left behind in Haiti.  I would go back today if I could – one day I will.  Writing this, I asked myself again and again, what have I given to the Haitian people? Did I help, as much as I could have done? They gave me so much of themselves.

 

 

It has been so hard to respond to the simple question asked by friends and family, ‘How was Haiti?’  It is a question I couldn’t answer easily.  But of course I had to, and I found myself sharing photos that captured more vividly than words the chaos, the colour and the human drama of my time there.
Every picture tells a story, and with the story I was again flooded with a passionate desire to return.

There have been other disasters.  Why did this particular disaster have such an exceptional pull on my heart?  Maybe because the people of Haiti have suffered so much already.  Why should they, of all people, be struck by this additional tragedy?

 

My dearest friend Limor and I seem to have a single mind. We were both fortunate in having supportive families who encouraged our dream of going there to help.  Once everything had been arranged, we found ourselves in Port-au-Prince at the start of a nine-day visit, made possible by two wonderful aid agencies:  the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) — within hours of the earthquake of January 12, 2010, the JDC had raised close to 9-Million dollars for emergency response and rehabilitation — and their partners on the ground Heart to Heart International (HHI).  When we arrived I had no idea where we were going to stay, and I expected a primitive, comfortless standard of living.
The compound we stayed in was so much more than the basics we had expected.  Even in the midst of disaster, we were treated like welcome guests.  We were given the most heart warming welcome by the Heart to Heart team and were introduced to the American doctors, nurses and a paramedic whom we were to get to know so well in the coming days.

 

It is hard to describe the scenes of desolation we encountered during that time. We seemed to have plunged into the depths of Dante’s Inferno, where the burning sands, the rivers of blood and the howling storm winds torment the souls of the damned.  I am still haunted by the image of tent cities, rows upon rows of primitive dwellings housing huddled families, without any of the comforts we take for granted.

 

 

 

Here, the heat, humidity and relentless rain, pouring over hundreds of thousands of flimsy tents, made every day even worse. It was as if the weather itself was an evil spirit making war against these tragic sufferers.  On our first morning we were driven to our main clinic in Port-au Prince, in a HHI cage truck which had been sponsored by the JDC.  The journey would seemingly have taken 20 minutes, but the poor road conditions had been worsened by rubble and damage from the earthquake and the journey became a bumpy assault course lasting at least one and a half hours.

Downtown in the Bel Air neighbourhood, in a three-story church building, which had miraculously survived the earthquake and overlooked the port and shattered city, we found 200 quiet, stoic patients waiting for us.  Young and old, babies, the sick and injured, many in pain, sat in well organized rows, waiting in a civilised, orderly fashion for medical treatment.

My role was to assist one of the nurses, Marian. She was a true angel, treating the wounded with perfect skill and unfailing compassion, standing for hours at a time every day for a month, in her improvised clinic.  I became used to seeing horrible infections, cuts, blisters and burns. One of our doctors, Vicky, impressed me especially for her cheerful, happy response every time we needed her to deal with the more serious cases. Amongst the wounded, it was mostly lack of hygiene and insufficient medical treatment, which complicated their conditions. They were treated first by the doctors, and were then passed on to our “pharmacy”.

We spent the next day out of the city in Leogane.  This town was at the epicentre of the earthquake and had suffered massive damage.  Everywhere we looked there was nothing to see except piles of rubble lying amongst the wreckage of houses.  For the next few days we held our clinics out in the open in the rural areas, under the mango trees, where canvas screens were fastened to the ruins of the shuttered houses in order to shelter us from sun and rain.  Sometimes we were driven from Leogane to remote villages or mountain districts where the Haitian people were waiting once again for the amazing Heart to Heart organization to come to their aid.

How much good did we do? Was it just a tiny drop in a vast ocean? Is it possible to care for so many sufferers? I knew I would break down at some point because the scale of the human disaster was so overwhelming. To witness destruction on that epic scale, to see so many people displaced, to see so much injury, pain and misery, was simply shattering. You cannot witness such things without being touched and transformed yourself.

One of our patients on my first day in Port-au-Prince was a young woman suffering from a partly open and infected caesarean section. She had walked to our clinic for over an hour in the heat, two days after her C-Section had been performed and botched.  She had no access to any other hospital and had come to us as a last resort.

We treated her as best we could, cleaning the wound and giving her antibiotics, with instructions to come back to see us in three days time. When she returned, the wound was still in poor condition and it was then that we found out that she had lost her baby.  Our interpreter advised her to come back again.  It was when this young woman left us that it really hit me.
I could not hold back my tears any longer. Hurrying through the crowds of patients and team workers, I hastened up the stairs to the damaged open roof area overlooking a vast sea of misery, and sobbed.

Yet my tears were of no use to anyone but myself. Tears were a luxury no one could afford in Haiti. I knew I had to pull myself together and rejoin the others. On the way back I was stopped by George, our dear, kind translator.   Gently he barred my way, asking if I was OK and refusing to let me pass.  “Sure”, I replied, anxious to show that I was fine.  George knew better, and insisted on comforting me and looking directly into my tear-filled eyes he said something I shall never forget: “Don’t cry in Haiti. We must believe in God and be strong and continue in hope and belief.”

So there I was, flooded in tears, being consoled by a young Haitian whose whole world lay shattered in ruins around him. George taught me a valuable lesson, to get my act together, offer all I had and continue to give whatever I could.

Back at home, surrounded by the dull London weather and the home comforts we take for granted, the memory of my two weeks in Haiti refuses to fade. Having seen the devastation and misery first hand, is it not our obligation to do so much more to help? Of course I recognise that there are so many other poor and devastated countries around the world but Haiti is a place where we could not only give temporary relief, but also make long-term changes. We could give the Haitian people opportunities, steps towards a better future, for them and their children.

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On The Road to Leogane, Haiti

Recently, yours truly traveled to Haiti for more than a week.  Having just come on board here at Heart to Heart, this was my first chance to see our Haitian operations firsthand.  I was more than impressed.  My trip coincided with the first week of a three-week volunteer trip sponsored by BD.  And so, I was also there to support BD’s communications team as they documented the volunteer experience in the many locations where HHI works.
Here now, more of my thoughts, impressions & observations of my trip to Haiti. 
Plus photos! Click them to see full-size.
  And you can read my first post from Haiti, here. -DW HHI

 

We’ve returned to Petionville, one of the suburb cities of Port-au-Prince, and to the Heart to Heart Volunteer Center where it is calm.  The previous couple of days were spent in and around Leogane, Haiti.  Leogane is a seaside town steeped in Haitian history and is due west of Port-au-Prince by about 20 miles.  As I’ve learned, distance here in Haiti is judged not on actual distance like mileage, or kilometers, but by time.  “How far is that place?”, “Oh, about an hour…”

 

 

 

This is something that is just a fact of life here, for Haitians and for volunteers.  The traffic is, shall we say, challenging.  Especially for those of us from the US, because there aren’t many rules. We left the Petionville center at noon on the first Monday of the trip.  We didn’t arrive at the Leogane volunteer center, 20 or so miles away, until after 2pm.  Those 20 miles took two hours and 8 minutes. A very long trip for such a short distance.

 

 

However, during the journey, you really can take in the city life of Port-au-Prince and it’s outskirts.  The streets and sidewalks seem to vibrate with the hustle and bustle of people on the move.  Tap-Taps, pick-ups converted into taxis, are piled with people going somewhere.  Street vendors fill long sections of sidewalk, hawking everything from fresh fruit and blocks of Haitian sugar, to cell phone cards and individual auto parts.

Women, and men too, will balance their cargo onto their heads and navigate all of the traffic and others without stumbling. And just about anything goes up top: fruit, baguettes, even a big bag full of little bags of water.

 

 

It’s not just the traffic that makes the journey long, the road plays its part.  In some spots they’re flooded days after a rain, with good-sized potholes hidden under the murky water. And there’s the slurry-like combo of rock and mud that washes down steep roads during a rain and deposits right onto the main highway to become a wide rumbly speed bump.

 

 

 

There are sometimes roadblocks, either constructed by local factions or by the UN MINUSTAH Security Forces. All in all it makes for a fascinating journey. A great welcome to a dynamic culture.  And we got to drive it several times.

 

 

 

 

After those two hours of traffic and sensory overload, we arrived at Heart to Heart’s Leogane Volunteer Center.  We would base ourselves here for a couple of days, bunking alongside a Haitian doctor, and the nurses and lab techs from BD.  Based at the volunteer center, they rotate through three separate Partner Clinics around Leogane.

When we, the Comm Team arrived, the BD volunteers were already at work.  More on that in our next post…

 

DW HHI

Assessment Team in Guatemala… Part III

Our joint Heart to Heart & Welch Allyn Assessment Team continues to report from Guatemala, as they search out ways to broaden access to healthcare.
Today, we have some guest bloggers — the team from Welch Allyn. Here are some of their thoughts and photos from the ongoing trip.
– DW HHI

Welch Allyn Team: We had a long day in the southern area of Guatemala working with doctors and medical students. Their passion and commitment is contagious.  We came home in a driving rain storm through some mountains with poor roads which made the trip even more, shall we say… interesting!

The next day we spent time at two very different hospitals in Antigua, Guatemala. We were hosted by The Order of Malta, a charitable organization. The first hospital we visited was Hermano Pedro Obras Sociales—a Catholic, private hospital run by the Franciscans. They have approximately 350 beds and also see another 300 people per day for basic clinical, nutritional and clothing needs. Check out the amount of people waiting to be seen by a clinician.

The staff at Hermano Pedro Obras Sociales was very professional and their funding is provided by private donations. The surgeons who provide care at the hospital are all volunteers from the United States and Canada. They typically bring teams of clinicians with them as well as their own equipment.  Most of the monitors and surgical instruments were very dated. They did have an internal computer system where they stored medical records. As you might imagine connectivity and true electronic medical records are not in place. Welch Allyn provides equipment through Heart To Heart and patients are simply asked to pay whatever they can afford for the care.

Our next stop was a government run hospital called The National Hospital of Antigua which serves all types of patients. They see approximately 6000 patients per month and are cash strapped. They had one vital sign monitor for a large emergency room and one EKG for the hospital. This facility was also a teaching hospital.

 

 

 

They don’t have a lot of technology or equipment because they don’t have the biomeds to repair equipment. The needs are great, as you might expect, and if not for organizations like The Order of Malta and Heart to Heart, they would be hard pressed to survive. Take a look at an ambulance at the National Hospital.  The amazing thing about the healthcare professionals at both facilities is that they are consummate professionals who do their best to help patients. They care deeply about their jobs and for the people they care for. They do not complain and are grateful for our interest and for the solutions we provide. They share everything, including training, and any medical device is received with incredible gratitude and respect.

There is a special spirit throughout Guatemala that has something to do with the Mayan culture and the melting pot of ethnicities that seek to find a way to collaborate and help each other. This spirit of community has energized all of us!

Tomorrow we travel to San Andres Itzapa to a convent that provides healthcare and recently installed Welch Allyn equipment.

Until then… ¡Que tengas un dia magnifico!

Matt Chadderdon
David Allyn
Danielle Gillmore
Sue Mangicaro

Assessment Team in Guatemala… Part II

Our joint Heart to Heart & Welch Allyn Assessment Team continues to travel in Guatemala, exploring ways to broaden access to healthcare.
More now from Ginny Stehle, Heart to Heart’s Corporate Relations Director, with more thoughts and photos from the ongoing assessment trip. Part I is here. Remember to click the photos for full size.
–DW HHI

June 5/6, 2012
Guatemala City & Antigua

Ginny:  The team returned to Camino Seguro in Guatemala City to work as volunteers for the day.  We began at the main school building where we assisted with a high school English class. We sat and carried on a conversation with one or more teenagers, ages 16-18, to help them improve their English skills.  A young teacher from the UK named Grant, gave us some assistance to get the conversations going. It was challenging to find questions that would get them to talk. They are just like young people everywhere! They have hopes and dreams, they struggle with understanding what they want to do with their lives, they experience peer pressure and want to appear as though they fit in.  They were polite and cooperative.

 

 

 

 

Our next stop was the Planting Seeds preschool and we arrived just in time for recess.  The children were released to the playground for this period to have free play.  There were about 90 children between the ages of three and six. What a hoot!  The Welch Allyn team members were assigned to assist the teachers with supervising and playing with the children. The team members jumped right in and it was very difficult to tell who enjoyed the one on one interaction more–the children or the volunteers.  It was interesting to see that these children were already speaking some English to the volunteers more easily than the older children who did not have access to this program prior to high school.

Two lovely Guatemalan women, Isa and Martha, were already very busy in the kitchen when I arrived. I was assigned to drying platos (plates), and watched as Martha expertly began to mix Masa Harina with water to make tortillas. Isa added ingredients to  a huge pot on the stove to make  a sort of pudding with an iron and vitamin fortified mix for the afternoon snack.  I was thrilled when they agreed to teach me how to make tortillas, and must confess that mine were not pretty.  Isa has three children in this program and was so grateful to be a part of it all.   In the program, children are fed breakfast, lunch and a snack to take home every day.

We also brought some brand new medical equipment for the clinic and Dave from Welch Allyn took a few minutes to teach the clinic nurse how to use the Macroview Otoscope, and the PanOptic Ophthalmoscope.  She learned very quickly and was surprised at how much more she could see with these new instruments.  She quietly replied, “Muchas gracias, we do not have technology like this in Guatemala. This will help us very much.”   Her sincerity was touching.
I concur. ¡Muchas Gracias Welch Allyn!  Thank you also to Camino Seguro for all that you do transform lives for these families, and all that you have done to transform us through such meaningful service.  Heart to Heart International is excited about the possibilities of working together in the future.

We next travel to a small village to join a medical team of US medical students and physicians.  They already have a Heart to Heart Ready Relief Box™! We’ll deliver more equipment, conduct some instrument training to the students and assist with the medical clinic.

–Ginny

Assessment Team in Guatemala…

Part of our mission here at Heart to Heart International is to broaden access to healthcare for those in need, here in the US and around the globe.  Currently, we have a team comprised of Heart to Heart staff and representatives from Welch Allyn, a HHI global partner, in Guatemala accessing those needs and exploring ways to broaden that healthcare access by joining with local, in-country partners.
Here now, Ginny Stehle, Heart to Heart’s Corporate Relations Director, with some thoughts and photos from the ongoing assessment trip.
–DW HHI

From Antigua, Guatemala
June 4, 2012
Ginny: Today we are working with an organization named Camino Seguro.  We began our day in their Antigua office, where we watched a short but powerful video and prepared for the day ahead.  We then drove to Guatemala City to began our tour at the public cemetery which provided an overlook of the city garbage dump, one mile below where we stood.

We watched a parade of trucks enter the chasm from the left, dumping their contents on the floor beneath us. Backhoes moved the heaps of trash around, and many people, who looked like ants, scavenged the piles of trash, loading items into large bags on their backs. Vultures circle overhead.  Our guide, Leigh Ellen told us that this dump supports the local zone economy and employs about 3000 people who buy annual permits to do their work. They walk 1 mile to get to the dumping area from the entrance to the grounds, and they have to carry their treasures out via the same route. They earn approximately $3 per day for their labors. Today, only those 14 and older can enter the dump. Before a huge methane fire in 2007, children were allowed to scavenge there as well as the adults.

We made our way to Camino Seguro’s main school, which has morning and afternoon programs for younger and older children. We stopped in the cafeteria to have a hot lunch of stir fry beef, vegetables and rice with the children.  The meals are nutritionally balanced and clean, purified water is offered at every meal to encourage the children to stay away from sodas and sugary drinks. This is an after/before school program intended to keep the kids off the streets and supplement the local public school education. The programs cover a lot: teaching the kids skill to carry into life, as well as providing nutrition, hygiene, healthcare, mental health, artistic expression and lots of positive role models. Amazing programs!! Amazing people.

A young American woman named Hanley Denning founded the program to get the children out of the dump. Her vision was to give them someplace safe to go, to raise their self esteem, give them love, nutrition, education, and so much more to enrich their lives and show them a way out of this life.
The name Camino Seguro means Safe Passage, the way out. Denning died in an auto accident in 2007, but the program has carried on and expanded with dedicated staff and volunteers. The current Executive Director knew Hanley, came as a volunteer and got hooked. His wife now heads the educational curriculum.  Hanley’s spirit is evident everywhere. It is amazing what this young woman started out with, and where it is today.  It’s nothing short of miraculous.

The program started with 40 children in a small church building in 1999, and now has more than 600 children in the program between ages of 4 and 18 and three facilities in the areas surrounding the dump in Guatemala City. The children’s families are also part of the program, and benefit by its services. What has grown in this place is just amazing!!

 

 

 

Our Heart to Heart & Welch Allyn team toured and learned quite a lot today.  We met the Executive Director, the Physician and Nurse, delivered some new donated Welch Allyn medical equipment for their clinic, listened to what they needed in their clinics, and participated in a health education class with the 4th grade students. Today’s lesson was about not smoking. It was great fun to interact with the children.

Tomorrow we’ll return to the same location and get to work as volunteers. It should be interesting!

 

–Ginny

Alo Ki Soti Ayiti, or Hello From Haiti…

The country of Haiti is one of the most dynamic and beautiful places you’ll find on this planet.  It’s also the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with a history of economic and political troubles. Combine that with the lingering effects of the devastating earthquake of January 2012…

As many of our followers and supporters know, Heart to Heart has a number of operations underway in Haiti from supporting partner clinics with medical aid and expertise, to conducting laboratory technician training, and many things in between.

As of this typing, a handful of Heart to Heart staffers are preparing to deploy to several locations throughout the country of Haiti to continue the training of local healthcare providers, deliver medical aid and to coordinate volunteers who have given their time and talents to come to Haiti to sweat and to work.

As we’ve been working here in Haiti for more than two years since just after the quake, we have both in-country staff, Haitian and American, as well as Heart to Heart Headquarters staff who have spent quite a bit of time in Haiti.  This is my first trip.

I’ve been in Port-au-Prince, specifically Petionville at the HHI Volunteer Center, for a couple of days now.  It’s already been eye-opening.  Over the coming days, I hope to share some of my experiences, and of course, photos of our adventures and our work with you.

In the morning, several of us are heading to Leogane, a city due west of Port-au-Prince along the coast.  The quake’s epicenter was a short distance away and leveled the town.  Will be in touch soon.

DW HHI

Honduras Memories With Emma

Both myself and Emma Spong, Heart to Heart’s Ready Relief Box™ Specialist, traveled to Honduras to see first hand the Global Brigades operation there, and to hand deliver a Ready Relief Box™ full of medicine to add to the boxes the Medical Brigades already brought with them to operate their clinics.

Here now are some of Emma’s thoughts on the trip, and be sure to click the photos to see full-size:

I have been back in my office at Heart to Heart HQ for a few days now and am already missing the scenic beauty of the mountain communities of Honduras.  I came on staff as the Ready Relief Box Specialist in July of 2011 and I must say that so far, hand delivering a Ready Relief Box to Honduras has been my most meaningful experience with Heart to Heart!

My job with Heart to Heart is to run the logistics of our Ready Relief Box™ program.  I order medicines, coordinate with partner organizations and oversee the packing and shipping of the boxes with our staff at our Global Distribution Center.

My trip to visit Global Brigades in Honduras was my first opportunity to visit with a partner organization in-country, to see the medicines from the Box distributed to patients and to witness the impact of my job.  The first few days we were there, I learned quite a bit about Global Brigades and their operations beyond the medical side.  And that included taking up a shovel and a pick-axe to help a Water Brigade dig a trench for their clean water pipes.  We then spent three days with three separate Medical Brigades which Dan has already blogged about in Parts One, Two & Three.  On the third day we joined the University of California-Irvine in the farming community of Santa Rosa, located high up in the mountains. These dedicated student volunteers not only coordinate a three-day clinic but are responsible for what can be an arduous chore of collecting all the medications needed to stock a pharmacy.

Claudia Moya, the president of Global Brigades UCI Chapter, is just one of these dedicated students.  Before their trip I had worked with Claudia to provide her brigade with two Ready Relief Boxes.  So it was great to have the opportunity to chat face-to-face so far from home and in the midst of the commotion of the brigade.  She told me ordering the Ready Relief Boxes was simple and fast.  Simple!  That is exactly what the Ready Relief Box program should be. And it’s rewarding to know that my job enables our partners to focus on what is most important, treating people in need!

 

 

I spent much of my time with the brigades in the pharmacy observing and filling prescriptions.  Many of the patients seen during these clinics suffer from common and treatable illnesses such as colds, body pains and bacterial infections.  But even if an illness is common it can cause great discomfort.  The treatments distributed from the pharmacy were simple to us – a course of antibiotics or even just acetaminophen.  If I need these medicines I just stop by a pharmacy, which can be easily found.  But here? There aren’t stocked pharmacies in these remote communities of Honduras; instead people have to walk for hours to access medicines.  The Ready Relief Box brought these everyday medicines to the people of Honduras. The Ready Relief Box is simple but it brings so much comfort to people.

Now sitting at my desk at HQ working through a stack of Box orders,  I have a much better picture of the impact of my job and how the Ready Relief Box impacts the lives of thousands of people in need around the world.

~Emma

We’ll have more from our trip to Honduras soon! Stick around…

DW HHI

With The Medical Brigades… (Part 1)

One of the things we may take for granted in this country is high-speed internet access nearly everywhere we go. Not the case in the rural areas of Honduras.  Now that we’re back, we can highlight the rest of our trip to Honduras with Global Medical Brigades. We hope you enjoy. (Be sure to click the photos to see them full-size…)

Before we set out on more adventures into the mountains of Honduras, we set about doing a somewhat tedious, but necessary task: Separating the medicines brought in the Ready Relief Boxes into individual doses.  

 

 

 

 

 

Not all groups who use the RRB do this, however this works well for the Global Medical Brigades in their clinic system.  They treat hundreds of patients, sometimes daily, during their clinics and it’s much easier to dispense medication if it’s prepared beforehand.

The first clinic we attended was run by a Medical Brigade from West Virginia University.  The location was a small, dusty town named Matasanos, a few miles from the border of Nicaragua, about an hour and a half drive east from GB’s base camp at Rapaco.

 

 

 

We arrived in a cloud of dust and saw well more than a hundred people had already arrived.  Women, men and children stood, shielding themselves from the bright sunshine under umbrellas, waiting patiently for the clinic to open.  The temporary clinic was set up in the town’s school, which not only offered a shady courtyard, but allowed the clinic’s operation to run efficiently from open-air room to open-air room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each clinic run by a Medical Brigade is set up the same way for uniformity, as patients move from check-in to triage, then to the doctor’s “office” and/or dental room.  From there there’s the children’s area for teeth-brushing and fluoride treatments and a separate woman’s health room.

 

 

 

 

Finally, there’s the pharmacy which is staffed by student Brigaders, and overseen by professional Honduran pharmacists employed by Global Brigades.  This room is always a flurry of activity, especially once prescriptions are filled and are handed out to patients. And of course right there in the middle of it all, is the Ready Relief Box.

As it was explained to us, not everyone that attends these Medical Brigade Clinics is ill.  However, these folks live in very rural areas, sometimes barely accessible, and can be cut off during the rainy season.  And so this is the opportunity for folks to get a check-up, to see a doctor, have a new baby examined.

 

 

 

 

It was a long hot day.  But that was tempered by the cool shade of the school courtyard and by the knowledge that this was needed work.  And of course the laughter from the children and their faces showed it was all worth it.

 

 

Next in Part Two of With The Medical Brigades… we’re heading up into the mountains to a Postcard Pueblo.

DW HHI

Into The Honduras High Country…

…or, How To Survive The Rough Roads Of Honduras.

I think we’re still vibrating from the bone-rattling trip Saturday up into the mountains of this part of southeast Honduras.  We were in a 4×4, but that doesn’t make the jostling any less, it just means you’ll make it to the top. You hope.  We’re just lucky it’s the dry season here.

We woke Saturday morning with the plan to head out and up into some communities that are very difficult to access, either by vehicle, burro or on foot.

After a hearty breakfast, we loaded into a Toyota Hilux pick-up truck, 4-wheel drive of course, and left the Rapaco compound, bound for an area that Global Brigades has implemented what they call their holistic model.  This is where they put into practice all of the separate Brigade they run: Medical, Dental, Architecture, Water, MicroFinance and more.  Go here to learn more about GB’s overall mission.

And so we started up.  And up.  And up.  Though Honduras has a long Caribbean coastline, the interior is mostly highlands: wide valleys and mountains reaching in excess of 6,000 feet in elevation.  And these mountains are steep, jagged and rugged.   Driving up the rocky roads you may feel as if you’re in the Rockies of the Southwestern US for all the pine trees and blue skies and chest heaving elevation.

The first community we stopped in, after crossing two rivers (again thankfully it’s the dry season), was Zurzular.  Here, Global Brigades operates a clinic and is just finishing construction on a pretty cool looking school designed by their Architecture Brigades.

 

From there we went even higher up to the village of Palo Verde.  This is where we met up with a Water Brigade, college students from Northwestern University, busy digging a trench through a coffee plant plot perched on a steep mountainside.

 

 

 

There are many acres of coffee plants in the higher elevations of these mountains.  And most of the people living in these remote villages are way out here to cultivate and harvest the coffee bean.  And due mostly to the remoteness, these villages don’t have, or haven’t had until GB’s efforts, access to clean water or adequate medical care.

 

 

The Water Brigade we fell in with was busy laying 6 kilometers (3.6 miles) of PVC pipe from a natural spring and stream higher up in the mountains.  We hiked into the dense forest, down a steep slope, slick with mud, to see the source and how the water is collected and sent down the pipes to houses miles away.

 

 

 

We made the thigh-burning climb to get back to our truck and then drove to the village of Bella Vista. Here, houses are already connected to the system, and clean treated water now flows through their pipes.  It’s not about convenience or luxury, but rather that first line of health defense.

To cap off the day, we drove back down to Palo Verde and assisted the Water Brigade dig a 100 foot-long trench down to knee depth.  Good hard work, which the children and the chickens enjoyed watching.

It was quite the day.

Now, our attention turns to the Medical Brigades that have begun to arrive from stateside, and the deployment of the Ready Relief Boxes.

DW HHI — Posted From Rapaco Hacienda, Honduras