Sunday, November 13, 2016

Silver Linings Social Aid and Pleasure Club


Dear Readers:  I came home last Tuesday full of the promise of silver linings in Haiti.  A month after Hurricane Matthew chewed up Haiti and spat it out, this natural disaster is giving birth to a new spirit of independence in the first black republic of the New World.  There is a growing generation of Haitians helping Haitians - not patronizing mega-NGOS or world powers manipulating puppet governments.  Examples include:

--Local fishermen banding together to carry their mammoth boats out of harm's way before the high tides struck

--Our community leaders distributing hygiene kits to 200 families, working daily against the threat of cholera

--Our staff keeping our clinic well protected and open as a service center during and after the storm, providing hundreds of neighbors with primary care

Belle Anse clinic
Peritoneal tap in our Marjofre clinic 
--The medical personnel of the Ministry of Health clinic in hard-hit Belle Anse working without pay to care for the rush of cholera patients.

--Our network of doctors, some of whom are from the worst hit Les Cayes region, organizing mobile clinics back home

Les Cayes
--A group of Haitian graduate students in the DR sending money to students who need uniforms, shoes and backpacks lost in the storm so they can go back to school

Hispañola Health Partners is doing what its mission directs - strengthening existing structures from the bottom up.  In the wake of Hurricane Matthew we have invested more than $5000 in Haitian-designed relief efforts.

More silver linings: The rains have also left our less devastated side of the country flush with green, happy corn and bean crops growing out of the usually dispirited rocky terrain.  And the vibrance of the people is very much alive and well. Take these kids playing a beat up drum kit at a Sunday service in Marjofre, or this lady selling chickens in a Port-au-Prince market.
A budding Tony Williams
Stop and Shop




Behold this brand new entrance of a local Catholic church with its simple honesty.

Haitian metal work of Grand Gosier Catholic Church
Charcoal powered ironing









Hope on wheels; we traveled 6 hours with this steel belted radial

Social aid and pleasure clubs are a New Orleans tradition mixing philanthropy with festivity, having roots in the island of Hispañola. So welcome to our Silver Linings Social Aid and Pleasure Club and thanks for the generosity you have extended to HHP.   
Please visit us at hispañolahealthpartners.org.  Our hurricane relief effort is ongoing.  We are responding carefully to ongoing requests from partners on the ground in Haiti to make sure we are using your funds to their utmost potential.  We are also making improvements at our community health center in Majofre so that we will soon have lab facilities and a solar power system to help serve our population better.  But it is not all hard work and dire straights. The pleasure part of the Silver Linings wraps us in the joy of the Haitian experience.  A la bon ou bon!  "Wow, you are good!"

Keep the faith, Louise

Louise Lindenmeyr APRN, FNP-BC
Executive Director
Hispañola Health Partners


PS: Every time you buy something at Amazon, go to smile.amazon.com (no need to reregister your information) and sign up  Hispañola Health Partners as your designated charity.  We will receive .5% of the purchase price. Thanks!
Michele Marie, 35, feels the love




Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Piece of Cake

Birthday cake delivery boy in matching Tee
Dear readers:
I am already digressing to the delightful minutiae of my travels.  But I think if you were there with me, you would do the same.  And in that vein, I will turn over the recall of our recent visit to my companion for the week, Peter Halle:
Community ambulance and the crew ready to start mobile clinics - left to right, outgoing administrator Cleeford Pierre, AMBUF member Jean Baptiste Altès, HHP Medical Director Dr. Roberto Peigne, Marjofre Clinic doctor Dr. Daniel Antoine, me, Peter Halle, clinic nurse/new administrator, Miss Florette


Travels with Louise

Louise and I flew into Port-au-Prince near the end of June, with four duffle bags filled with 200 lbs of free medicines, courtesy of AmeriCares.  The meds were destined for the burgeoning, but needy Centre de Santé Communautaire de Marre-Joffrey, a health clinic located deep in the Southeast.

Louise Lindenmeyr is a nurse practitioner and the executive director of Hispañola Health Partners, the NGO that helps support the Marre-Joffrey clinic.  You may know her as the mandolin-playing band member of the Joint Chiefs, along with her husband Eliot Osborn.  She is multi-talented and a force of nature.  I am a retired Wall Street finance guy who can build Excel spreadsheets, speak French, and withstand hours on bumpy jeep roads.

Hispañola Health Partners (HHP) was incorporated in 2013.  With the generous support of St. John’s Episcopal Church, the Salisbury Congregational Church, as well as private donors in our community, HHP has begun to realize its mission to provide integrative primary health care to rural Haiti.

After our first day in the capital converting currency and making arrangements, we headed to the bus terminal, a beaten down gas station, where we were packed like sardines into a rugged and worn 4WD bus for the five-hour drive up 3000 feet.  Now nighttime, we transferred to motorcycles for the remaining roller coaster ride down to Marre-Joffrey.

The Marre-Joffrey clinic opened for patients six months ago, amid local fanfare. The handful of Haitian nurses and doctors serve a surrounding population of 25,000.  The clinic struggles with neither electricity nor proper running water – both solvable problems in time.  But the staff is well trained and motivated to care for their community.  The clinic is dependent on the NGO’s expertise and money, and the plan is for it to become self-sustaining.

Beginning just a few miles outside Port-au-Prince, the road was unpaved with sharp scree, deeply rutted, crossing streams and flocks of goats and chickens.   It was the main highway.  But the crude roads are also a place for social interaction.  The people we met, and there were hundreds due to the mobile clinics, were friendly and, for the most part, content if not happy (after all, they were seeing a doctor).  The mobile clinics, a new initiative of the Marre-Joffrey clinic, consisted of hiring a stripped down 4WD “ambulance” to take us further into the hinterland to treat patients who could not easily get to the clinic.  While Louise and the other professionals saw to patient care, I acted as novice “farmasyen” counting pills, distributing meds, and fitting the far-sighted with free magnifier spectacles. 

Back at the clinic, the doctors and nurses tended to a regular stream of patients, organizing the inventory of drugs, and planning the necessary building improvements.  I trained the new nurse/administrator in Excel and how to track   the clinic’s finances.  But it was not all work.      

The rough and tumble roads were central to our adventures, providing a window into the dramatic landscapes and to the gorgeous unspoiled seashore.  Due to Haiti’s appalling infrastructure (water, sewage, electricity, roads), some of the most pristine beaches are unknown to all but a few.   Grand-Gosier on the southern coast possesses such a beach, where we swam one afternoon in the clear aquamarine waters.

From Marre-Joffrey we traveled six hours through the Belle-Anse arrondissement and over switchback roads to Jacmel, the regional capital, for a meeting with the health minister.   The politics of running a health clinic are every bit as important as the economics.  Jacmel has its charms, including a lovely waterfront and an old town with 19th century colonial architecture.

Our final leg was back to Port-au-Prince during rush hour.  Traffic lights have not functioned since the earthquake in 2010, and traffic rules are, well, flexible.  Coming from the ease and prosperity of our lovely corner of the state and the world, it is jarring to see the plight of Haiti.  But it is not depressing.  These are a people who have withstood the hardest knocks, and have kept their dignity and good humor.  With a little help, they may yet prosper.

Ribbon cutting of clinic on inauguration day, February 21st, 2016
We began full time clinic operations in January, providing primary care to a community that had poor or no access to services in the past.  However, it is not easy in a culture of poverty and deprivation to convince people to take care of themselves regularly.  When you are poor, I theorize, you are so consumed with fighting the enormous challenges of food, water, safety and shelter, that taking care of yourself only becomes necessary when the salivating jaws of the monster of death are about to devour you.
This woman delayed treatment for a deep neck ulcer, showing up on our doorstep with her problem hidden under a scarf

Our mobile clinics, which take place once a week, are designed to reach people who have not heard of our services, living farther than a long walk or an affordable moto ride.   For 50 goude, less than one dollar, they receive a registration card for our clinic, a consultation and free medication, appropriate for their problem.  We have started a Go Fund Me campaign to help cover the costs of the ambulance, driver, and medication.  PLEASE MAKE A TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATION TO HHP AT:  gofundme.com/25rbfe8e 

Baron Samedi, a raunchy bad boy, usually seen with cigar in mouth and rum in hand, imposes his diabolical power at the crossroads between the worlds of the living and the dead.

Despite Baron Samedi's taunting presence in Haiti, we carry on with the youthful optimism of these delightful carnival sprites.  Please help us win the battle at: hispanolahealthpartners.org or send a donation to HHP  374 Taconic Rd. Salisbury, CT 06068


Carnival sprites

In the loving memory of Joe Rinaldi, our dedicated board member who suddenly passed away on May 6th of this year, I lay down these words and continue the struggle.  Joe, a financial wizard with a generous heart and many years of NGO chops, helped us develop into a better board of directors over the last year of his involvement with HHP.  He visited Marre Joffrey for the first time in February for the inauguration and with a little touch of the Baron in him, he handed out cigars and Barboncourt (great Haitian rum) to the local committee.  Cheers, Joe!


Many thanks and stay tuned for more about our cervical screening program next time, Louise






Friday, December 11, 2015

Talkin 'bout good news

 December 11th, 2015
home sweet ougan
Hello friends and comrades - I have been in Haiti for the last 2 weeks but, unplugged, unintentionally "off the grid." It's hard to even keep a charge on your cell phone.  Lots of fine things have happened in this land of the unexpected which included today, while riding on a motorcycle taxi, when my driver decided to take a shortcut to the border and drove right though a little vodou compound as they were in the midst of a ceremony.  The dark hut was warbling with their prayers and intermittent taps of a tamborine.  My driver was embarrassed when I asked him to stop, with a warning chuckle of "ougan," or vodou priest.  This is what had caught my eye, as we buzzed by.
An image to Erzulie Freda, the goddess of femininity and compassion, not without her darker side
I started with a journey back to Belle Anse, a coastal town where I had come 6 months ago to begin teaching cervical cancer screening.  This is the third location where Hispañola Health Partners helps train and equip Haitian government clinics in the Arrondissement de Belle Anse, a neglected corner in the southeast of the country.  Every woman we screen here has never had a pap test, as there has never been the capability.  “See and treat” is a simple procedure using white vinegar and the naked eye with a good headlamp to detect changes that indicate pre-cancer.  The affected area can be treated on the spot by freezing with a cryo gun attached to a small tank of CO2.  Everything has to come by motorcycle, over crazy rocky roads.  


This time I was accompanied by Anne Griffin, an ER nurse from Lewisburg, PA who I hadn't spent time with since we worked together in a Cambodian refugee camp more than 30 years ago. 
She makes the perfect companion for the job. She has lived in the desert of Niger, worked in refugee camps in Sudan, projects in Malawi, and jumped out of a tuk-tuk in Thailand to escape being kidnapped.  We trained a doctor and a nurse to become proficient in the "see and treat" procedure, screening 100 women.  The greatest news is that our efforts are finally being recognized, after seeing and treating 1500 women in the last two + years, one of our participating doctors presented the project to the Haitian Ministry of Health and they are finally developing a way to incorporate this into their routine services.  Ah, the sweet breeze of victory!!


Me at 63 on a pile of conch shells while Anne trolls for her favorite
I spent my birthday in the little fishing village of Cap Pierre. Banging down the mountain in a pick-up to eat conch, crab and snapper in the rocks by the shore, grilled by the guys who caught it. Plenty of Prestige beer, bobbing in the waves and taking a few spins on the rustic dance floor made a perfect celebration of time passed on the planet.


one of my birthday guests
I also came to Haiti this time to check out the finishing touches on the clinic we are building with the locals in Marre-Joffrey, located in the same Belle Anse region.  Not without its challenges, we are poised to open for daily services with a doctor and administrator by the beginning of the new year. This week, Hispañola Health Partners hosted a Haitian team of 3 dentists, 1 ophthalmologist,  a surgeon and a family med doctor, accompanied by me doing gyn, HHP board member Dr. Hank Schmidt assisting in everything, and Anne playing pharmacist. We saw about 500 people in 3 days.


HHP Medical Director Dr. Roberto Peigne distributing toothbrushes while the dentist does fluoride treatments with school kids in the clinic dooryard


*******CONSIDER GIVING US A TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATION!!!  VISIT hispanolahealthpartners.org OR SEND A CHECK TO Hispañola Health Partners, 374 Taconic Rd, Salisbury CT 06068  THANK-YOU !!!!!!!!!

Cholera is back due to the flow of refugees crossing the border in Anse-a-Pitres to escape persecution from the Dominicans they have lived with for decades.  Hispañola Health Partners just donated money for IVs and bleach which was desperately needed at our sister clinic in Anse-a-Pitres. Hundreds of them are living in raggle-taggle camps just outside of town. For more information, read recent article from another aid organization:  http://www.hearttoheart.org/refugee-crisis-builds-in-haiti/   Here's a few images shot today from the back of the bike.  


Thanks to all and goodnight, Louise