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