A Shipment of Good News

To our delight, the Lamp clinic in Port-au-Prince yesterday received a large shipment of donated medicines.

As a medical organization with a permanent clinic, the Lamp is eligible for medical donations of this type.  Nevertheless, the struggle to keep medicine costs down is a constant one.  The Lamp provides all of its patients with free medication and this can be costly for us.  Medicine donations from large pharmaceutical companies are usually limited to specific types of drugs.  We must purchase the remaining items on our list of necessary drugs.  This shipment, however, will have an exceptional impact on our ability to lower costs.  Not only that, it is the first in a continuing series of donations that we expect from a brand new collaboration.

Direct Relief is a nonprofit that links with the pharmaceutical industry to provide medical donations, and we are very happy to say that we have become a “preferred partner” of this organization.  The shipment yesterday was the first substantial donation since we acquired this status and we are looking forward to a long and mutually satisfying relationship!   Direct Relief promises a minimum of four shipments of “essential medicines” each year.

Note that these medicine donations have always been a key way in which we can multiply the impact of our donors’ contributions.  Until now, every dollar that a donor contributes leverages an additional one to two dollars in medicines and medical supplies.  That proportion can only go up with this new partnership!

It may not look particularly neat, but this is high quality material!

It may not look particularly neat, but this is high quality material!

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Daniel Tillias comments on Lamp health services

Daniel Tillias is the Director of Sakala, a community organization that seeks to inspire the youth of Cité Soleil to greater and higher things.  For the first four months of this year, the Lamp provided daily health clinics at Sakala, due to political disturbances in our own part of Cité Soleil.  Here he comments on the impact of that stay and the perceptions of people in his neighborhood.  Sakala is located on the border of two neighborhoods; one named Three Babies (Twa Bebe) and the other named City of Light (Cité Lumière.)  

This article is from the Lamp’s latest newsletter.  For more, click here! June Newsletter

 

Registration at Sakala

Young patient

Dr. Severe and patient

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The blessing of the city of light in Cité Soleil was to host the Lamp clinic for a few months.

When I received the call that it was too challenging for Lamp to continue operations in Bwa Nèf, I was in shock. I knew that Cité Soleil could not bear to lose one of its last remaining opportunities for health services.

I suggested: “What if we host the clinic in the meantime so that Lamp can continue to be in proximity to Bwa Nèf, to those who need it the most?”

I was not expecting a yes, but when I got the yes it was a dream come true as the neighbors have been pushing me hard to convince Lamp to provide a new mobile clinic.  My staff was very excited too, because it was the plus that was needed to complete the list of services that we provide in this community, a community that needs many supports, but who see health care as a top priority.

The day the clinic opened was a dream come true for Sakala.  People behaved so well.  As we say here in Haiti, they were as dry soil waiting for rain.  Many more came than could be served, but they knew that, because the clinic would stay, they could have their chance the next day. Around this time I could easily have run for office with the smiles I was getting from these pregnant women, these elderly people who received not only health care but dignity and respect from the very qualified service and staff.

This community was spoiled. People were praying that the clinic never leave. What about if we keep them forever in Sakala someone said. My answer was why not, but why?  Because I know that the Lamp’s purpose is not only to serve the poorest but the poorest of the poorest.  Sakala is poor, but it is just 5 minutes from the main road and it makes it less difficult for us to struggle ahead when there is no other choice than to pray for healing.

The day arrived when I got there and there was no clinic.  It was a terrible blow but I know that the Lamp staff were very excited to go back to serving the area that needs the help the most.

Fair enough, Lamp is still in Cité Soleil.  I need to have full confidence that the mission will remain, that this clinic continues to serve those who would not have healthcare if it were not for the brave ones who dare go where many stop going or decide to never try going.  As the elderly person who cannot walk too far a distance said, “Fine, yes they can go, but nothing should stop them from stopping in Sakala once in a while because there will always be a smile of satisfaction for the one who cares about making us feel better.”

 

[Note: The Lamp will certainly continue to provide mobile clinics at Sakala! We are working to establish a regular schedule for these visits.]

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Serious Fun!

DJ Mav

Toby in action!

Toby in action!

Dr Morgan and Toby

Dr Morgan and Toby

Playing for a cause doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play hard!

The weekend saw an amazing event take place.  Toby Baer, a 6th (!) grade student at St Cassian School in Montclair, NJ, decided to organize HOOPS FOR HAITI – a 3-on-3 basketball tournament in support of Lamp for Haiti.  He had learned about Lamp for Haiti a few years earlier, when Dr. Morgan was named St. Cassian Alumnae of the Year.  Toby felt he could do something to help and he backed up his good intentions with some rather amazing action!  He wrote sponsorship letters (“Dear sponsor, Have you ever felt as if you have nothing?  Imagine living in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere…”), created registration forms, and publicized the event at his school and church, among his fellow Boy Scouts, at his extra-curricular activities.  And people responded.

Inca Kola provided all the food and beverages for the event. The New York Jets donated tickets and signed Jets gear as raffle prizes. Montclair Char-Broil and Johnson & Johnson were additional sponsors. And 14-year-old Michael Valentin, aka “DJ Mav,” spent the day spinning tunes for players and supporters alike.

In the end, Toby – with, of course, his parents’ assistance — raised over $4,200 (after expenses for pizza and trophies)!  The event drew 12 teams and nearly 40 players ranging from third grade to adults.

He’s already thinking about how to make Year 2 of HOOPS FOR HAITI even bigger (making it a family, all-day event with an art room for little kids, merchandise and a silent auction…)  It’s a lesson in what one person can do!

Serious, inspiring, fun!

Killer Whales

The Killer Whales

The struggle

The struggle

The Shining Red Stars!

The Shining Red Stars!

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Difficult Times, Powerful Response

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Dr. Hyppolite sees a patient at Sakala

 

 

Update from Bwa Nèf:

The Lamp’s primary and urgent care clinic is located in the Bwa Nèf section of the notorious Cité Soleil slum on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.  Even within Cité Soleil, the Bwa Nèf neighborhood is seen as a dangerous place.  Unfortunately, this notoriety is not entirely undeserved.  For the past six months, the gang that controls the area has been battling a gang from a neighboring area.  There have been many deaths, including those of many innocent bystanders.

The Lamp did not choose to locate in this neighborhood because of its notoriety; it chose to do so because the residents are desperately poor, desperately in need of the services that we offer.  The young men that make up the gangs do not represent the vast majority of the population.  Still, working here requires an ongoing assessment of the security threat to our staff.  In this case, we made the decision to provide services from an alternative location.

Luckily for us a marvelous community organization named Sakala provides programming for youth in a nearby area of Cité Soleil.  In the past we provided one-day mobile clinics at Sakala, but now we asked if it was possible to use their facilities on a daily basis.  Daniel Tillias, the director, readily agreed and fully supported our activities, even as the period of our stay grew longer and longer.  It was, however, clearly a mutually beneficial arrangement: it was immediately evident that the people of his neighborhood were also in desperate need of health care.  Our two doctors ended up seeing many more people than they would have in Bwa Nèf, several times seeing more than 50 persons (each!) in a single day.

Six weeks ago our Medical Director, Dr. Barrère Hyppolite made the decision to resume services at our health center in Bwa Nèf.  It was our fourth effort to return – each previous time, we had been able to stay for only a day – but this time the staff was determined to remain.  Our care for chronically ill patients, and our programs for women’s and children’s health had suffered and needed to be taken up again.  We needed access to our x-ray and full laboratory facilities.

The situation remains tense but we are back where we belong!

The Lamp has been providing health services in Bwa Nèf since 2006.  The past six months have been the most challenging in all of that time, but our staff have responded with a powerful affirmation of commitment.  This is our chosen work and we will continue to find ways to accomplish it.

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Makeshift pharmacy!

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Registration at Sakala

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spring Campaign for Community Health Workers!

CHW options-081

UPDATE on Spring Campaign: Our goal was $25,000.  The final tally was $27,185!  Thanks to all!!

Community-based health services are what the Lamp is all about. This shows through in all kinds of ways, though most clearly by the fact that our clinic is located right in the middle of the community we serve – not even on a main road, but in amongst the meager slum homes, part and parcel of daily life. We want to be a part of the community, to be part of its progress, to be a catalyst for that positive change. Our all-Haitian staff is a tremendous influence in that way — a glowing example of hard work, integrity and professionalism. But we don’t just want to provide services to the people, we want to involve the community in the ongoing success of the clinic itself. Therefore, all of our construction projects (and many other activities) utilize both community labor and materials from local micro businesses. Our staff includes four people from the local area, including our X-ray technician, who lives right next to the clinic itself.

However, one element of our community building approach is not yet in place — Community Health Workers!  Community Health Workers are local residents that are trained to act as health agents, visiting people in their homes, providing basic services and a vibrant connection between the community and the health center. In a place like Cite Soleil this outreach can save a tremendous number of lives.

Click the link to visit our fundraising page!

https://www.crowdrise.com/communityhealthworkersforhaiti

The campaign has been extended until May 31st.  We need to start this critical program!  Please give generously and pass on the word!

For some instructions on HOW to pass the word, click here!  Help the Spring Campaign!

 

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A Visit to Bwa Nèf

Grace Harrison is a high school senior from Montclair, NJ, who recently visited the Lamp’s clinic.  She wrote this piece as a college entrance essay.

To view the whole newsletter, click here!

I stepped out of the van in Cité Soleil, Haiti. The powerful odors of pigs, dogs, goats and strewn garbage assaulted my senses.  I saw homes created from concrete slabs and children playing with empty bottles tied to strings, others splashing barefoot in filthy puddles. I saw a woman selling mud cookies, which hungry people use to trick their stomachs into feeling full.  Two teenage boys played dominos, one with two guns strapped to his waist.
I followed the footsteps in front of me to the Lamp for Haiti. The safe, clean health clinic was an oasis. Dozens of people waited for care, including pregnant teenagers younger than me, elderly people who have lived a long hard life, and sick people with nowhere else to go. Here I was, a healthy teenager from New Jersey, in an impoverished community in Port-Au-Prince. I expected resentment, and yet a woman who had almost nothing shared her chestnuts with me and another woman reached out to hug me tightly.
The next day I watched two little girls sitting in a pile of indescribable garbage. We stared at each other as people from two different worlds. It felt like there was an unspoken agreement to keep a comfortable distance. And yet, when one of the girls began to cry I broke that distance and walked over to rub her back. She reached her arms around my neck and I lifted her off the ground. As she rested her tiny head on my chest, her tears stopped. Mine began. After a few moments between us I put her bare feet back on the dangerous, debris filled ground. Walking away from her took all my strength. Her face will remain with me for the rest of my life.
That same day I joined nurses, doctors and Lamp supporters for a celebration of fried plantains and grilled goat that followed the annual board meeting. The manager of the Lamp, named Benoit, kissed me and said, “Thank you, Grace. You are helping to save lives. We appreciate all you have done.” I was humbled because nothing I did compares to what the Lamp employees, both Haitian and American, accomplish every day.
I had learned about The Lamp three years ago from Dr. Jim Morgan, a physician in my town. I was moved by his words and knew I had to help. But how could a 16-year-old in New Jersey help people in Haiti?  I felt powerless. Then, one day in chorus class, as I listened to friends belt out high notes, I thought there must be a way to use our love of music to help others. I invited my friends to sing, borrowed microphones and cables, reached out to businesses for donations and sent out invitations to my Backyard Lamp for Haiti Concert.  Dr. Morgan came to speak and told us that Cité Soleil was the only place in the world Mother Theresa called more impoverished than Calcutta. The event raised more than $3000. The next year I organized my second concert, raising total contributions to $7000. Then in October Dr. Morgan invited me to see firsthand how the funds I raised were helping. I got a typhoid shot and used my babysitting money to book a flight.
Can a person’s life change in four days? Mine did. Haiti changed how I see my place in the world. Organizing my backyard concert made me realize I can make a difference and being in Haiti made me realize that I must. After just three and a half hours on the plane, I was back home drinking clean water from the tap. Guilt coated my bones that night as I put the air conditioning on and fell asleep thinking of the girl I had held a world away.

Photo by Grace

Photo by Grace

 

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Solar Powered Lamp – coming soon!

The community of Bwa Nèf, like most other neighborhoods within the larger slum of Cité Soleil, has no electrical infrastructure. Residents pool money to buy a transformer, and then attach a multitude of wires to this transformer – one for each family. The resulting power is very weak. Every so often the overworked transformer explodes and a new one must be purchased. This is the system that the Lamp uses for its clinic – for its lights, fans and computers. Unfortunately, even this power is highly unreliable. Power is available for only a few hours each day, and over the last year the number of hours has been declining.

What this means for the Lamp is that we have been forced to use our generators on a near-constant basis. Generators are fine for back-up power, but they are noisy, polluting, and costly to run and to maintain.

We are thrilled, therefore, to announce that we will soon be “going green”!

Pharmacy 1

The solar panels will go up on the new cement roof

Old picture of pharmacy (as registration room)

The room was previously used for patient registration (and for health education!)  It will soon be our new pharmacy.

Solar battery storage

A new storage room for the solar batteries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the farsightedness and environmental concern of certain of our supporters we will soon be installing solar panels on the roof of the pictured room, with a full complement of batteries next door. In addition to its other advantages, a solar system provides 24 hour power – through the use of the battery system – which will allow us to store medications, such as vaccines, that require refrigeration at the clinic site itself. To say that we are looking forward to this would be a major understatement!

The pictured room, by the way, has recently acquired a new cement roof, to allow the placement of the solar panels and will soon be the new site of our pharmacy.

For more information on the current work of the Lamp, please check out our latest newsletter here!  For updates on our work, including this exciting initiative, check back on this site OR ask to join our mailing list here (please specify print or email!)

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Ready to Learn

The pictures are of a few of the school children that the Lamp sponsors, near to our clinic in Cité Soleil.  Education is not the primary focus of the Lamp but it’s hard to underestimate its value. People in Cité Soleil are well aware that education is the one sure way to give yourself, and your children, a chance at a better life. In response, the Lamp has been supporting children in the local schools of Bwa Nèf ever since our clinic was established here. This year we will be supporting 23 young people.

Schnaida and Djoulie

Schnaida and Djoulie

 

Ideally, one would love to support many more, and above that, the local schools themselves. There are more than 1,000 children in the five schools closest to the Lamp’s clinic. We provide occasional support for the schools – sponsoring the studies of one school’s principal so that his school could be state-approved, providing a tutoring program at another school. But there is always more to do; a program of teacher training which includes a summer camp for kids has long been one of our dreams.

 

Clebert

Clebert

Misterlande

Misterlande

Until that dream is realized, though, it has been very gratifying to realize that our support, small though it is, has been of tremendous importance to the local community. Regular, reliable, fees for 23 children is in fact an enviable source of income for these schools. The large majority of families struggle mightily to provide the necessary fees but are often forced to keep some children at home, or to see their children sent home for lack of payment. Schools are always on the edge of financial collapse.

So it was a pleasant surprise to note that one of the schools, where most of our sponsored children go, was expanding its facilities. The owner, Ms Samson, was clear: it is only because of our regular sponsorship that she could take the risk.

The Lamp’s first priority here in Bwa Nèf is to provide the best health care we can, but we also want to make sure that we are an open and engaged member of the larger community. Our education program is one great way to do that.

Djoulie and dad

Djoulie and her father

 

 

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Taking on the challenge of Electronic Medical Records

Rony Charles

Rony Charles, EMR programmer

Dr Severe, EMR

Dr. Severe at work, using the EMR system

The Lamp for Haiti is first and foremost a community organization. Everything that we do is focused on one thing: improving lives in the community that surrounds our health center in Bwa Nèf, Cité Soleil.  Cité Soleil is a notorious slum; the needs of the community are many. One might wonder then, Are electronic medical records the best way to spend our energy and our limited resources? EMR systems need computers, appropriate software, uninterrupted electricity, trained personnel, maintenance. Very few clinics in Haiti have EMR systems, Should the Lamp be pushing the envelope in this way?

This article is written to say a resounding “Yes!” to those questions! It has, in fact, been a substantial challenge but the end result is something that has justified all of our efforts. Our current EMR system provides our doctors with unparalleled recording of, and access to, a patient’s medical history.  It provides unparalleled efficiency and unparalleled ability to analyze our medical activities. All of these “unparalleled” things mean that we are providing substantially better medical care for our patients, and that was always the main goal. The system also allows much better accountability and reporting so that our administrative tasks are also reduced.

It was not, however, an easy fight. Our initial (two) attempts to use US-based commercial systems were not sustainable. Those systems are extremely complex, demand very substantial resources (even if the software is provided for free!), and include many features that are irrelevant to the needs of a primary health care center.

Our answer, after those two attempts, was to “buy local” — always a good idea in the realm of international work! We opted to customize an open-source EMR, called OpenMRS, that had been developed initially in Haiti by the aggressively progressive Partners in Health, and then rebuilt at MIT. Nick Sahagian, a remarkable young medical student, took this shell and customized it for our clinic. We began to use it immediately. That was in 2013. Now the final piece of the puzzle has fallen into place. We have found, and hired on contract, an excellent Haitian IT programmer, Rony Charles. Amazingly enough, Rony has extensive experience with OpenMRS itself. He is, as we speak, adding new modules to the system and making it even more robust. With Rony available for maintenance and upgrades, we can be confident that our system will always be up-to-date and fully functional. Our EMR system is here to stay.

Like many other things at the Lamp, the move to integrate an electronic medical records system was a risk. Perseverance was our main weapon and this case perseverance won the day.

The real winners? The people of Cité Soleil.

 

The next innovation? A fully solar-powered clinic.

Will it pay off? We will have to wait and see…

 

EMR training

Initial EMR training with Dr James Morgan and Nick Sahagian

Nick at Pharmacy

Nick making sure the system works in place (at the pharmacy)

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