7/5/17: Medical clinic day 3

We had another productive day in our medical clinic.  We were able to provide care in two different locations today, and by the end of the day we had seen about 85 kids! Phew! I know you love to see beautiful faces, so here they are:


Had to pull the smile out of this one…


Look at all these handsome boys!


What a goof ball


If you’re going to play the kazoo, it should definitely be a bright pink lip-shaped kazoo.

For my medical friends who may be curious about the kinds of things we are seeing, mostly the children are pretty healthy.   We have been seeing relatively minor things such as ringworm, uncomplicated infections, lots of umbilical hernias (I am guessing the prevalence of worms/parasites in this population creates more pressure on the abdominal wall making this more common, but if anyone has a better explanation please chime in!), asthma, GERD, some dental caries, anemia, asthma, eczema, and the like.

We have some quite a few team members that are not medical professionals, and they have been so important to the success of our clinic.  Also, they get to have most of the fun, if I’m being totally honest.  These ladies get to play with the kids–and when I say play, I mean PLAY.  I’m talking sack races and soccer games and manicures and lots of loving and giggling.  I can hear it going on out there, and I just know that our interactions with these kids are so much better because of what they do.

Some of our awesome Canadian ladies who love to play with the kids!

I know tonight’s update is a little short and boring, but I’m exhausted.  So let’s conclude with a picture of a peacock and a turkey just, you know, hanging out.






7/4/17:  Medical clinic day 2

Good evening friends!  I am homesick for my family tonight.  Still, we had a successful second day at our medical clinic.  We worked with another local children’s home and set up our clinic in the same location as yesterday.  We were able to do well-child checks on about 40 kids today!  Everything flowed very smoothly after working out some minor kinks from yesterday, which was great to see!

I had the privilege of visiting this particular children’s home last year on my previous trip.  We were asked not to take pictures of the kids, so let me paint you a verbal picture.

What wonderful kids.  Polite with sweet smiles and straight white teeth, they told me about what they liked to do and what they enjoyed in school.  Most of them were so well-mannered that when I asked them how the albendazole tasted (this is a deworming medicine that tastes super yucky and smells even worse!), they would politely tell me it was “good”.   Most of the children were very healthy, with only a few minor illnesses to treat.  Overall I have been encouraged by the fact that most of the children we have seen have been pretty healthy.  That’s how it should be.  That’s how we want to keep it.

I had a great conversation on the bus today with one of the coordinators from CHI Haiti who is working with us for the week.  We talked about how the health care system in Haiti works.  There really is no primary care system currently in place in Haiti.  People do not have a doctor that knows them and follows them with the goal of keeping them healthy.  When people are sick (and often people wait until they are very sick), they go to the hospital.  When children need vaccines, the parent brings them to one of the public hospitals and stand in line to be seen.   There is also a strong vodou presence in Haiti and many people visit a witch doctor instead of, or in addition to, a physician.

In order to address the need for primary care, Community Health Workers (CHW’s) are often trained to stand in the gap.  CHW’s are lay-people who are trained by various organizations to be a resource in their community for health care needs.  They do things like teach pregnant moms about breastfeeding, or make sure that patients with tuberculosis take their medications.  Our friends at CHI train CHW’s and we look forward to learning more about this from them.

After our clinic, we had some free time to visit the tin market, which is a must-see if you are ever in PAP.  You can watch the artisans at work also.  Here are a few tin market creations:


We then went to Haiti Design Co for a little shopping and browsing.  HDC is a sweet little boutique that is also passionate about creating opportunities for jobs and job training in Haiti through beautiful design.  They sell jewelry, handbags, clothing, and other hand-made items.  Such gorgeous stuff, but not in my budget for today.  I’m holding out for another place we are going later this week!

Haiti Design Co

There is so much beauty in Haiti.  I think because it is a third-world country, we focus on the things that are not so beautiful, like the trash overflowing in the streets, the crime, and the corruption.  Indeed, there are some ugly things.  However, I also see beauty.  Today I saw beauty in the trees, some overflowing with mangoes, and others dripping with pink and red flowers.  I saw beauty in the sweet smiles of the children I met today.  I saw beauty in their house mother, who loves those kids and protects them fiercely.

Tomorrow is our last day of clinic, then a free day to see some things and wrap a few things up before we leave.


7/3/17: Medical clinic day 1

My feet are swollen.  I have full-on cankles. My legs are several shades darker than usual even though I haven’t really been in the sun.  It won’t wash off, so I’m pretty sure I have a semi-permanent dirt tan that has leached into my dermis.  Even so, totally worth it.  

We had a great day.  We set out early but not early enough to dodge the PAP traffic.  There was a vendor carrying bananas on his head that was way faster than the post-apocalyptic school bus during rush hour.  But we made it to the HAC eventually and got to work setting up the clinic while the bus went to pick up the kids from the orphanage.

We had to wait quite a while for our guests of honor to arrive, because again, traffic.  Plus, 27 kids and their caretakers on a school bus.  You do the math.  We cheered when they arrived!  

They don’t leave the orphanage much so it was quite an adventure for them to get on the bus and come spend the day with us.  We had some of our team playing downstairs while we cycled the kids through the clinic upstairs.  

Our purpose was to perform well checks but also be able to treat any simple illnesses, and identity anyone needing a referral for a more chronic issue.  This little baby (above) came in looking pretty sick.  His house mom said he had been having diarrhea for a week.  He was lethargic, dehydrated, and pretty much had the “wet dishrag” look about him.  Thankfully he was not vomiting and was able to be rehydrated orally.  By the end of the day…

…totally new kid.  Playing, peeing, the whole nine.  Thankful that we didn’t need a higher level of care for this little guy. 
The rest of the kids looked really good!  Everyone got deworming medicine (parasites are very common in close living quarters and can cause nutritional deficiencies), vitamins, and a few got prescriptions for some minor things.  

We had some wonderful people join us from Community Health Initiative (CHI) Haiti.  CHI is helping us as we learn to do this work in a culturally sensitive, efficient, safe, and sustainable manner.  

On the left is Dr. Ben, who is a Haitian physician and was a great asset to our team today!  On the right is a coordinator from CHI.  His last name is Danger so he is affectionately nicknamed Dr. Danger by the CHI team.  We had a moment of confusion this morning after I met him and thought he was an actual doctor, and almost got him set up with a stethoscope and exam table! 😆

Everything is packed up for the night and we return tomorrow to do it again.   Here are a few more pictures from our day!

In the play yard at FREM

Pharmacy set up

Oral rehydration!

Little buddy

Kids playing with Debbie

7/2/17: Church and prepping for medical clinic

Good evening friends and family!  It’s been a long tiring day, so I’m going to hit the high notes for you and then get some sleep.

We set out for church at the Valley of Hope in Chambon early this morning in our chariot for the week, which happens to be a post-apocalyptic school bus.


I don’t know where this school bus came from originally or how it got to Haiti, but it is one serious piece of machinery.  They don’t make them like this anymore, folks.  Pretty sure something is going to give way in there sometime soon, and hopefully I will not be in it when it happens.  Anyhow, we pretty much have the biggest vehicle on the road, and everyone knows the biggest vehicle wins in Haiti.  So don’t worry mom, I’m 100% safe(ish).

We drove down the main highway out of PAP toward Chambon, and turned onto the rocky path leading to the village.  I remember it from last time we were here, but I learned today that this “road” used to be a river bed that has long ago run dry.  The trees lining the road are coated in white dust from top to bottom.   It’s a bumpy, motion-sickness inducing ride by bus but easier to navigate by moto, I’m told (minus the dust factor).

We attended church and I recognized some of the kids from last year, though I am sure I was just an unrecognizable “blan” to them (“blan” being the Haitian term for “white”, of course).  The service was in Kreyole so I did not understand what was being said, but I have this sneaky feeling they were talking about God.  Just a guess.  They are a lovely, welcoming church and greeted us at the end with smiles, handshakes, and hugs.  We then had some time to play and interact with the kids and teens.  Some of the boys got a game of soccer going, and the girls got their nails done.


After our goodbyes, we loaded back up on the PASB (post-apocalyptic school bus) to our next destination, which was the Haitian-American Caucus (HAC), a school about 20 minutes from Chambon.  We are using the space at the HAC for our medical clinic starting tomorrow and needed to check out the space and figure out how to best use it for our needs.

After some discussion and trouble-shooting, we were able to come up with a reasonable plan and partition off some areas for triage, exam “rooms”, and an area for our pharmacy.


Nice big space.  The far side is curtained off for examining areas, the area closest to the camera will be triage.


Gotta do something to keep those curtains from flapping in the wind!


Resourcefulness is key.


We are expecting about 35 kids from an orphanage tomorrow that our organization has a long-standing relationship with.  I had the privilege of visiting this particular orphanage last year.   We expect a learning curve with our process but we are excited to see our little friends from FREM.

The evening was spent having dinner, planning and assigning roles for tomorrow, and sorting medical supplies so we are ready to go bright and early.  Can’t wait to share more with you tomorrow!


Do not let Frank provide you with medical care of any kind.


Hmmm, what’s this for again?


Contractors are like bad boyfriends

We are doing a little (OK, not so little!) exterior renovation project on our house right now.  The house was built in the mid-1980’s, and though I’m sure the color “fecal brown” was all the rage at that time, I’m over it.  Since we moved in 6+ years ago, I have been wanting to give the exterior of our home a face-lift.  Unfortunately I have neither the savvy nor the budget of Joanna Gaines, so we’re just hoping that we can make our vision a reality.

This is the “before” shot. Hoping to have an “after” sometime this century.

We all know the old adage about renovating:  it will always cost more money and take more time than you think it will, which I can attest is true based on my own personal experience over the years of home ownership.

But here’s the thing about renovating that HGTV will never tell you:  Contractors are like bad boyfriends.  Trust me on this.  I’ve had some bad boyfriends in my day, SO I KNOW.  You call this contractor up for the first time for an estimate (which I think might be the contactor equivalent of a booty call), and they show right up at your door the next day.  They seem interested in you and they give you a professional estimate for a reasonable price.  You commit.  Then–NOTHING.  Crickets.  All communication becomes one-way.  You try calling, it goes to voicemail.  You email, sometimes to more than one address because you’re creepy like that.  No response.  You try texting, but you keep it light, you know?  Because you’re so breezy and easy to get along with.  You’re definitely not the type of girl to sit around your house waiting for your stone mason to text you back.


Why won’t you get back to me?  Am I trying too hard?  Not hard enough?  If you get back to me I will stop texting you, promise.

Don’t tell me that I just need a better contractor, or a different contractor, or that I should call this guy you know who is your husband’s brother and he’s so awesome and professional so he would never do that to me.  IT’S ALL LIES.  I have employed a least a few dozen contactors over the past 15 years and they have all done it to me at some point.  Sooner or later they ghost, and I find myself in the same old predicament–on my phone in the kitchen, stalking this dude who won’t call me back .  Hello, high school memories!

Inevitably, the contractor always seems to turn up a few weeks later, right around the time I am giving up all hope for our working relationship.  He is always full of apologies and excuses, just like those bad boyfriends.  And I am faced with a choice–do I smile, accept the apology, and move on toward a future in which my house is no longer the color of feces with 1970’s brick?  Or do I start over with someone else who could be just as bad or worse?  That’s the question.  That is always the question.

I would like to thank all of the bad boyfriends from my past who unknowingly but effectively prepared me for the rejection, frustration, and abandonment involved with home improvement.