Saturday, March 6, 2010

Just when I thought I was doing pretty good work...

I'm spending the weekend down in Jacmel; a large city in the south coast that was severely affected by the earthquake. It is the largest city in the region and in the past has served as one of the (few) tourist destinations in the country. The town reminds of me New Orleans or Puerto Rico. It has narrow streets lined with high-walled houses and balconies where people can drink local rum and survey the goings-on in the town below. And the beaches that run along the south coast of the city are as clear and blue as anywhere you'd see in the world.

We have been working on a plan with a few other organizations to start up a medical depot here so that all the medical facilities in the area (from east to the ocean and west t0 the border of the Dominican Republic) could access the medicines and supplies they need. We had a great meeting yesterday with all the organizations involved and I really think that we might be able to supply the medical needs of entire the region. Already, our medicines are reaching over five major hospitals and over 30 clinics and dispensaries in the region.

Today I went to visit some of these sites and became even more pumped about the plan. We first stopped by Bumi Sehat; an organization of nurse midwives from the States who are setting up a birthing clinic in Jacmel that will serve as the only free birthing clinic in the area. (This picture is me with one of the local workers helping to set-up their clinic on newly acquired land.)

Then I went by two of the largest hospitals in the region who have also accessed the medicines in the depot. Being a Saturday, many of the doctors were not around (7th Day Adventists are big in the area) but we were able to see the facilities and the numerous patients staying in tents outside the buildings. As I have mentioned earlier, in addition to the fact that Haitians are extremely scared of earthquakes, the government is also telling people not to sleep indoors so even structures that remain intact after the quake are not being utilized. For example, I'm currently staying in a guesthouse with a few other aid workers and when I asked my driver Pascal to sleep inside the house, he politely refused saying that he's too afraid to sleep under the concrete.

So anyway, I was feeling pretty good about the way things were progressing down here and, given that it was about 5pm on a Saturday, I felt like I might be ready to stop working for the day and have a beer. So me and by buddy Ceasar, another guy I recently met who is working with us on the depot, decided to swing by and pick up his friend Sarah Wallace and go have a beer at a local spot. Since the local beer factory, Prestige, collapsed in the earthquake, you can only find foreign imports now but I was lucky enough to stumble upon a place that was fully stocked with icy-cold Guinness!

As it turned out, Sarah (listed here between Scott Brown, Barack Obama, and Tim Tebow on CNN's most intriguing people for January 2010) is a 24 year-old Canadian midwife who moved down here 18 months ago to start an orphanage completely on her own. After realizing that many of the kids in orphanages down here actually have parents who just can't take care of them, she decided to change courses and open a birthing clinic for pregnant mothers so she could help reduce maternal/infant mortality and educate the moms about the need to keep birth rates in Haiti low. (She's pictured below with two of the kids she's birthed and subsequently named.)

After already being completely blown away by the work she was doing, on the way home we stopped by her house that she has been living in for over a year and saw that she's surviving on $200USD per month in a house with no electricity or running water. Being the founder and CEO of her organization, she decided on her rate of pay and is using these funds to pay local staff as well!

And to top it off, she has begun making micro-loans to local folks who need some money to start a small business of their own. To my great pleasure, the first guy she funded is a sandal maker. After hearing this, I immediately asked to meet this sandal-smith and asked if he would possibly be willing to make a sandal for my (size 16) foot. He said he would gladly do it, but he would need to buy extra material a new wooden mold because he didn't have any that would work for my foot. Sarah tried to convince him that he might not be able to find a mold my size in Haiti and that he might have to just measure my foot free-hand. He eventually relented and measured my foot on a large piece of cardboard (to the great amusement of his parents, sisters, cousins, and children) and agreed to have my new sandals completed within two weeks. I have no idea what they are going to look like, what the price will be, or if they will fit without the mold to guide him, but I'm pretty excited to find out!

1 comment:

  1. I sure do want to see a photo of you in your new sandals soon - please post it on you website when you get them! Very cool! :)