On Tuesday, we departed Santo Domingo under a heavy rain, passed over the central mountains of Hispaniola, and arrived into Port au Prince, Haiti on a warm, dark night. It has been almost two years to the day since I last saw Haiti following the earthquake and my initial impression was, while much looked the same, there were certainly signs of improvement. The streets were cleared of rubble, many of the tent homes have disappeared, and the micro-economies on the streets were bustling. We got to the hotel safely and prepared for the work ahead.
This last leg of the trip, much like in the Dominican Republic, was multi-purposed.Dr. Maves and I planned a discussion with representatives from the Haitian medical schools’ Council of Deans.We also had the opportunity to revisit the Hospital Albert Schweitzer (HAS) in Deschapelles. We had a very collegial dinner party for 14, with a variety of wonderful guests, including the Director, Dr. Ian Rawson and his wife Lucy, environment science professors, reforestation program workers, photographers, and an international correspondent. Dr. Maves was able to participate in Grand Rounds at the hospital the following morning.We also received an excellent tour of the facility and presented a variety of options for placing US volunteers into HAS, much like we did back in 2010 and 2011. Project HOPE worked in close partnership with HAS in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake as well as during the subsequent cholera outbreak, sending volunteer health care professionals to augment the local staff. During the cholera outbreak, Project HOPE responded by sending a team of international cholera experts to train Haitian health care professionals on effective ways to manage the disease. In fact, these experts identified the origin of the cholera strain (Nepalese) – as documented in an article published by The New England Journal of Medicine titled, “The Origin of the Haitian Cholera Outbreak Strain.” Project HOPE also provided much needed medical supplies such as antibiotics, IV solutions, oral rehydration salts and antibacterial hand gels used for the treatment and prevention of cholera. On the way back to Port au Prince, we received a site tour of Dr. Paul Farmer and Partners in Health’s planned, state-of-the-art hospital in Mirabalais. Our last objective of this trip was to attend the Project HOPE handover ceremony for the Chanje Lavi Rehabilitation Center at the Adventist Hospital in Diquini.
Building on prior experience providing rehabilitation services in the aftermath of earthquakes in Armenia (1988), Turkey (1999), and China (2008), Project HOPE’s long term response in Haiti has been to establish the country’s first free, comprehensive rehab and prosthetic facility for amputee victims. The Rehabilitation Center is known as “Chanje Lavi,” which means “Changing Lives” in Creole. Project HOPE and its partners established the facility, comprised of three modular buildings,after the earthquake to provide prosthetic limbs and physical therapy to those injured, and has been at capacity ever since. While most patients needing rehabilitation services are treated as outpatients, some with severe injuries or living far from the Center require temporary housing. Thus one of the three modular buildings can house up to four patients for short-term stays. Using modular technology was appropriate to ensure the facility could open in a timely way. In addition, local Haitians were employed by the builders and taught skills to position them for the housing initiatives anticipated as rebuilding efforts increase. Equipped with ramps and accessible bathrooms, the Center was deemed a model of accessibility by the national Disabilities Department.
The handover ceremony took place in the hospital’s chapel on Wednesday morning. In addition to Dr. Maves and me, attending the ceremony was the entire Project HOPE Haiti staff, including the Country Director, Mr. Jason Friesen.Also attending was the Adventist Hospital leadership, including the Hospital Administrator, the Hospital Director, and the Treasurer, along with of Project HOPE’s primary partners, Christian Blind Mission (CBM).The Adventist Hospital Assistant Administrator, Mr. Nathan Lindsey, oversaw the ceremony. He began the day with, “So many people have benefited from the services provided by Project HOPE – thank you so much for your support.The rehab center is the first pillar in rehabilitation care for the entire country. The people of Haiti are excited about what we’re doing and it has the full support of the government.”Mr. Friesen then got up to speak and said, “I want to thank CBM for assisting Project HOPE and the clinic.The services will continue. We’ve touched so many lives and I’m so glad to see it will last.I’m looking forward to seeing how it will progress in the future.”Next, the Hospital Administrator, Madame Emily Cloutaire, took the podium and gratefully added, “I’m so thankful that Project HOPE was able to come in and build up the rehab center.We are extremely proud to have this program integrated into the hospital.” To complete the ceremony, Project HOPE’s Executive Vice President, Dr. Maves, concluded with, “We at Project HOPE regard this program as a jewel and an example of what we’re doing.This is a prime example of how bringing together the government, NGOs, and the community can really make a difference in bettering the country.It is the best possible strategy to provide sustainability and continue care to the wonderful people of Haiti.”
We are getting ready to depart for home. We found this trip enlightening and very helpful in furthering the goals and objectives of Project HOPE. We made very efficient use of our time and are looking forward to getting back to the office to begin the next steps.
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