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!



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.


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


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.


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.

2017-01-27 wheelchair conference

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.


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


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.


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.


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.


Our donors are GENEROUS GIVERS

Anna Marie W. Faulstich photo (2)

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

2016-08-13 Brewster Inn J&RN, DOF 1 19.33.39

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!


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!


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!



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


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.



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,




Shall the Blog go on into the new year? Yes it shall!


Hello to all old friends and new!

It has been so long since a blog post appeared here, that I want to say first that We Are Alive!  Donnel and I, the originators of this blog, are still actively working toward the success of the Faculté des Sciences de Réhabilitation de Léogâne (FSRL).  Right now we’re together in Montana, for the month of August, at our new home in Montana.  The time together has let us do some nesting in our own little house and garden; take long walks in the beautiful outdoors;  go to Medical Appointments (we are at that age where maintenance becomes a normal part of life);  and, of course, talk about many things.  One thing to consider is whether a blog about the First Year of the new program in Léogâne should be carried on into the third year!!  And if it’s to be carried on, what kind of things should be aired and reflected on in it?


Well, one reason is that the name is now misleading.  “The beginning of something wonderful” is still OK, but the sub-title about the “first year” of the new program is passé.

Another reason is that the real fun of a cross-cultural blog is when we can all encounter a new and strange situation together.  But, probably happily, after all this time the strangeness of living in Haiti is less strange, and so the blogging will have a different sound to it.

[Here’s a digression just for amusement purposes.  Sometimes when I am on the FSRL campus in my dorm room and I learn that an American group of nurses is on the way from the airport to the FSIL Guest House, I feel a curiosity as if they are from a strange culture.  They feel, at least in the abstract before I meet them, like “the other”.  And that put me in mind of a funny poem by Don Marquis, the American poet popular in the nineteen-twenties and thirties. It’s called, The Robin and the Worm.  My librarian friend, Kristin Leikmuhler Strohmeyer, helped me find it (within about sixty seconds) after my Google search failed me.  Here is the link.


The poem begins with a worm expressing dismay about being eaten by a robin, but very soon the same worm is changing his lament to a happy boast about how strong we are now – that is, as he is incorporated into the robin, he finds himself on the other side of the story!  That’s a great account of cultural shift! And it is how I sometimes feel as a faculty member at FSRL.]


Well, in fact, I really do realize that Donnel and I are guests and outsiders who have been given hospitality at a deep level.  If we sometimes feel like insiders, that is because of the generosity of our hosts!

And, even though the Haiti Rehabilitation Foundation has a website (www.haitirehab.com) ,

and a facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/HaitiOTPTdegrees),

this is the only place to hear from the inside what this remarkable experience is like!  I think that our team, broadly defined to include everyone who takes an interest in the work of FSRL and the Haiti Rehabilitation Foundation, deserves to have a real inside look.  So, Donnel and I will be continuing on with the blog, and I will do my best to be more active in posting.  May we ALL make that slow transition to becoming insiders, happily “eaten” up (I mean that in the best way) by a cultural shift!


What can top a solar eclipse?  Even a partial one?  We had a high tech viewing device- the famous Grape Nuts camera obscura…..

DOF viewing eclipse-21 Aug 2017



Well, visits from offspring can top that!

We’ve had a visit here in Kalispell from our very adult son Aidan and his significant other, Lexi, with all the fun of going to Glacier Park, sailing on Flathead Lake, and swimming at a nearby swimmin’ hole.



DOF & JOF in Glacier Park-Aug 2017

DOF and JOF in Glacier Park

AOF, Lexi, Kyle on sailboat-Aug 2017

Aidan, Lexi, and cousin Kyle on Flathead Lake

We’ll have another visit starting tomorrow from our very adult child Chase, who has had experience teaching English in Haiti, but who is now living as a lay steward at a Buddhist monastery in Santa Rosa.  We hope that Chase will be up for at least one grand adventure – maybe looking for dinosaur bones down by Choteau!

Chase in Yosemite in the HAT!

Chase in Yosemite last year – great hat! More recent photos, we hope, on the way

Then, on Aug. 31st, I’ll start the trip back to work.  I’ll arrive on Sept. 1st in Léogâne, in time for a meeting with the Dean of Nursing and a lot of preparation for our first classes.  Anatomy II and Pathophysiology I will start on Sept. 11.  The first faculty members will be Dr. Jack Thomas, PT, from the Medical U. of So. Carolina (a return visit – thank you Jack!!) and Dr. Gregory Chown, OT, from Alvernia University in Pennsylvania.  I have missed seeing the students and Lafleur, our administrative assistant.  It will be good to start classes again.

God’s peace, the kind that passes understanding, to you!


Heading out toward Léogâne – the journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step

An Important Milestone for Our Freshmen, and an Honored Guest

Yesterday FSRL came to another milestone.  All the freshmen in the nursing school and the rehab school were honored for successful completion of the first year of general studies.  The end of the first year also marks the beginning of the program of rehab for our seven students of OT and PT.  It is called the “Prise d’habit”: taking of the uniform for the first time.  The phrase reminds me a of a similar ceremony for a nun: “taking the habit”.  For the nurses, it is an old tradition called “Prise de coiffe”, or taking the cap

I am thrilled to say that at that event we had the honor of the presence of the Secretary of State for the Integration of Handicapped Persons(SEIPH):  Mr. Gerald Oriol Jr. Each class has the happy task of choosing someone to invite to have the honor of being the patron of the class.  The word is not “patron”, though – it is “godfather” (“parrain”) or “godmother” (marraine)!   M. Gerald Oriol Jr. is the parrain of the freshman class – the class of 2020.

He accepted very graciously back before Christmas, and he came in person to participate in this significant event for the freshmen.

There is something very compelling and attractive about M. Oriol’s presence as a leader and advocate for integration of persons with handicaps.  He has a calm, non-anxious, demeanor.  He has world-class eye contact:  you get the feeling of being seen by an intelligent and thoughtful person, without being judged. He has a deep voice and speaks clearly, giving challenge and encouragement at the same time.

He comes to events in a wheelchair.  His presence gives two very different messages.  One is that that he must be a disabled person- the chair!  The other is that he is a highly-abled person, the Secretary of State!  His presence gives a challenge to knee-jerk reactions: people stop what they are doing and they listen with real interest.

Prise d'habit 6 Mai 2017 IMG_3915

First-year students all in green; second-year students in white and green; M. Gerald Oriol Jr, Secretary of STate!, and Dean O’Flynn – PRISE D’HABIT, 6 May, 2017

A funny story about my casual (sloppy?) American clothes, and the efforts to upgrade my level of elegance, for this important event.


It has been a long time since I wrote about the small steps I am able to take toward integrating myself into local culture!  To me it seems that FSIL and FSRL are micro-cultures:  here, people are very accepting of the Americans in their midst – not too much cultural flexibility is required most of the time.

But sometimes…..

I have toned up my wardrobe considerably for my work life here.  As a pediatric OT in the school system in the US, I got away with wearing garments that were the next step up from pajamas and bedroom slippers.  It made sense to wear comfortable stretchy washable clothes, for a normal work day that might include climbing a ladder to put up a swing, sitting with the most messy eater in the cafeteria to help that person begin to control the food supply, and painting.   But…

Here my first discovery, a year and a half ago,  was that I needed closed-toe shoes with at least a little bit of a high heel.


I got over that and adjusted.

My next discovery was that I needed skirts and blouses, ironed.


I got over that and adjusted.

My next discovery was an interesting one from an Occupational Therapy point of view.  I have scoliosis, and after a few months of the skirt and blouse routine I gave up on it, and took to dresses. My hips are all askew, and I always dragged one side of the skirt lower than the other. A few photographs later, I decided that wasn’t doing our program any good – the dean, trailing along with drooping garments.  But…. my shoulders are even-sided, and dresses work!

I bought a set of remarkably practical dresses:  all the same, but in different fabric, and with POCKETS!   I had some for everyday, and a couple for formal occasions.  They also remarkably didn’t need ironing!! Because they are made of some kind or other of plastic, I believe…..

I got over the upgrade, and adjusted.


At FSRL and FSIL the young faculty members are very fashionable.

I hope that as you read this story your sympathies will be MORE AND MORE with the young women here on the faculty at FSRL. They have a challenge, in ME.

During the lead-up (planning) for this Prise d’habit ceremony, as we discussed practical details, one of them cleared her throat and said, “Now, for what you will wear.”


“You must wear something very pretty.”

“Oh”, I said, “Don’t worry.  I have a gray dress” (meaning, comfortable! No-iron! Pockets!)

“No, you must have the jacket.  I will buy it for you.”


“Um, I’m afraid it will be too HOT.”

“No, we will be in the air conditioning.  What size do you wear?  I think it’s better if you have a new dress with the jacket that will be the same fabric.  I will find one for you.  And, do you have Make-Up?”


I confess I burst out laughing about that last question.  But when I got over myself and calmed down, she was still there, looking quite determined, saying

“ I know how to do make-up.  And the shoes must match.  What size do you wear?”

WELL, I knew I was pretty well defeated, and the most I could hope for was to push back on some of the smaller requirements, while capitulating on the main idea:  Dean O’Flynn was going to look like a credit to FSRL, no matter what.

I would not know where to go here for a formal type of outfit, at all, but our young woman took the time on Friday to go to that area of Léogâne and take photos of likely ensembles for me.  Unfortunately, I was hosting a small group of visiting faculty on a field trip to the national museum of history, in Port-au-Prince.  Three times during the tour my phone rang. I was expecting to have one call from the driver (who was off doing errands) to give us our pick-up instructions, so I kept answering the phone.  It was never the driver.

Another fashionable young staff member of FSIL had joined the first one.

First, did I get the photos?  No.  [Cell phone reception was not very good.]

In the absence of photos they started describing choices.

They wanted to know if I would prefer pink with cream  – or did they say “green”? If it was going to be cream, there must also be shoes to match – what was my size of shoe?  American or European size?

“Stockings?”      (WHAT???????  TOO HOT!!!!!!!!)

Finally I said the phone calls were annoying the tour guide and they had to stop calling.  That I would wear whatever they brought.

So, late Friday, I got a text that I should go to the Admin office to find my garment on the desk.  It was a white dress and matching jacket, with a textured fabric, shiny buttons, not too bad.  But it was way too tight.  I was afraid I’d pop the seams.

Another call: “Do you like it?” ‘Yes”.

“Does it fit?” “No, unfortunately.  I really appreciate your time, but I will just wear what I had planned.”

“No, I have already arranged a way to exchange it with the shop.  I will come at 7 am to pick it up and go to exchange it.”

Now, the ceremony was at 9 am the next morning, and the Secretary of State (did I MENTION the Secretary of State?) was coming.


Meanwhile, as the clock ticked past 8:30 on Saturday morning,  and all around me the elegant persons gathered, I was there in my Capris and T shirt, wondering how close we could push it.

Well, at 20 of 9, the young woman arrived with a remarkable garment.  Silvery gray, three sizes too big, a slippery blouse AND SKIRT (did I mention that skirts aren’t a good idea), with a beautifully ornate jacket – lots of ruching, double collar, shiny silver.  I dashed into the bathroom to put it on.

The skirt fell off.  Onto the floor.

“Is it going OK?” from outside the bathroom door.

“It is too big and it is falling off.”

“Oh my ****” I heard from the other side of the door,   “I am so sorry!”

“It’s OK, I can PIN it.”  So I held it up while racing back to the dorm (only 100 feet away) to get pins.

I stepped into the procession AFTER the choir, instead of before, but walking in with our seven honored freshmen, just in time.

I hope that now when you look at the photo you will really enjoy this garment.  It is indeed VERY Fancy!

I had occasion to reflect about what sort of appearance I was making, after the ceremony, posing for photographs.   I think it was a little bit like Mr. Wizard, a character I remember from an elementary school science movie – white and shiny, slightly unreal.  Also, HOT.

Then I reflected that, if I were in a culture that had any local, native wear, such as a sari, or a djellaba, or a kimono, I would wake up to the possibilities!  I would be honored to be invited to put it on!  And that was exactly what this was.

I DO definitely feel honored, to be fussed over so, and to be dressed so elaborately!


Prise d'habit 6 Mai 2017 IMG_3915

First-year students all in green; second-year students in white and green; M. Gerald Oriol Jr, Secretary of STate!, and Dean O’Flynn – PRISE D’HABIT, 6 May, 2017