It has been 5 years since the quake

January 12th was the 5 year anniversary of the disastrous earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010. It is a good time, then, to pause in remembrance of the hundreds of thousands of people that were killed, and the hardship that was experienced throughout the country. It is also a good time to reflect on the efforts of the intervening years, efforts to restore Port-au-Prince and the rest of the country to something near a pre-quake level of functioning and well-being.

It has been a hard five years for Haiti. After the quake there was a positive international response and a hope that Haiti could “build back better” (in the words of Bill Clinton). That hope did not materialize — the funds that were raised were small in comparison to the scale of the disaster. The quake had leveled, for example, the central headquarters of all of the Haitian Government’s ministries; 37 out of a total of 48 hospitals in the country were put out of service by the earthquake, perhaps 250,000 residences were seriously damaged as well as 30,000 commercial structures. Haiti was the poorest country in the hemisphere before the quake — it was never plausible that it would somehow come out ahead.   Also, unfortunately, the funds that were raised were often not used effectively by the American and international agencies that received them (almost no funds were provided to the Government of Haiti). Around 85,000 people remain in decaying tent cities to this day.

But hope for Haiti was never really in the hands of foreign powers. All across the quake zone, reconstruction has indeed occurred as individual families and business owners rebuild their shattered lives and shattered homes. The cost to these families has been enormous but the recovery has most certainly begun. Also, it must be said, many international agencies did provide effective assistance. Doctors Without Borders were very effective in their role as first responders; Partners in Health has built an excellent teaching hospital and 12 clinics in the area to the north of Port-au-Prince. The government’s ability to rebuild its health system remains extremely limited and these agencies, and others, have filled gaps that desperately needed filling.

As for the Lamp, the five years since the earthquake have been ones of dramatic progress. From a part-time primary care clinic with one doctor, we have grown to become a vital community institution, with a full time staff of 10, with special programs in child nutrition, women’s health, and radiology, providing consultations, testing and medications to approximately 80 persons per day.

For us the quake provided a strong affirmation that our strategy — of direct community engagement, an all-Haitian staff, and a commitment to the most marginalized — was the correct one. Many international agencies had difficulties when they tried to impose their programs on communities that they did not understand.   The most marginalized often got lost in the shuffle. At the Lamp we are present in the community each day, the poorest are our clients, and we will continue to provide services long after the final traces of the earthquake disappear.

The earthquake was a dreadful cataclysm; the answer, we believe, is steady commitment.

 

Before pic 2 - seating areaSeating area construction

seating area near completion

Open campus at Lamp

 Photos: The Lamp’s latest improvement – a new covered seating area

HenryIt has been 5 years since the quake
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Coming January 30th 2016: The 7th Annual Concert for Haiti!

The 6th annual Concert for Haiti took place on February 7th.  It was a marvelous event with a huge range of musical styles on display, including an intense (and long!) set by Steve Forbert.    All proceeds went directly to Haiti via the educational organizations Edeyo and HELP, and of course the Lamp for Haiti (health care).   Thanks to everyone that participated!Concert for Haiti - 2015 - poster

HenryComing January 30th 2016: The 7th Annual Concert for Haiti!
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The words mean “Bwa Nef says Thank You!”

Art sale flyer -- Nov 7 at Commonwealth Club, MontclairThe Second Annual Lamp reception was an inspiring, unprecedented event for the Lamp.  The beauty of Haitian art and culture was the focal point, and it brought out the best in everyone who attended.  Haiti still matters, in these hearts!

The featured photo is of a piece of Haitian metalwork, made by an artist in Bwa Nef itself.  It is similar to many of the pieces of art that were sold at the reception, but with some added words.  The words mean, “Bwa Nef says Thank You!”

Bwa Nef is the community in which Lamp’s health center is situated.  With under 3% of funds going to administration this year, it’s not an exaggeration to say your gifts will go directly to those that need them most.   A success in Montclair is a success in Bwa Nef!

Have a marvelous holiday season and keep Haiti in your heart!

HenryThe words mean “Bwa Nef says Thank You!”
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Our first X-ray — a tremendous step forward!

1st xray Oct 1 2014-3 1st xray Oct 1 2014-4

 

 

 

Today, October 1, 2014, is a momentous day in the history of the Lamp! A great deal of truly inspiring work and generosity has combined to produce this marvelous outcome: the opening of our radiology unit.

 

We have benefited immensely from the support of so many individuals and partner agencies, from the selection of the equipment, its purchase, shipping and passage through customs, training of our x-ray technician, and installation that we can only celebrate the generosity of the human heart.  It has been an uplifting experience, to say the least!

 

The unit will greatly increase our ability to diagnose a great range of serious illnesses. Previously we were forced to ask patients to obtain x-rays elsewhere, at great cost to themselves. But, in fact, patients were not able to pay this cost: they simply came back empty-handed and Lamp physicians were forced to diagnose and attempt effective treatment without adequate information.

 

The x-ray machine itself is digital, which is a great boon, and not only because it is so much simpler to operate. Images can easily be sent by email, allowing collaboration between Haitian and US physicians or between health agencies in Haiti itself. It allows the residents of Bwa Nèf — and especially those with atypical conditions — access to a much wider range of expertise — entrance to a world beyond Bwa Nèf.

 

The young man pictured above, by the way, is Dénold Joseph, a resident of Bwa Néf itself — the community in which our clinic is located. For the past five months he has been taking hands-on radiography training at the St. Luke’s Foundation for Haiti hospital, in preparation for this day. He is very much ready to take on the role of primary x-ray technician for the Lamp. It will be great to have him at the clinic on a daily basis.

 

And, speaking of our staff, it is very satisfying to realize that our excellent physicians will have one more tool in their kit — allowing them to more fully use their existing skills, allowing their skills and knowledge to blossom. The people of Bwa Nèf can only benefit!

HenryOur first X-ray — a tremendous step forward!
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A Community Institution

Seating area constructionSeating area construction

At one time, the Lamp was considering the construction of a whole new clinic building. The converted residences in which our clinic was located seemed less than ideal for the expanded services we wanted to offer. But financial constraints kept that idea on the sidelines. Strangely enough, the result has been something quite wonderful: an organically growing institution in the heart of the neighborhood.

This last year has seen a lot of construction, a very tangible message to the community that we are here to stay. The pictures above shows the covered seating area that is now nearing completion. Fifteen locally made metal benches will soon complete the scene.  We will be able to provide health education sessions to patients and other groups much more easily with this addition.

Some months ago we completed a small building with two additional exam rooms.

We have, in fact, reconfigured the entire clinic. Previously our main clinic building had sturdy walls around it but other buildings were outside that zone of safety. Now we have joined all four of of our buildings with a number of short walls, giving us a much larger “campus”. This has allowed us to pull down the large walls around the main clinic, making the whole area more open and welcoming.   A month ago a wall would have made these views impossible.

Our goal is to become a trusted community institution, an oasis of security, caring and professionalism, and a model for innovative social action. It is somewhat surprising, but it does seem that simple and modest physical changes may have moved us closer to that goal.

HenryA Community Institution
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Children’s Hope visits the Lamp

Leisa Faulkner and Paul Burke are the leading lights of Children’s Hope, a small California non-profit with a special interest in Haiti.  One of the goals of Children’s Hope is to inspire in young Americans a lifelong passion to understand, engage with, and assist the poorest of the poor.  It is one thing to talk about poverty in the abstract and another to experience first-hand the vast differences — in wealth, living conditions and opportunity — that are revealed by a 90 minute flight from the US mainland.  So, Leisa and Paul brought 15 young people to the Lamp clinic where they painted walls, picked up garbage and assisted the clinical staff.  They brought a burst of energy and enthusiasm to the clinic and the community.  (Thanks guys!)  Each of these young people also contributed a significant amount of cash which was converted into medical supplies and donated to the Lamp.  They have already made a difference in our world.

Children’s Hope has been assisting the Lamp for many years now.  Here’s wishing Leisa (on the ladder) and Paul (behind the tree) many inspiring, engaging years to come.

HenryChildren’s Hope visits the Lamp
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The Lamp for Haiti Health Center expands

The building site; taking down the wall next to the main clinic

After: Manager Benoit Florestal in the new building

The Lamp is very pleased to announce the completion of a new two-room addition to our mini campus in Bwa Nèf, Cité Soleil.  It is a great step forward in more ways than one.  To begin with, the building has tremendous symbolic value — it represents our whole-hearted commitment to this community in a way that words cannot.  The building was constructed entirely with local labor and even local materials to the extent possible.  The beautiful logo was designed and completed by a local artist, using the hammered oil drums that Haiti’s artists are so famous for.  The community has participated in this expansion very directly.

The building also allows us to provide new and enhanced services.  Starting this month, the room on the left will be the new home for our women’s clinic.  Check this website in a few weeks for photos of the launch!  The room on the right will house our radiology facility.  The new digital x-ray machine has just arrived in Haiti this week.   It will be at the clinic very soon.

The construction of the building has also allowed us to create a little island of security for our patients and staff.  As the picture shows, we have created a walled courtyard that now contains the new building, our lab and the main clinic.  Bwa Nèf is often beset by episodes of violence or unrest.   This new arrangement allows all of our work to take place in an atmosphere of calm and security.

But we have more to do!  We are currently hiring local labor once again, to build a large roofed structure that will serve as the primary seating area for our patients.  We are also, once again, stretching our budget as far as it will go, but we have faith that our well-wishers will rally to the cause.  This is ground level work and we need to press forward.

HenryThe Lamp for Haiti Health Center expands
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Relationships

By Dr James Morgan, Founder

This fundamental concept is a key to successful family life, work, friendships, community.  In a very real sense, relationships embody dialogue.  Of course any meaningful conversation requires active listening. Paying attention to body language, as well as verbiage. (As I write this I rejoice in my own children’s exodus from their teen years!)

Understanding these relationships is a vital and ongoing process for us at Lamp this year as we continue to grow and to fulfill our mission of working  with and for the people of Haiti to improve the lives of some of the most marginalized persons there.

At Lamp for Haiti, we are continually trying to improve that dialogue, and we are seeing positive results.  For example, we are delighted to announce this past quarter we have added two new key personnel — Dr Sévere and Mr Dénold Joseph.  Their clinical skills and personal demeanor allow us to provide quality, cost effective care.

EMR training 2014

A training workshop on the electronic medical records system (Nick Sahagian standing)

Dr Severe at the clinic

Dr Severe at the clinic, May 2014

Partnering with other organizations, filling in gaps when they exist, sharing resources — these are all continuations of the theme of dialogue.  Presently we have working relationships with several other major organizations working in Haiti, including groups like AmeriCares, Partners in Health (PIH), and the St Luke’s Foundation in Tabarre.  Boston native Nick Sahagian is a volunteer intern who has jumped in with both feet to assist us in launching our electronic records system (see www.OpenMRS.org for more on this fascinating PIH project).  Midwives for Haiti is assisting us in our Women’s Health Program.  SAKALA, a community based organization in Cité Soleil focused on youth, was begun by Lamp Board Member Daniel Tillias.  We move ahead to strengthen our official relationship with the Haitian Ministry of Health.

And so as we move into summer, let’s take a moment to ponder our own relationships with one another, and with our friends and colleagues in Haiti. Let’s think about the genuine solidarity that Lamp for Haiti represents, manifest by the ongoing effort to strengthen and focus that conversation. It is a conversation not always comprised of words, but deeply engaged in listening and in action. Let’s remember the work that lies ahead and see it as another challenge, somewhat daunting, but never insurmountable.

My very best to you and to your families this summer. And of course thank you again for all your many kindnesses and financial support.

 

HenryRelationships
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Chikungunya outbreak

[Photo: In the rainy season, standing water is everywhere.  Mosquito control is very difficult.]

Haiti, and at least 16 other Caribbean countries have been hit with a mosquito borne virus with the odd name of chikungunya.  It appeared first on the island of St Martin in December.   At this point suspected cases of the illness surpass 100,000 in number and there is no reason to think that the infection rate will subside any time soon.  The Lamp clinic is right in the middle of the outbreak.

Aedes mosquitoes

Photo (CDC): aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus mosquitoes.  Aedes mosquitoes are the main transmission route for the disease.  This type of mosquito usually bites during the day.  They are found all over the world.

In Haiti, Port-au-Prince is the center of the outbreak with thousands of people infected.  Although the infection is rarely fatal it is very debilitating.  Chikungunya is an African word that means “contorted with pain” — a reference to the fact that a primary symptom is extreme joint pain.  Fever and joint pain are the most common symptoms but headache, muscle pain, joint swelling and rash may also occur.  It can be life threatening to newborns, elderly persons, and those with existing conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.   There is no treatment for the disease, but drugs such as acetaminophen help to reduce the pain and discomfort.  The price of these drugs has skyrocketed over the last two months.

The area surrounding the Lamp clinic is a low-lying mosquito-ridden area.  The Bwa Nèf neighborhood is closed off, on two sides, by a huge tract of swampy land.  The new disease has hit Bwa Nèf hard.  These days, when our staff arrive at the clinic in the morning there are people lying on the ground, groaning from the pain of this ugly addition to the regular health menaces.  And our staff have not avoided the pain either: all of our staff (excepting only one doctor, so far) have already experienced the disease first-hand.  It has been a harsh month for our staff but we are not working in Bwa Nèf to avoid challenges.  The community of Bwa Nèf needs our commitment (contorted in pain, or not!)

HenryChikungunya outbreak
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