THANKSGIVING THOUGHTS: The bad, but also the very good

I am at home in Kalispell, Montana. It is really pretty wonderful to be here with my husband, Donnel.    I have missed him, a lot, so the companionship is great!

DOF & JOF-Kalispell-28 Nov2019
Donnel and Janet O’Flynn at home in Kalispell, sending you good wishes for Thanksgiving!

The reason that I am at home during this time is not wonderful though.  The country of Haiti is in turmoil.  The Global Mission office of the Episcopal Church asked me to leave in the third week of October, due to safety concerns, and, as it turns out, I think they were right to make that request. If I had waited it would have been hard to travel to the airport in safety.

The reasons for the turmoil are summarized here, at the end of this blog entry, in Appendix A.  Probably not everyone is curious about the political causes for the unsettled situation, so I am putting that at the end.

The troubles, while severe, have not directly touched our campus.  I took these photos just before heading out to the airport to show how VERY calm it is on Rue Barrière Rouge 2, our little street. Not even a chicken crossing the road, at least at the moment when the shutter clicked. And, except when the students are on campus to study, it is very calm inside the gate of  the campus too! You can see the Haitian flag and the flag of FSRL.

What does this all mean for us, as long-time supporters of FSRL?  Two remarkable things.

LIFE AT FSRL GOES ON, FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH

  1.  Our students have continued to go to school. We have tried to use some humor, calling it “ninja FSRL”: a stealth operation.  They don’t wear uniforms, and they don’t say where they are going.  But they have been dedicated to completing the courses they started during better times.

Here is the group of five OT students who have been participating with five Canadian OT students of the Université de Sherbrooke in a demanding and high-level course called Fonctions Cerebrales et Ergothérapie. The students are Abigail, Wood, Clinetana, Annabelle, and (back of his head only) Karly Emmanuel.  In the back is a very good cook, Mme Anne Marie.   One of the PT students, Boaz Telfort, is there too, lending his technology expertise.   

This picture was taken after I left by our wonderful chaplain, Père Sonley Joseph, who went by to encourage the students and staff.

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2.  Our students have also continued to go to our clinic at the local hospital, Centre Universitaire Tèt Ansanm, at Hôpital Ste Croix.   The students are led by Nirva Elisma, 4th year PT student, who takes a mixed group of all the class years, OT and PT, to the clinic for outpatients and also to work with inpatients. Clinical supervision is provided by Mr Norman Villagra, PT Clinical Coordinator, who is in daily contact, from Santiago, Chile!  His photo is in the last post, with a soon-to-graduate senior student.

Nirva at STAND-April 2019
Nirva is in the scrubs filled with hearts, on the right side of the photo. Here she is with a patient and a volunteer at STAND, an American-led clinic in the north, a few months ago.

Meanwhile, the administration continues to be coordinated by Mlle Miselene Lafleur, Administratrice d’excellence! lafleur et jof at desk

And our two newest faculty members, Mr Jorel Simplice and Mme Cécile Auguste, photos in the last post, keep the academic life on track, in spite of the many many challenges.

A ROLE FOR FAILURES ALONG THE WAY – IT GOES WITH RISK

I have been doing a lot of thinking about an article published this week by Charity Navigator:  the link, and an excerpt, are below in Appendix B.  (So that you can read it all for yourself! )  The article endorses organizations that take on risky tasks, which for that reason experience failures along the way.    We, the supporters of FSRL, certainly took on a risky task.  Taking on the job of offering two new professional education programs, with an annual budget of $8,000 the first year, was a big risk.  What failures have we experienced along the way?  Well, we hired a dean precipitously in October of 2016, and parted ways by mutual agreement soon after.  We accumulated various debts  (which we are now happily paying down).   We bought a used generator at a good price only to find it broke down within a month.  We tried putting a dorm into our new small building last May, but it was so cramped that we changed our minds and had to let our students go out into town to find rooms to rent. We have had twice now to send the dean (me) home due to civil unrest.

I can’t resist quoting two lines from the Charity Navigator article (link to full text below).

“The process of designing and piloting new ideas is inherently risky, costly, and may result in failure,…”

“A nonprofit that is willing to openly share what has worked and what has not worked understands the relevance of tracking and analyzing results, and values the importance of accountability and transparency.”

I give thanks, from the bottom of my heart, for the gift of FSRL in my life.  The Haitian academic and administrative staff have proven their worth, their dedication, time after time.  The unmeasurable gifts of time by North and South American volunteer educators (therapists, social workers, nurses, doctors) have added ripple to ripple, to make a wave of good going out into the world.  Small and large donations have been the energy source for this effort, without which it could not be happening.  As a result, I have had the privilege of seeing this beautiful multiplier effect: young people are becoming compassionate and competent professionals, and people with disabilities are receiving care.   That is one sign of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth, and I can see it with my own eyes, and you can too!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Appendix A: the background of civil unrest, going back to October of 2018.

  • Two years after the election, the results continued to be contested, due to overwhelming influence of the departing president, Martelly.   Groups of citizens affiliated with political parties that were against the president, Jovenal Moise, began to hold organized protests demanding that he at least change his prime minister (PM) to include opposition representatives. At the same time the terms expired for one cohort of Parliamentary representatives (senators and deputies), but no election was held to replace them.  In response, Moise fired his PM and invited an opposition PM.  The opposition PM encouraged resistance to the government.  He was soon fired too, leaving the post vacant.  Demonstrators shifted to demanding that Moise resign.
  • Moise has become silent. During the past six months he has spoken to the people only twice, in hidden settings that are broadcast on radio and TV.   He says “we must continue dialogue.”  But he has not even started a dialogue.
  • PetroCaribe scandal:   Demonstrators raised the issue of a Haitian government report (over 100 pages) saying that more than a billion dollars loaned to Haiti by Venezuela had gone missing, and that in order to repay the debt the few methods of taxation were going to be drastically increased.  Moise was one of the people implicated, but never tried.
  • Hunger, limited ability to buy food and gas.  Inflation is making the earnings of ordinary Haitians dwindle.  When Donnel and I arrived in Haiti in the fall of 2015,  60 gourdes (local currency) would get you a US dollar.  Now you need 94 gdes for that same US dollar.   If a person’s earnings (for small business or a job) have not gone up, that means they can buy only 2/3 of the amount of food for their families.
  • Pays-Lock or “Country-Lockdown”: The opposition leaders organized the demonstrators to lock down the country, that is, to block movement of goods and people: not too hard to do because all roads between north and south pass right through Port-au-Prince.  Entrance and exit to the city has been more and more thoroughly blocked by physical blockades and burning tires.  Increasingly the barricades are reinforced by members of gangs, paid by the parties to use force. Spill-over into gang conflict now causes additional violence.  Schools have been forced to stay closed since mid-September, in what is called a “school strike”.

Appendix B: a timely article from Charity Navigator

https://blog.charitynavigator.org/2019/11/how-failing-forward-illustrates.html?c_src=E112619AXXXXXX0&utm_source=General+Mailing+List+%28Users+%26+Donors%29&utm_campaign=3b18f0fe3e-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_06_21_01_18_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b21df0343b-3b18f0fe3e-94757777

“The fact that so many nonprofits have achieved limited success in their pursuit of viable and long-lasting solutions underscores the need to venture into uncharted territories. This exploration and innovation are almost always easier said than done. The process of designing and piloting new ideas is inherently risky, costly, and may result in failure,… Consequently, the nonprofit community,…, is often discouraged from implementing fresh ideas, fearing the loss of financial support if the program fails to meet its goals. However, the fear of failure, as if it were a foe, only serves to fuel stagnation and extinguish creativity and innovation.

Successful organizations are champions of failure. They know that the road to success is marked by twists, turns, and setbacks. …

The fear of failure, criticism, and risk of losing the support of funders dissuades nonprofits from taking the kind of programmatic risks necessary to learn, progress, and succeed in their missions.

As donors, we have the ability to change how we view failure or mistakes. We can choose to reward the organizations we believe are tackling long-standing social issues with new and fresh approaches, even if they don’t work out as planned. A nonprofit that is willing to openly share what has worked and what has not worked understands the relevance of tracking and analyzing results, and values the importance of accountability and transparency.”

Presenting our new academic staff!

I am happy to say that we have four new positions for teaching staff, and three have been filled!  I would like to introduce our new Vice-Dean, Mme Cécile Auguste; our new  Coordinator of  Academic Affairs, Mr Jorel Simplice; and our new Clinical Coordinator, Mr Norman Villagra!
Cecile Auguste at SoHaPh conference
Mme Cécile Auguste, Vice-Dean of FSRL, presents a talk on Physiotherapy and Chronic Pain, for the PT association of Haiti in September.

Mme Cécile Auguste is uniquely qualified for leadership in FSRL.  After high school she entered a competition for a complete scholarship offered by the government of Taiwan, for students willing to study at the university level, in Mandarin Chinese!  She scored second highest on the exam and was accepted for a year’s study of Chinese, plus four years of Physiotherapy, and then after that she stayed on to earn her MBA.  Once back in Haiti, she was the coordinator of the other PT program in Haiti, UNIFA (the University of the Foundation of Dr Aristide).  Mme Cecile is married, with two young children. She has a love of the profession of PT and a love of university teaching: a perfect combination for us!  She is currently teaching Kinesiology and Biomechaniques to the second years.

photo-Jorel Simplice-Oct 2019
Mr Jorel Simplice, Coordinator of Academic Affairs

Mr Jorel Simplice is also uniquely qualified to be the Coordinator of Academic Affairs at FSRL.  He is from Léogâne.  He completed his Bachelor’s degree in Education at UNEPH, our parent university.  He continued to earn his Master’s degree in Education at Quisqueya University, in a joint program with the University of Paris-East.  He consults with the Ministry of Education on ensuring the quality of education for K-12 schools in the provinces.  His passion is teaching teachers. Once we have new graduates in the field he has agreed to provide a training course for them on how to become therapy educators themselves.   He is currently teaching Research Methods for the fourth year students, and is accompanying the fifth-years, who are soon to graduate, in their research projects.

Norman Villagra, Micza Louis
Mr Norman Villagra, PT and Clinical Coordinator, with graduating student Micza Louis.

Mr Norman Villagra, physiotherapist, is also uniquely qualified for his new post as Clincal Coordinator.  He is Chilean, and he came to Haiti as a volunteer with the America Solidaria program.  He  spent about a year and a half working in Les Cayes, Haiti, at Consuelo Alzamora’s  clinic, Fondation Tous Ensemble.  During that time he became fluent in Haitian Creole.  Norman is shown here with our graduating student, Micza Louis.  His work is multi-faceted: he supervises the OT and PT students at our own clinic, Centre Universitaire Tét Ansanm, at Hopital Ste Croix; he teaches PT classes (most recently Pediatrics); and he is now arranging the clinical placements for all our students, to begin in February or March.  (The plan to begin in January has been delayed.)

We are truly excited by the power of these new staff members.  We now lack only the OT Program Coordinator.  For the time being I am filling that role, as I am an OT.  But the brilliantly appropriate OT who will step into the fourth space is just around the corner, I am sure!

 

 

Our end-of-year slide show!

 

FSRL slide show-Aug 1 2019

Please take a minute to click on the slideshow above which shows YOUR FAVORITE STUDENTS hard at work.  It lists some accomplishments by FSRL during the year just past, and some notable events that are still to come!

 

2016-06-10 FSRL patch, rotated 11.20.59

You’ll see the words of our school song at the end, one verse or chorus per slide, to encourage the students to sing with gusto!  In case you don’t already know the tune, here is a little video of the authors and composers of the song, mainly Stephyole Edmond, with some advice and some lyrics given by Ramona and Marthe: our first three OTs in Haiti!  Enjoy the goose-bumpy harmonies – lovely.

Thirty-six courses done and graded, Hurray!

Phew!  We have JUST completed the grading for the 36 courses that our students completed between Sept. 1 2018 and Aug. 9 2019.  This is the first year that we’ve had all four cohorts in place, 1st year through 4th, and it looked pretty daunting, that’s for sure.  Here’s why there were “only” thirty-six:   the freshmen took all but one course with the nursing school, and the fourth-years, due to the unexpected wave of temporary cancellations by universities in February, still have four more courses to complete before they graduate in December.  AND, in some cases we had two cohorts taking a course at the same time.

LIST OF COURSES TAKEN IN 2018-2019:      Would you like to see the list?  Here they are, not in any special order!

Wound Care; OT Adult Treatment; Acute Care & Cardiopulmonary; Professional Issues in Haiti; Assistive Technology & Environmental Adaptations; Differential Diagnosis; Leadership & Entrepreneurship; Neuroanatomy; Imaging; Pathophysiology II, Developmental Psychology; Musculoskeletal Conditions 2; Advanced Manual Therapy; Normal & Abnormal Gait; Intro to the Rehab Professions; Health & Wellness; Nutrition for Rehab; Pharmacology for Rehab; Psychosocial Aspects of Physical Disabilities; Geriatrics; Adaptive Equipment; Musculoskeletal Conditions 1A, Musculoskeletal Conditions 1B; Psychosocial Conditions; Physiology of Human Performance; Kinesiology & Biomechanics; OT Foundations & Applications; OT & Mental Health; Functional Neurology; Team & Patient Communication; Basic Therapy Skills; Orthotics & Prosthetics; Anatomy II Musculoskeletal; and Logical Thinking & Clinical Decision-Making. 

CLASS OF 2019:       To finish out the year, the class of 2019 still needs to take Research Methods & Memoire (“memoire” meaning Capstone project); Justice, Ethics, & Disability; Advanced Clinical Decision Making with Competency Exams; and even Pediatrics!  (Peds will be taken earlier in the program for the subsequent groups: but for this first group it is still ahead.)

Then they will defend their Capstone projects, at a public jury, on Dec. 4 and 5; and, God Willing, Graduate on December 15!

We have had MANY changes this year that put these courses at risk including demonstrations in Feb. that caused re-scheduling (so that the students went out again to clinical ed rather than taking academic courses, for the time being), a hectic move to a new building, the disappointment of having to discontinue the dorm due to lack of space, BUT, Grace à Dieu, all of the classes have gone on as planned.

Our students are strong and focused.

Our faculty, from the USA, Quebec, and Chile,  are dedicated and flexible.

Our clinical supervisors are REALLY super!  They took our students back without complaint, and allowed us time to re-group to re-schedule the classes so no time was lost.

Our administrative staff is mighty in energy and purpose.

AND, the Board of Directors and the Academic Committee of the Haiti Rehabilitation Foundation are faithful and constant in their encouragement & support.

I am personally grateful to all of the FSRL and HRF community.  Congratulations for a “heavy lift”, well performed!!

First year std make cardboard furniture w JOF
first year students, and friends, making cardboard furniture in courtyard
OT Karly & Clinetana-self-feeding p CVA
OT students practicing self-feeding after stroke
MSK 2 paints Peter Son!
PT students painting the brachial plexus on a brave classmate

FSRL, better-than-ever! (We have a clinic!)

The next-to-last post was sort of a cliff-hanger: when will FSRL get back to normal?  The answer is that we are back in business, even though with some changes.  I got back to my desk in Leogane on March 17 or 18, and we did have visiting faculty (including two Haitian faculty) to keep classes going until the end of March.

In the first week of April the students in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year left campus to go on clinicals.   The clinicals  were supposed to be in summertime, but we have exchanged the seasons: classes will be in the summer instead.

I want to thank the wonderful supervisors who agreed to take our students back, some of them within a couple weeks of the end of the last clinical placement!

  • Dr Rhonda Nisbett, PT, of My Life Speaks, Neply
  • Mme Ashley Kahila, OT, of Respiré, Gressier
  • Mme Consuelo Alzamora Bien-Aimé, OT, of Fondation Tous Ensemble, Les Cayes
  • Mme Ulrike Schaller, PT, of Centre de Réhabilitation, Port a Piment
  • Mme Naika Paul, PT, of Clinique St Esprit, Croix de Bouquets
  • Mr Anani, PT, of Healing Hands for Haiti, Bourdon
  • Mme Julie Van Hulse, PT, of Medecins Sans Frontières, Drouillard
  • Dr Irma Henry, PT, of Hôpital Adventiste

I also want to thank the fourth-year students for their work this month getting our NEW CLINIC at Hôpital Ste Croix open for the first time!  They have cleaned it, bought paint and rollers, commissioned a welder to make parallel bars, scouted out mats and loaned their own mat tables, all necessary to have the basics ready to receive patients, probably in April!

The name will be Centre Tèt Ansanm: Heads Together, as in, Let’s put our heads together about that!”  Actually the full name will be something like

CENTRE UNIVERSITAIRE TÈT ANSANM DE L’HÔPITAL STE CROIX

and on the sign it will give credit to  FSRL and UNEPH.  This is a wonderful, excellent ,exciting new development, thoroughly welcomed by the medical director and the nursing director of the hospital: Dr Alexy and Mme Germain.

New clinic-parallel bars-2019-04-18
Setting up Clinic Tèt Ansanm! New parallel bars that the students commissioned from the welder on the corner of Rte de Belval, made after studying the photo in the catalog!

Special congratulations to Emerson Barthelemy, Nicholson François, Amendocia Dorcé, Ramona Adrien, and Roosvelt Pierre Louis, fourth-years who have been scrubbing and walking and carrying heavy things this past week!

New clinic-unpacking barrel-2019-04-18
Emerson opening a barrel sent to us last year by OTs Caroline Larson and Judy Criscitiello, of St. Pault’s Church, Bedford, Mass!

Celebrate, Celebrate, Dance to the Music!

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Onstage, in the dim light of midnight, formal dress!

At least three times during the academic year, the students of FSIL and FSRL organize and execute a formal party on the scale of a prom or a wedding reception, in the U.S.

Each cohort (sophomores, juniors, seniors) takes a turn.  Classes are shut down the day before.  The class forms itself into work crews: cleaning, setting up tables and chairs with white tablecloths and chair covers, stringing fairy lights and ribbons and balloons, hammering together the stage for performers, beginning to cook for 200 people.  I’m sure that each person does also some preparation of ironing their formals and tuxes, as well as polishing the black shoes, trimming hair or setting it, and finishing manicures.

On the evening of the fête, at about 9 pm, the place looks like a fine restaurant or club: the school has been transformed.  The elegant students begin to emerge from the dorms, not looking at all like their everyday selves.  Everyone comes, everyone stays, there are bubbly drinks, there is great entertainment.  A lot of the FSIL and FSRL students are at a professional level as singers, dancers, and actors.  There are funny skits, choreographed dances, social ballroom dance exhibitions, solos and duets, hosted by a tuxedo clad MC (also a student).  And at midnight there is a feast!  A buffet table with special dishes, ballooning in volume, ample for all the students plus any guests.  I am told that after that the general dancing begins and goes until 4 am.  I wouldn’t know, myself, as I go to bed after the midnight feast, and sleep like a log.

THEN, amazingly, at 4 am most students go to the dorm to sleep, but the class designated to present the fête goes to work again to dismantle it.  I got up at 6 am one time and went over to the courtyard, where I found students in elegant clothes, now mostly unbuttoned, and in bare feet instead of heels, pushing brooms and mops, moving slowly but still moving.  By 10 the next morning, you would not know there had been a fête.

There is a similar aspect to life in the Episcopal parish just across town, Église Ste Croix.  The Episcopal church throughout the world observes a cycle of Feasts and Fasts.  In most Episcopal parishes in the US, a “Feast” might mean that rarely used vestments are brought out for the clergy, and the choir prepares special music.  But at Église Ste Croix, some of the Feast days are Over the TOP.   For instance, the patronal feast of Église Ste Croix is Holy Cross Day, Sept. 15.  The church is decorated in thick generous garlands of flowers, there are visiting choirs (at least three, sometimes more), clergy come from other parishes, and there is a procession of children, followed by adolescents, followed by middle aged adult women, followed by elderly women, each carrying a basket of fruits on her head to present at the altar.  There is incense, lots of it!  And afterwards there is a feast of food, prepared by the ladies of the parish, that is ample enough for all members AND all guests to eat their fill.  People dress UP.  Men of all ages (including toddlers) in two- or three-piece suits, women in elegant dresses, little girls in white frilly dresses with red sashes.

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A lively rocking hymn, little girls dancing in procession, for the patronal feast of Ste Croix church,  on the Sunday closest to Sept. 15 (Holy Cross day) every year.

Why?

One explanation can be found in the cultural parameter of Low Context versus High Context cultures.  This discussion of cultural parameters comes from Chris Pullenayagam, a trainer with the Episcopal Church Mission Board.   Low Context cultures, such as those in most of the USA, emphasize individual agendas, most or all the time: what each of us is doing at any time might overlap with what other people are doing. Our parties tend to allow dropping in and dropping out again, “come as you are” outfits including sneakers and sweat pants, “help-yourself” feeding (an endless snack table and a bucket of drinks).

High context cultures emphasize “Occasions”: times dedicated by the whole community to preparation, formality of dress and ceremonial, long feasts. It is very important that you are there, dressed appropriately to honor the event, and that even if you don’t say a word at the event you stay the whole time.  People need to see you sitting there and will ask you afterwards how you enjoyed it.

I now appreciate the value of these occasions.  Life here is stressful for Haitians, much moreso than for their American visitors.  The list of everyday stressors is long and repetitive, and wears people down with discouragement. Things just don’t work, and it’s hard to get them fixed, and people who are sick can’t always go to the doctor, and jobs end without warning, and the money is losing value quickly, and food is expensive not to mention gas for the motorcycle.

Celebrations give a respite:  for the duration of that splendid ceremony, all who attend are human beings with dignity, presenting themselves as people of worth, and giving respect to others around them.  It is a time to “ENJoy” , to admire each other’s very being, to stop time. It is a vacation from being stressed by the difficulties of getting through each day.  It is an experience of joy in each other. It is community.  It is grace.

 

 

 

What’s going on in Haiti, and how does our life with FSRL fare these days?

Hello!  As always I have to apologize for long delay in posting.  But happily I was invited by the parish of St. Thomas’s, Hamilton NY, (where we were when we started off on this adventure), to write to explain what’s going on.   I hope they don’t mind if I use this same essay, with some personal messages removed?

 

“It’s hard to know where even to start.  I think I could compare what has been going on with what happens in central NY (and Montana too) when the weather is full of hazards, alternating with clear plowed roads and sunshine, sometimes unpredictably!

 

Haiti is a wonderful place: a beautiful natural setting, and strong community bonds between people. Lots of spontaneous singing, especially hymns.  Vibrant art and music. The students we are teaching are highly intelligent, motivated, idealistic, and besides that they make me laugh.

Rejunior, JOF, Peter Son, blood pressure
Second-years learning to take blood pressure readings, in Basic Therapy Skills: Rejunior, me, and Peter Son.

 

4th yr learning splinting-28 Feb 2019
Fourth-years learning splinting, with Dr Gregory Chown of Alvernia University.

UNDERLYING CONDITIONS OF STRESS FOR HAITIAN CITIZENS

Haitians in general live under a lot of stress.  About 15 % of people have jobs with a salary, but everyone, 100%, works hard.  Most are vendors of goods, new or used, and vendors of services, such as shining shoes, pulling a cart, driving a moto-taxi.    The amount of money a person fending for himself or herself can get in a day might be 240 to 480 Haitian gourdes.  When Donnel and I went to Haiti in Aug. 2015, that was $4 to $8 US dollars.  But today that is only $3 to $6 US dollars.  Food is not cheap, because most food is imported (perhaps from the Dominican Republic).  If you have children to feed, that will not buy three meals a day.  Many people eat twice, or only once, a day.  Some don’t eat every day.  People generally don’t go to the doctor, because it is too expensive, even if you can find a good doctor, so illnesses and injuries add to the tremendous stress.  Power goes out frequently, and water is not always available either.  Haitian people value taking a shower, often two, every day, and being without water for washing is very stressful.  It costs money to buy bottles of water to drink.

CURRENT FACTORS CAUSING AGITATION

The rapid inflation has made people angry. In addition, the talk radio shows are on all day long.  Recently the talk has been about apparent theft by politicians of over a billion dollars in long-term loans from Venezuela, from over ten years ago when Venezuela had oil money.  The loan deal was called PetroCaribe, and applied to other Caribbean countries as well, but evidently the promised improvements in roads, hospitals, and schools never happened, and now the loan is being called in: Haitians have been told they need to pay for the repayment in taxes, esp. a tax on gas – which will put the marginal profits of moto-taxis at risk.

THE DEMONSTRATIONS THEMSELVES

About a month ago there were announcements of demonstrations on certain days, protesting the PetroCaribe embezzlement and demanding that the president resign.  The announcements showed the level of organization by the opposition parties: they had a name, (“Country Lock-Down”) and a schedule of marches.  Roadblocks were set up across all roads that pass into Port-au-Prince, which did shut the country down because all travel between north and south has to pass through the capital.  People were warned, on all sides, not to attempt to pass the roadblocks.  So the faculty and students did what they have done before, just what New Yorkers do in blizzards: shelter in place.  Classes were interrupted because professors couldn’t come, the book keeper missed for two weeks so salary checks were delayed, our students who were out on clinicals had to miss two weeks due to clinic closures, and at the same time they were stuck in their distant areas, unable to travel back to campus for impromptu classes.

LÉOGÂNE, A HAVEN OF PEACE (99% OF THE TIME ANYWAY!)

Leogane is almost always calm and quiet.  Someone explained to me that Leogannaise (local residents) like a peaceable life, and anyway they are surrounded by villages and towns that like to protest so they don’t have to add to it.  But finally after a couple weeks, one afternoon while Lafleur (our administrator) and I were at the desk on our office, we saw the heavy smoke from a burning tire, and we heard shouting and gunfire – the gunfire of the police shooting in the air, trying to restore order and disperse the crowd, outside the (guarded) locked gate of the compound.  It was unnerving, but it happened only once.

DEPARTURE FROM HAITI A COUPLE WEEKS EARLIER THAN A PLANNED VACATION

The Dean of Nursing, Dean Alcindor, called me in and said she really wanted me to go home. I was planning to go anyway, but not for almost two weeks later, to be home for Donnel’s birthday (March 1!).  But she asked me to change my reservation and clear out much sooner, if possible.  I changed my ticket to the next weekend, and then we went on with classes as usual.  The wait for the day of departure was an odd one:  it seemed to me that if the roads were to open up to allow me to get to the airport, then that would mean that there was no need to leave the country!

The Nursing school van driver did not want to drive into the city, with all that going on.  Then Dean Alcindor realized that the local Episcopal hospital had been transporting patients back and forth every day with the ambulance, and she asked the hospital if I could ride along, which I did!

And, right after I got home, the whole activity began to wind down.  Now, people are just tired of being unable to come and go, and there is not much energy for the protests.

RETURN, POSSIBLY ALSO A LITTLE LATER THAN PLANNED

I have been asked to wait for the decision of the Mission program of the US Episcopal Church, to allow me to go back.  There’s an issue of the US State Dept. Travel Alerts: when all this started, they raised it to a Level 4, “Do not travel”.  From what I hear from other expats still in Haiti, that is more relevant to Embassy staff in the capital city than to US or Canadian people working outside the city in small towns like Léogâne.  But as long as that Alert is high, it is hard for official organizations to imagine that actually life is returning to normal.

It seems that it really is though.  Traffic is flowing, schools are open, vendors are open to sell food and water again.    Donnel and I have been asked to wait until after Carnival, March 3,4,and 5, to see if the current calm holds, and then maybe I can return.

WHAT IS THE EFFECT ON STUDENT MORALE?

In the meanwhile, it’s not as if you can just turn off daily life at the university, just because the administrator has been pulled out. It’s not just me, an administrator, either: many US and Canadian professors have had to cancel their teaching for the coming semester due to the dire “Level 4”.

The students are anxious and unsettled, dreading that the program will have to close (as Haitian universities often do), hoping that they can finish their senior research projects and graduate, disappointed because several very good training opportunities in chronic wound care, and in making adaptive equipment, were cancelled due to roadblocks and due to necessary cancellations by US faculty members.  They feel that they are seeing a risk to the possibility to complete their degree.

WHAT IS BEING DONE TO PLAN TO MEET THE CHALLENGES?

Donnel and I have been meeting with HRF, the Haiti Rehabilitation Foundation, and brainstorming about how to assure the students of safe passage through this time of challenges, and safe arrival at the degrees they are working so hard for.  The plans are emerging, with some surprises and some advantages:  “crisis” and “opportunity”, they say, are two sides of the same coin!  More updates to come. 

A RENEWAL OF OUR THANKS!

In the meanwhile, speaking especially to those who have supported FSRL with their financial treasure, whether vast or a widow’s mite,  I want to say that HRF is very aware of using good stewardship of your gifts.  We will come through OK, all of us together.

LET US BE GRATEFUL, EVEN WITH THE “HEAVY LIFT’, AS IT LETS US SHARE THIS EXPERIENCE IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE GOOD CITIZENS OF HAITI!

I am grateful for this experience, privileged to have been able to accompany these students this far, and so happy to see the beginning of their work with patients with all sorts of disabilities, who would not have had any hope of getting back to their lives.  This is so worth the “heavy lift”!

Joeline and infant, stage-28 Feb.2019
Joeline and an infant with postural weakness, during clinicals at Fondation Tous Ensemble, Les Cayes
Samantha, pt., Dr Laurie, Karly, Live Beyond
Second-years, Samantha and Karly, with a young patient with hemiplegia, accompanied by Dr Laurie of Live Beyond, Thomazeau, FIRST TIME OUT WITH PATIENTS!

God’s peace,

Janet

HEART-FELT THANKS at the turning of the year!

HEART-FELT THANKS !

  • For a long vacation (all the twelve days of Christmas!) from any kind of work: time away, with Donnel, our kids Aidan and Chase, and the wonderful and wholesome companions of our kids and THEIR families. Life goes on!
  • For the spectacular vistas of coastal California, where we visited Aidan and Chase. How do those mountainsides and oceans stay so open and wild?  Raptors soar over crashing waves, as we hike up higher and higher.  The air is fresh and new.
lexi photographer-jan.2019
Lexi taking pictures by the California sea
  • For the deep sweetness of the connections with our Haitian friends.  By the magic of internet we have received lovable little videos, WhatsApp messages, blessings flying across the miles.  Love is in the air!

 

  • For YOU, the larger community of watchers and helpers, in the US, Canada, and Haiti: workers in the field of bringing rehabilitation education to Haiti.
    judith, gigi carnes-guest house
    Judith Straub, clinical social worker, and Medgine Carnes, OT, have both taught at FSRl this fall (2018).

    Who is it that said that the meaning of vocation is finding where the world’s deep need meets your own highest joy?  I think that is an ideal, as most of the time we have to compromise on that, but some sense of vocation can fit inside all kinds of lives.  And if you have found, as have I, that there is a high joy in this kind of work, with the possibility of freeing up those who, because of disability, are trapped in bad situations where help is scarce, then you have that vocation too.

  • What I pray in the new year is what I prayed in the old year. Thanks, heart-felt thanks.

In my litany of thanks, I want to take a moment to recognize Miselene Lafleur.  Miss Lafleur is a licensed nurse.  She graduated from FSIL, and was the valedictorian of her graduating class, in 2016.  Mme Alcindor referred me to her as a candidate for first administrative assistant of FSRL.  That was a good referral !  Miss Lafleur has a quick mind, an excellent memory, knowledge about medicine, insider knowledge about FSIL that helps us know how to work together, good leadership skills, lots of patience, and a strong ethic of service to her fellow human. Miss Lafleur knows everything about how FSRL functions.  She has now taken on the role of Administrator.  Miss Lafleur is applying to the U. of Laval, Quebec, for an online MBA program: she will do well in that program, I’m sure!

lafleur et jof at desk

And, my other prayer in the old year and the new is, “May there be enough”.

Enough of what?

Enough resources:

  • enough money to pay the bills
  • enough faculty to share syllabi and lectures for our courses
  • enough instructors and professors to come in person to teach
  • enough Haitian PTs, psychologists, and orthotist/prosthetists to teach the classes that need local
  • enough good will of FSIL which is our generous host
  • enough good will of UNEPH which is our accrediting university
  • enough good will of the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti, which is our undergirding support and our permission to even be in this role in Haiti
  • enough vision and provision by the Societé Haitienne de Physiothérapie (SHP) to continue to include FSRL in the planning for professional recognition for PTs and OTs (Thank you, SHP!)
  • enough attention and persistence by the already busy OTs of the Association Haitienne d’Ergothérapeutes (AHE/HAOT) to continue to do our important work of developing knowledge of OT in Haiti (Thank you, AHE!)
  • enough vision and provision by the Ministére de Santé Publique et Populations (MSPP) to give a path for graduates of FSRL and UNIFA to achieve professional status
  • enough patience and health among the more than a million people with disabilities who need therapists to come and help their situation
  • enough time and mental effort, that is, sustained attention, by the dean of FSRL, me, to continue to keep track of all the threads of this work OR
  • since the complexity of this project is beginning to be overwhelming, may the new year bring enough help to pick up some of the threads and carry them forward!

 

 

Guest Blog: Mme Stephanie Goodrich teaches Neuroanatomy!

FSRL second years 2018
Second-year students in OT and PT,  wearing their best scrubs, with Mme Stephanie Goodrich, center, and with M Emmanuel Occidor, interpreter, who is wearing a jacket: November 9, 2018.

Hello! Bonjou, bonswa! My name is Stephanie Goodrich. I am here in Haiti to teach Neuroanatomy, a 4-week course for the second-year FSRL occupational and physical therapy students. At home in North Carolina, I work as an occupational therapist in acute and inpatient rehabilitation facilities. I first learned of FSRL when searching the internet for opportunities to travel overseas and serve with my occupational therapy education. And what a wonderful opportunity this is!

Every day, I am amazed by the dedication, intelligence, and focus of the FSRL students. Despite that my lectures, given in English and translated to French, are not in the students’ primary language (Haitian Creole), they maintain focus and absorb very challenging material. They are not afraid to ask questions (many, many questions!) to make sure that they fully understand. Even as new second-years, they constantly strive to make practical connections between what they are learning and how it pertains to disability and rehabilitation.

Stephanie teaching Neuroanatomy-9 Nov 2018
The neuroanatomy class meeting in the Common Room of the dorm.

Over the past few weeks, when not teaching, I have also had the chance to observe some of the “behind-the-scenes” work of managing a new rehab university program in Haiti. Needless to say, there are many aspects of the program that need tending to on a daily basis, on top of all of the big-picture planning needed to keep the program going into the future. Dean Janet is a real-life Superwoman! It is plain to see how both how much the students respect her and why. I have also been blessed to spend some downtime with a few of the staff members, who have gone out of their way to help me feel at home and even teach me some Creole.

As it is with any short-term trip, I wish I could stay longer and do more, but I am so very thankful for the time I have been given at FSRL to get to know the students, to spend time with Dean Janet, to meet a few of the program’s other important contributors (Kate Barrett, Julie Booth, several other volunteer professors and students), and to be a small part of something incredible. FSRL will be in my prayers and in my heart, until I return again (and again and again, I hope!) and always thereafter.