By James Morgan MD (from the Fall newsletter)
For most of my adult life, a common refrain that I have heard is “we are living in difficult times”. I suspect that throughout the ages, there has been a tendency to say that the current epoch is more difficult than the ones preceding it. And yet what often shapes our common knowledge of those eras is not so much the difficulties faced but the responses, the human responses, sometimes right on the mark but just as often a little off-center. Mother Teresa comes to mind as one who faced certainly overwhelming odds in addressing poverty. But rather than feel hopelessly paralyzed she put one foot in front of the other, and tirelessly cared for those that even the inanimate gutters of the dirt and cobblestone streets seemed to have rejected. She would go on to start an order of nuns providing care to the most marginalized persons of the globe. (She started two homes in Port-au-Prince which operate there fully today!)
The earthquake in Haiti, that furious and terrible 40 seconds, seconds of horror that would for some bring years of misery, was in January 2010, almost three years ago. The country in the immediate aftermath was a cracked shell of the shell it had been just before the tranbleman tè. It was, in a word, teetering. People living there and people all over the globe, people just like you who care about souls they have never met and never will meet, people who have families and jobs and debt, and parents who are aging and grandchildren who are sick, who themselves have health problems, these people – you are among them – reached out a hand and said “grab hold. I can help. I can’t do it all, but I can help.” And it is because of your solidarity, real and pragmatic and soulful, I am convinced, the country did not teeter over the edge into absolute despair. There is progress. I bet Mother Teresa would be proud of your path.
Lamp’s Health Center is now staffed with full time professionals and support personnel. Our primary and urgent care setting allows people to see one of our two physicians, Dr Jude Dorsainvil and Dr Barrère Hyppolite who provide respectful and quality healthcare. Our laboratory allows for testing for common diseases of poverty and the tropics, like malaria and typhoid, as well as basic serologies that serve to screen for illnesses such as diabetes and kidney disease. Our pharmacy has benefitted from donations from individuals and larger organizations, for example AmeriCares and Catholic Medical Mission Board, and allows our doctors to appropriately treat those conditions, and then to see the patient back in follow-up weeks or months later.
We are especially proud of our own Ms Moza Flaure Alcius, RN, who next month will complete a one year training program to become a nurse midwife. Lamp sponsored her enrollment in this excellent schooling, run by Midwives for Haiti, located in the country’s Central Plateau. Ms Flaure will be the driving force behind our women’s center, slated to launch January 2013. She is guided by Anjali Gupta, MD, a physician in New Jersey, as well as Board member Dr Dulaurier Jacques, a Haitian OB-Gyn physician.
We continue to provide our services, including medications and supplies and labs testing, at no cost to the patient. This is an issue that has been visited and revisited, and we always come to the same conclusion that people will not choose health care when they cannot buy food. Until the economic climate improves in Cite Soleil – the typical resident there gets by on about 50cents per day, in a country where one gallon of gas is about eight US dollars –we believe that we have no other option.
In what is certainly a good sign, we are growing out of our current space. The coming year will see us either expand locally or move to a nearby spot where we can build. When we do , of course we will maximize our use of local labor and skills as we are able.
These are difficult times, especially if one lives in a slum in Haiti, under a leaky tin roof. And yet this project, the work of the community and staff of Lamp, and of our supporters should give one pause for hope. Most of you reading this have heard at one time or another that Haiti has made no progress in these past three years. I disagree with that, at least in some arenas. (With regards to the public sector it is true that thousands of people are still living in ragtag tents today. However the Ministry of Health is a much stronger bureaucracy than it was before 2010, and has played a key role in helping to address major public health issues like cholera. There are certainly many other like examples. ) Many nongovernmental organizations like Lamp for Haiti, Partners in Health and St Damien’s hospital have made tremendous inroads.
At Lamp , as in each of our lives, we effect change where we stand. This model of quality care in one of the poorest slums on the planet, of showing compassion and solidarity by providing not just throwaways but quality, solid meaningful care, by and for Haitians, this is something of which we ought to be proud. Let’s celebrate that and keep up the effort. Thanks for your continued support and confidence in this important work.