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

Images Of Henryville

These photos from Henryville were taken during Heart to Heart’s nearly week-long operation in southern Indiana providing medical aid with our Mobile Medical Unit and distributing Care Kits to residents in the region.

The images are from downtown where the tornado did the most harm.  The damage was great, but the restoration is well underway due to the resolve of the local community.  And we at Heart to Heart want to thank the residents of Henryville and surrounding communities for letting us serve.

 

DW HHI

Continued Service For Henryville

Another day has passed for Heart to Heart on the ground in Henryville, Indiana and we saw more people seek out medical aid from the Mobile Medical Unit.  The MMU has become the town’s First Aid Station where residents and responders and volunteers come for a variety of medical needs and mostly they come for a tetanus shot.

The doses were provided by the Joplin Community Clinic as a way to pay it forward from one town that suffered much to another.  And the generosity has impressed many in this small southern Indiana town. One young man named Justin stopped by for a vaccination. He was off to assist his neighbors clean up and wanted to be protected in case he suffered a cut or stepped on the many nails and screws amongst the debris.  Astonishingly, his home was knocked off the foundation and ripped in half, yet he was out helping his neighbors first, because he said, they were worse off.

 

There are several people whose homes are in dire shape, or simply do not exist as any type of home at all.  I took some time to walk though the center of town, documenting the damage.  What I saw, beyond the ruined houses, was a beehive of activity.  Residents sifted through broken belongings, volunteers chopped down broken trees and did myriad jobs. There is so much to be done.

 

 

We’ll have more photos and info from Heart to Heart’s efforts in Henryville soon.  Plus ways you can continue to support tornado relief around the country.

DW HHI

Dispatch From Henryville, Indiana

Want to update everyone on the happenings with Heart to Heart International and our disaster response in Henryville, Indiana.

It’s Monday afternoon, three days since we arrived on site, three and a half days after the EF-4 tornado tore through this southern Indiana town, not too far north of Louisville, KY.

We had snow overnight, a couple of inches. Thick wet snow that blanketed these communities, softening the jagged wreckage of the town if only for a while. There is damage here, plenty of it.  I was asked by a television crew for Indiana Public Media how this disaster ranks compared to others.  I told them it doesn’t compare, not for the people who live here.  For them, this is the big one.  This is their Joplin, their Alabama, their Katrina. This is their Henryville. This is their Marysville.

We at Heart to Heart are honored to be part of the relief effort.  Our Mobile Medical Unit is serving as Henryville’s only first aid station, medical clinic and vaccine dispensary all rolled into one. A Nurse Practitioner and nurses from the Clark County Health Department are staffing our unit, treating residents for a variety of ailments.

What is helping tremendously are 400 doses of Tetanus vaccine HHI volunteers brought in Sunday afternoon.  The vaccine comes from the Joplin Community ClinicTalk about Paying It Forward!!

And we’ve also been delivering Care Kits and water to surrounding shelters and communities.

Your gifts and donations are supporting this.  Here’s how you can continue to help:

  • Make an online donation
  • Text “HEART” to 27722 to make a $10 donation on your mobile phone
  • Mail checks to Heart to Heart’s office

The volunteer spirit is alive and thriving in southern Indiana and you sense resilience in the air despite what has happened.

DW HHI

Heart to Heart Begins Work In Henryville

henryville 1Heart to Heart International committed to responding in the minutes following news that a devastating tornado had just ripped through communities in southern Indiana during the widespread tornado outbreak March 2, 2012.

An Advance Team mobilized and hit the road, arriving in Henryville, Indiana as the shock of what had happened a few hours before was still very fresh and visible.

The Advance Team came, not just to assess, but ready to deliver aid in the form of Care Kits, water and medical supplies.  The town’s only medical center was put out of commission by the tornado, so Heart to Heart’s rolling emergency room, the Mobile Medical Unit, will now serve temporarily as the town’s only hospital.  We have partnered with the local healthcare system and volunteer medical personnel will staff the MMU.

There is plenty of work to be done in the coming days.  Work that is made possible by you.

Here’s how you can continue to help:

  • Make an online donation
  • Text “HEART” to 27722 to make a $10 donation on your mobile phone
  • Mail checks to Heart to Heart’s office

We need groups to assemble Care Kits as part of our healthcare response.