Reflection on the Day of Reflection, altered by Trump’s insulting words

 

 

The Day of Reflection in Haiti is a day to remember those who died in the earthquake, the 12th of January, 2010.  At least 300,000 Haitians died instantly. It’s a national holiday.

At FSRL, each year that we’ve been here the students and faculty have gathered in the auditorium for prayers, songs, and telling the stories of their experiences.

This year, after two hours or so of the normal program, the agenda was derailed by the vulgar comment of our President, dismissing the whole nation of Haiti as a “ s**t-hole”.   Here’s how it happened. The Dean of Nursing (who has both a Haitian passport and an American one) interrupted the program. She came up onto the stage in great anger and gave a long and loud and angry talk of resistance to this insult, to all the school, and to an American nursing team that was visiting.  She was so insulted that she couldn’t help retelling the many ways in which the Americans have taken resources out of Haiti.  She talked about racism that she had experienced in the US.  And she talked about the Haitian-born medical doctors, nurses, lawyers, military, and professors who live and work and contribute at a high level to the US society.  She was eloquent.   She finished up the talk by reassuring the visiting Americans that they were not the problem:  that she knew that they, as nurses, were good people and she was grateful for their visit.

Even so, as she talked, and the US insult and US rejection of Haitian contributions sank in, I watched the body language of the students.  They looked down; their shoulders drooped; some put their hands over their eyes.    How, I wondered, would they feel about working with Americans after this day?  It matters, because if any of them thought that I,  their American Dean of Rehab secretly disrespected them, how could we go on?

After the Dean of Nursing left, a young woman nursing student led them in a strong song about relying on God’s help.  And I thought of an approach I could take to make sure we would still have a bridge for working together.

I went up the steps and asked for the microphone, just for two minutes.  Here is (more or less) my little speech.

“ You may find many emotions as you think about this vulgarity from President Trump.  You might be sad, or angry, or anything else.  But one thing you may NOT feel is shame.  You may not.  And here is why I’m saying that.  There is a story in the Bible where the Pharisees come to Jesus’ disciples and ask why they eat food without first washing their hands.  Jesus says, “Not washing your hands does not make you a bad person.  Nothing coming from outside, like any certain kind of food, can change the quality of a person.  What CAN change you is what comes out from your heart into your words.  What you say, that comes from your heart, can make you bad.”  So, think about what Trump has said.  He has made words that are shameful.  As far as I am concerned, the BEST emotion I can have for Trump is pity.  That he would have a mind so small, a heart so hard, and an experience of the world so limited, that he would say that.  So, you yourselves, you realize that relationships between Americans and Haitians are complicated. You may have all kinds of feelings.  But you must not feel any shame.  No.  You may not.  “

After that the program was over.  Some students went out quietly, some talking, and some came over to give me big hugs.  Quite a few.  And today again some students came to me and said, “Thank you.  I feel better.”

 

 

Orchestra - Day of Reflection 2017

Jan.12 2017-Haiti’s philharmonic orchestra at the national ceremony for the Day of Reflection, to remember those lost in the earthquake

GIFTS! All KINDS of gifts!

I have some good news to share!  Due to the great generosity of FSRL supporters, the students will be supported and the bills paid all the way to the end of 2017.  Hallelujah!

Now I am up late again, but not because I am worrying.  Instead, happily,  I am writing thank you notes!  WOW!

Some gifts from sources completely unexpected have come in, and some kind souls have dug deep and given again.  And some gifts have been promised and on the way.

I have been in tears, and in smiles too, over this generosity.

And I would like to share a small vignette from today that may make you also have tears and smiles….

Five of the juniors have just completed an intense two-week course, supported by the Medi for Help charitable wing of Medishare, on the topic of wound care.  Wound care refers not to emergencies that you might see in the ER, but to the phenomenon of long-term chronic deep wounds that remain open for months or years.  It’s an area of overlap between nursing and OT and PT.  For example, therapists can get involved with wound care because people with neuropathy of the feet due to diabetes can get non-healing wounds on the feet, and that interferes with walking.  Or people with spinal cord injuries can get pressure wounds on the buttocks and sacrum from sitting too long in a wheelchair without shifting position.

The first week was in-class at FSRL, on all the factors involved in evaluation of the situation and providing appropriate care.  The second week was in Bernard Mevs hospital.  The instructors, Bryan Groleau, Christopher Miles, and Judy Coster, emphasized to the students that they must prepare, before going in to see a patient, to relax their face so that they would not show disgust no matter what.  The wounds can be disfiguring, and they can smell bad.  The students were apprehensive, but wanted to make it work.

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Juniors in scrubs, in the waiting room at Bernard Mevs hospital, just before starting the Wound Care clinical experience.

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Asking them, “Are you ready for this?”

They returned yesterday afternoon, and today gave a presentation to the sophomore students, concerning the anatomy of wound healing. Some of the pictures produced disgust from the sophomores, and so I asked the juniors how they had dealt with it so well.  Each of them said that they had discovered they could manage their response, and that they found they loved the opportunity to provide so much help, to be of so much use, to the patients.

One of the young men in junior year followed me back to the office just to tell me, with a glowing face, how much the experience had confirmed his vocation to rehabilitation.  He said that he discovered that he must have been born a therapist:  that the meaningfulness of this felt inborn, as if he must have always known it.  He said, “People here suffer SO much.   They have so many needs.  This is something I can do.  When I see how badly someone is hurt, then I think of how I would feel if that happened to me, and I don’t want to turn away.  I can help them. I love this. I want to learn more, always.”

This is the kind of revelation that is made possible by the team members back home.  I am as always amazed: amazed by the need, amazed by the depth of the human spirit in reaching out to touch that need, amazed by the generosity and vision of supporters that makes this possible. This is going to be a very Merry Christmas!

3 am on Tuesday 21 November

The night is quiet, except for crickets and a radio playing religious music, quietly.  The roosters had taken an hour off…but now in the distance they are starting to call again.  It is 3 am.

In the dorm here the students are quiet, finally asleep after late-night studying.  The first-year students of nursing and rehab are just finishing their mid-term exams, a period of two weeks when clumps of students sit or walk together, reciting from their notes.  They come out singly from the dorms early, 5 am, to walk and read under the street lamp.  The older students have papers due: they have been working on their mini-laptops, clumped around the chargers in the classroom admin building.  The library has been full during all the hours when it’s open.

So you might wonder why I am up at 3 am?  The answer is that I can’t sleep because today our book-keeper told me that we don’t have enough money to pay for salaries and rent for dorm and classrooms at the end of November, only a week and a half from now.

Other than that, all is well!

This is a first for us: we have been able to pay our way month by month all this time, with the heroic efforts of the Haiti Rehabilitation Foundation (HRF).

I have just returned from an R & R visit to the US.  Sometimes it’s a little easier to write a blog at a time when the contrasts between two places are visible again!  At home in the US the cold wind is starting to blow, and there has been snow in Kalispell.  Here the warm and pleasant season is just beginning:  the heat of summer has lifted a little and the lovely early morning and evening wind is refreshing.   Yesterday the Christmas tree went up in the lobby here, with its bright lights.  There’s one ornament that plays tinny Christmas carols, all day, fortunately inaudible in the classrooms and offices.  The ornaments have name labels on them, little tributes from one student to another, and there is a lot of activity around the tree with students laughing and teasing.

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And here it is!

The two staff members who work full-time for FSRL, Lafleur and Josué, were very busy during my ten-day absence.

Lafleur on the phone

They kept the classes going, with the help of visiting faculty and the use of study-group lesson plans and assignments. They got a gig lined up for our students to do radio spots here in Léogâne, to attract more students for next fall. They made sure that our second and third year students (who are now across town in the dorm at the Hospital Ste. Croix) had enough money to buy groceries to do their own cooking for breakfast and supper.  (During the week, our students still eat their main meal in the cafeteria here at mid-day.)

 

Marthe, Bergedia, Sam-Paul,Joeline, Merly at HSC dorm

The students can COOK! Enjoying the beautiful fruits of their efforts.

Our second-year students have just started a four-week intensive class on Neuroanatomy. The course was written by a US faculty member, Dr Renee Brown of Belmont U.  It is being taught by a new graduate of nursing, Mme Kailee Kruse, who has come to volunteer for the month.  Our experienced translator, Jonathan Auguste, has committed to the full month as well: the students will be in good hands.  This afternoon they had a Fun Facts competition, with two teams running up to the board to answer review questions.  Kailee loves neuroanatomy, as I do too, and that excitement is contagious.

I spent much of the day with the third-year students:  with the original five who started in Oct. 2015.  This was the first day of a new class: Professional Issues in Haiti.  During the next two weeks I will share the teaching with a Canadian PT professor, Dr Chantal Camden of the U. de Sherbrooke, and a Haitian PT, Denise Marcajoux.  There are two objectives to this class.  The first objective is to understand the need for professional licensure, and to get up to speed on the efforts of the PT association (SHP) here to request licensure from the Min. of Health (MSPP).  This class will include three days of field trips to such agencies as the PT association (SHP), Handicap International (HI), and the Min. of Health (MSPP), with interview questions prepared for each place.

The second objective is to face the situation in which access to medical care in general, and rehabilitation in specific, is limited.  It is a matter of luck, when some patients get care but most do not.  They will read two articles (French, written in Haiti) about the difficulty in providing care here.  They will also read segments of a recent book by a Haitian doctor who proposes a national insurance program:  an idea that is controversial in the US and possibly quixotic here.

These students are thoughtful, and deeply committed.  They are looking with clear eyes at the need for a registration exam for therapists and the challenges of providing care.  The questions they are forming for the interviews are valid, and they come down to this – “How shall we best build these professions of OT and PT?”  – “How can we improve access to care, when we graduate two years from now?”

Fortunately, members of the first graduating class already have jobs waiting for them.  Some came with sponsorship from the clinics that wanted them to come back to work.  Two have acquired sponsorships since they started: the managers of two clinic programs came to FSRL recently and asked if they could sponsor a current student in exchange for a commitment to work at their facility after graduation. And some have been encouraged by their clinical sites to apply to come back after graduation.

We have twenty-eight students now, between the three years.  We have over forty volunteer faculty members, and a handful of Haitian faculty who are paid.  We have MOUs (memoranda of understanding) with two universities:  Quinnipiac University and the U. de Sherbrooke, Quebec. Those are agreements to assist in some way with academic and/or fieldwork support. We have been given academic resources by at least four more universities:  Medical U. of South Carolina, St. Catherine University, U. Tennessee Health Sciences Center of Memphis, and U. Tennessee – Chattanooga.

It is now 4 am, and the roosters are getting rowdy.  An alarm went off somewhere in the dorm but was eventually doused.  I will be climbing onto a bus with the students to go into Port-au-Prince at 6:30 am, to visit Handicap International (HI) and the Haitian Society for Aid to the Blind, (SHAA).  In the meanwhile I will take a shower, do some yoga, and say morning prayer.  It’s going to be a regular morning in a fascinating place, surrounded by hope and integrity….I value this program and these people so much!  I want all of you who have supported FSRL to be proud of what you have made happen here: it is an irreplaceable gift that will make a permanent difference in the lives of a million people with disabilities.  And, I also want you to call your friends!  We need to dig deep, to support the growth in numbers of students and classes, as the program expands.

God’s peace,

Janet

P.S. My dear friend Susan asked how to donate?  There’s a DONATE button on the website, http://www.haitirehab.org

The website has also a way to make a small (or huge!) monthly donation, which is a real help in on-going planning.

Going on, or going back? Part One

The relief of having the hurricane behind us is a wonderful thing.  Now we can pay attention to what is really important:  the students, and the opening of the school year!

Second and third-year students will return on Monday.  We have some advancements, due to the acceptance of transfer credits from a variety of situations.

For instance, we now have nine third-years, due to graduate in Dec. of 2019.  The five original students are now nine, due to the advancement of four rehabilitation technicians who graduated from the Loma Linda University program in 2016.  Seven of them are students of Physiotherapy, and two are OT or ergotherapy students.  They will be the first members of that profession, OT, to graduate in Haiti!

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The second-year class lost some members (due to advancement, see above) but also gained a new member who is already a nurse, from the U. of Notre Dame nursing program.  The class now has five members, all of whom have declared for PT.  Only four are in this photo, from July.

rising soph-class 2020-July 2017-cropped

The first-year class is not yet filled.  The system for admission of new students is different from ours.  Applicants take entrance exams in September (while the second to fourth year students are already in classes) and those who are successful enter in October for the first time.

But we already know five of our students, because they came last year to apply.  They were successful in their exams, but could not start without financial aid.  They were given a delayed admission, and were placed at the top of the waiting list for aid.  They are good students, and eager to begin! Sainfolia, Clinetana, James, Abigail, Stephanie July 2017

 

We only have room for ten students in the entering class, meaning five open places.  And we have 18 applicants for those places!  Eventually we hope to have more room, as we expand, so that we can take a larger class.

So, they all look GREAT!  These photos are from a celebration in July, at the end of the last school year: a “moving-up” ceremony!  Clearly, we are growing!IMG_4216

 

And that prompts various reflections.  For the next blog entry!

Going on, or going back? Part Two

I have been doing a LOT of thinking in the last week, since arriving back at my post in Léogâne.

I will lay it out there, so that you can all do a lot of thinking too.

We have so many assets now!  At the same time, that means we also have begun to outgrow the ability for our strong but relatively small pool of donors to carry it all!

As our assets, mostly immaterial, grow, our financial support needs to grow as well.  Here is how it looks to me.

ASSETS

We have a group of excellent, motivated, compassionate students.  See Part One of this BLOG!  The faces tell it all!

We have a group of excellent, motivated, compassionate faculty members! Last year we had over forty faculty members contributing to provide a high level of excellence in the academic content.  This year most of them will be coming back, I hope!  And another thirty or more new ones will be joining them, as we are now teaching concurrent classes for multiple years.

Amendocia & Claudia spring 2017

Claudia Medeiros, a donor by teaching – kneeling, with a student of the class of 2019

We have a group of excellent, motivated, compassionate donors!   I am humbled by our supporters, some of whom have come in person to see for themselves and to help out, and others who have just trusted us to do the right thing with their gifts, even without seeing the school.  Our number of repeat donors is high!  It is easy to see the reality of the fact that donors are team members.  Donors have been providing the fuel to keep the productivity coming along.

We have a group of excellent, motivated, compassionate HRF board members!   I want to mention Janis Handte especially, our outgoing board president, who has brought us from zero students to nineteen, in three academic cohorts, by caring, caring, and caring some more.

Feb 2015 Janis, Kate, Jami

Janis Handte, Kate Barrett, Jami Flick, HRF board, visiting Haiti in Feb. 2015

OPPORTUNITIES

We can take our second and third year students in the coming week, at the invitation of the Secretary of State for Inclusion of Handicapped Persons, to meet with him in his office and have the tour of his Bureau. Many staff members there have some form of physical difference that might in the past have kept them out of government jobs – it is an exciting work space to visit!

Gerald Oriol Jr Sec of State BSEIPH

M. Oriol, at the celebration in 2015 at St. Vincent’s Center. Now M. Oriol has invited us to his Bureau, BSEIPH, to see what is happening in Haiti for universal access!

We can take our small number of OT students to the international conference of the Association of Caribbean OTs (ACOT) in Jamaica in November.  Once there, we can meet for the first time with the first OT graduates from the U. of Guyana.  Both small groups of OTs are the first in their respective countries.  We are inviting them to form peer-mentoring relationships, to share case studies and the struggles and successes of working for professional licensure.

2015-10-30 ACOT Haiti Flag plus KB, FM-N, JOF 15.10.34

ACOT conference in Trinidad & Tobago, 2015. Look what’s missing though – no FSRL OT students are there!

We can play a key role in the effort to start the first rehabilitation clinic at our local hospital in Léogâne.  We have written a grant application for renovation of a room, and equipment.  FSRL’s part will be to hire a Haitian PT to direct the clinic, provide PT, supervise our students, and also to teach classes on campus.

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This is the space at Hôpital Ste Croix that we hope to renovate and equip to be the new rehabilitation clinic

 

We can begin a dialogue, leading to a collaboration, with the other PT program in Haiti, UNIFA – the University of the Aristide Foundation.  Such a collaboration will be ground-breaking.  It will help immensely in gaining official recognition for the profession of PT in Haiti.

We can build our continuing education series offered to local practitioners, which has proved to be very popular and well-attended.  We are working quietly to provide a workshop in the near future on a topic that might be controversial, but is vital for the mental and physical health of so many Haitians:  a culturally appropriate but still challenging workshop on medical care for people with issues of sexuality and gender.

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Continuing education offered by Mary Jo Wagner (pictured) and Merry Kaulbach, last January, on Wheelchair fitting

 

We can expand our collaboration to embrace the new opportunities offered to us by the U. de Sherbrooke, a francophone university in Quebec with OT and PT programs.

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Richard Dorestant, our Haitian Creole teacher, and Mme Carmen Moliner, OT faculty and program developer from U. de Sherbrooke, in June 2017 in the Guest House

BUILDING OUR INFRASTRUCTURE, JUST A LITTLE

We have now offered a job (at a very low pay I am afraid) to an administrator for FSRL.  The person who is planning to come (name to be sent out once the contract is signed) is a retired Haitian-American nurse with a master’s in Administration.  She has altruistic motives for coming – since she grew up in Haiti, and left with her family at a young age, she has always wanted to “give back” to her native land.

Our students have gotten too numerous for the FSIL dorms! We are looking as fast as we can for a dorm space off campus for our second and third year students.

WHAT WE NEED

All of what we are doing, and planning to do, will take resources.  Money.  We have started to receive some income from some students:  they are not all on scholarships!  But it is not enough yet to give a foundation for our monthly operations.

WHY ARE WE NOW QUESTIONING IN THIS WAY: GOING ON, OR GOING BACK?

To “go back” would mean, for instance, to stay on campus without spending for transportation:

to cancel special events such as the ACOT conference and visiting BSEIPH.

It would mean putting our students in a hardship position, if we did not find and rent another dorm space for them.

It would mean declining to hire a Haitian PT, in order to open the rehab clinic at Hôpital Sainte Croix.

It would mean delaying or cancelling the hiring of an administrator to help me, the volunteer dean, keep all this complicated program organized!

To “go on” would mean to continue to take the steps that are opening up before us, little by little, following our opportunities as we have always done,

to increase collaboration in Haiti with the rehabilitation community,

and to increase collaboration in the region with the Caribbean associations.

It would mean establishing relationships that will help our graduates, in just two more years, to take their places professionally in Haiti as leaders.

It would mean putting our program on a more solid footing organizationally: less “seat of the pants” and more professional in its management.

I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, BUT I WANT TO GO ON!  YES, WE CAN!

Our donors are GENEROUS GIVERS

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This lovely person is honored by a memorial scholarship at FSRL. She is Anna Marie Walter Faulstich, the mother of Ginny Shiller.

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John and Rose Novak, souls of generosity, with Donnel in the summer of 2016, in Cazenovia NY.

2016-08-16 new house 28 Kent 14.56.44Kent Bolstad, Donnel’s cousin in Montana, who with his wife Mae has supported FSRL more than once, that’s for sure!

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A Peruvian friend, a Haitian friend, and Marjorie Dimanche, HRF board member AND donor, in June

The givers to FSRL have given at a sacrificial level!  They, YOU, have given not just from the excess cash, but also from money needed for daily expenses.  And not just once, but many times,. And they, YOU, have given time and attention and love, by writing courses, buying air tickets, volunteering to teach too, all out of a passion and excitement we share about an unusual opportunity to bring real and lasting change to the situation of our Haitian friends with disabilities.

WHAT CAN WE DO NOW, to keep going on?

Well, first, if you were thinking you might make an end-of-the-year gift to FSRL, umm, could you make it in September instead?

Second, if you have any possibilities of expanding our network of team members, please sing out!

Donnel and I will be in the US in November to meet with Rotary Clubs, churches, and community groups to whom we have some connections in the northeast.

We have a faculty member, Dr. David Morrisette, who has joined the HRF board who will be reaching out to PT student groups.

We have dedicated groups of students at the Medical U. of South Carolina and at Quinnipiac University who have been doing fund-raisers and publicity, which we hope will spread.

Paint night QU

PT students at Quinnipiac’s wine and painting fund-raiser in April !

Our faculty and academic committee members are talking about FSRL at academic conferences across the US and now in Canada as well.

D.Laurent,J.O'Flynn, P.Coker-Bolt Yale Global Public Health

Yale Global Public Health “Unite for Sight” conference in April 2017. Dr. Patty Coker-Bolt prepared the poster to report on the collaboration between FSIL (Mme Dominique Laurent) and FSRL (me) and MUSC (Patty) for the Days for Girls research!

Maybe you would be able to help our story spread?  We have a great video, thanks to Alison Sims of Belmont U. We have a slide show in Power Point form.  We have printed materials: brochures, and our annual report for 2016, with great photos.  Please contact us via this blog or my email, dean@haitirehab.org, if you have ideas and can help our resources grow as much as our program is growing!

Out of danger – into the new school year at last!

chickens after IrmaAs I hope you know by now, Haiti was spared!  The storm passed about 100 miles out to sea, north of even the farthest north coast.  People are pinching themselves and going out into the sunshine happily.

It looks like the next in line, Hurricane José, will miss us too, AND, happily, will miss Florida!  I dearly hope so.  It may hit the small island nations that are to the northeast again, sadly, as they try to figure out how to rebuild, and where.

We are temporarily short on power because ALL those heavy solar panels now need to be lifted back up to the roof and re-connected.  I have more to write about, concerning the remarkable new year that will begin officially on Monday, and I have photos, but for the time being I’m going to stop writing and POST!

Love to you all, and be safe too!

 

 

‘Waiting for the storm – again!

 

I remember last year, in October, that the suspense of waiting for Hurricane Matthew was creepy.  Here we go again, and…it’s still creepy!

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A creepy but very still sky… You can see piles of gravel where a good portion of the driveway will soon be paved! But I don’t know what the piles will look like by Saturday, after high winds!

 

It is actually very quiet here, as the students have not returned yet.  I expect that they will be OK, although there may be some flooding in the streets.  The hurricane’s center will almost certainly pass to the north of Haiti altogether, praise the Lord!  The north coast is very vulnerable, but may not have to deal with the worst of it.  Here at FSRL on the FSIL campus we are probably in the safest place in Haiti!  The buildings are sturdy (having weathered the earthquake and Hurricane Matthew without damage) and the dean of nursing is very prudent.   The hallways are empty of chairs and benches that might fly around, with wind coming through the open-air court-yards.  Those of you have visited will see how bare it all looks!

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All the solar panels are down off the roof and stacked indoors, and windows are mostly taped or boarded up.

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The fourth-year men who have stayed on in order to finish clinical education before their graduation are still up working on the roofs, even tho. the panels have been removed, to clear gutters for rain drainage and to make sure no metal bits will become projectiles when the wind starts.

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I hope that you and your families will also be prudent, and safe, as this hurricane travels northwards! May it Run Out Of Steam before it gets that far!

 

God’s peace,

Janet