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Haiti, November 2013

 

Canaan, 40 minutes by Tap Tap outside of Port au Prince

Preparing for Haiti

I’ve just returned from a week in Honduras doing medical clinics. It was my 31st trip (but who’s counting). It is  a poor country yet of course it is no where near the poverty of Haiti. Poverty to me is the absence of control over one’s life, primarily, then the absence of money to buy food and shelter.  Tuesday the 31st of July I leave with my team from Christ Community Church for my 8th Haiti trip, i was there last in November, 2011. I have hope for Haiti after that trip because i see changes, Canaan is a  new city, 300,000 strong, a 30 minute tap tap ride from Port au Prince. No infrastructure but great breeze, no pollution, quiet, apparently less crime and water trucked in every day. One can buy land there, allegedly $250 for a 1/4 acre and gardens are growing there!!

so i’m spiritually prepared and about to start packing. next blog when i get back!!

Dr. Greg Gelburd

 

A Modern-Day God Story

The electronic medical records system is the result of a collaboration between Vwazen Nou and the Grace Network of churches.

I wrote this post a few months ago and meant to post it then.  I just ran across it again and it’s just too good of a story not to share!

This past Sunday, I was sitting in church when the pastor, Dave Butt, told an amazing story about how the electronic medical records system served as a testimony to God’s healing.  I’m sure I won’t do it justice, but I simply must retell it here for your benefit.

When a patient comes to see a physician at the clinic, his or her medical record is consulted so that the doctor knows the history of the patient’s vital signs and the medications that have been prescribed.  This is what the physician and Dave (who was serving as a translator) were doing for a particular patient, who we’ll call “John Doe” here.  John had a history of high blood pressure and diabetes, both of which are common maladies in Haiti.  Dave noticed that these issues had been well controlled on medicine and suggested that his prescriptions be refilled – and that’s when the patient revealed the most beautiful secret, something he had kept to himself until he could tell it to Dave: In the days following the earthquake, John had attended a church service at which Dave had preached about believing and trusting God.  John was later meditating on this message, when an “apparition” appeared to him and promised healing, should John live this way.  He resolved to do so and immediately stopped taking his blood pressure medications.  A little while later, the apparition again appeared with a similar message, after which John discontinued his diabetes medications.  It’s worth noting here that both blood pressure and diabetes are quite difficult to control in the impoverished and stressful conditions endured by the community the clinic serves, yet Dave and physician could clearly see that in the two years following the earthquake this patient’s vital signs and blood glucose had been within the normal range.  How could this be explained but as the blessing and faithfulness of God?

I have long been a big fan of the medical records system because it improves patient care; it’s been an important collaboration between the Grace Network of churches and Vwazen Nou for this reason.  However, it never crossed my mind that God would leverage this computer program as an undeniable testament of His power and goodness, like He did with John.  I hope and pray that God will continue to use our meager efforts to bring glory to Himself!

Jessica Pritchard
Vwazen Nou Treasurer

Listen

The picture makes me chuckle. In another version I am cropped out, and the image is focused on the passion and vibrant colors of this impromptu roadside song.  Why does this version seems so different? Because I stand out so sorely. As much as I like to pretend I’m not stranger in Haiti, I am, and always will be.  My Haitian friends know all the soulful hymns and praise songs by heart, but the paper I’m holding doesn’t even have the right song on it. They have each experienced hardships and deprivation I can’t even imagine, but my awkward height in this picture proves I’ve always had enough to eat. And their singing mingles hope and pain in a way I can only mimic. I sing my heart out too sometimes, but I have to draw on personal experience, rather than collective. They are so used to singing the collective heart of their culture, that the air of Port-au-Prince was filled with worship the night of the earthquake, and for weeks afterwards.

For me, this serves as an illustration of what Vwazen Nou is all about.  We support Haitian-led organizations and programs quite simply because we are strangers. We could teach community health classes, repair homes, feed kids and visit patients ourselves. But we would be depriving people of the chance to be understood, to be fully listened to, and to be welcomed into a Hope that lives in the hearts and songs of their own community – not one that comes from far away.

Neil Currie
Vwazen Nou Vice President, Operations

My Community

Can you imagine walking by your neighbor’s home, greeting them, asking a simple, “How’s it going?” and hearing back, “I’m not sure that I’ll live beyond this month”.  Our friends in Delmas 30, a neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, are too closely accustomed to these words and the likelihood of their happening.  As I grew up going back and forth to Haiti I knew I’d never get it.  I had a US passport, I went home to a clean house, plentiful food, doctors when I needed them, and the hope of being able to learn a skill and give of it to the world.  Although possessing little, what I knew and loved most of our Haitian friends was their joy, warmth, and deep love for neighbor.  A few years ago, some American friends and I asked if there was anything they specifically desired that we could potentially help them with.

“We have nothing to give”, they said, “But if you’d teach us, we’d be able to help our community”.  Instead of asking for material possessions, advancements or comforts, our friends desired to take care of the neighbor that felt close to death’s doorstep, or the one that had had one stroke already and faced another if their hypertension was not brought under control.

It was beautiful to watch these Haitian friends hearts grow.  We did a massive survey of the community and every nook and cranny was explored.  Although these friends had spent most of their lives in the area, they had not had reason to ask about illness and health related issues in the past.  We watched as their compassion toward their neighbor and an urgency to see change and healing welled within them.  Thus, the health workers came to be.  They knew a vision for the community.  They wanted to set things right.  They had hope that healing could come to their neighbors.

I love the earnestness with which they are learning how to take pulses in this picture.  Its as if they’re saying, “Finally!  I can reach out and offer hope to that neighbor who thinks she’ll die next month… I can actually help my community”.

Anna LaRochelle
Vwazen Nou President

Technology

I know it sounds really dorky, but I’ve always been a big fan of technology.  Before there were chat rooms, I would dial in to a bulletin board system and post notes to my virtual friends.  I built robots for competition in high school.  I went to college at Georgia Tech. (I think that speaks for itself.)  I got cranky if I have to read a scientific journal in print instead of online.  But even though I had embraced technology and knew it could change lives, I didn’t really get how transformative it could be until I saw the impact of Vwazen Nou’s electronic medical records (EMR) system on the community we serve in Haiti.

Imagine what it would be like if every time you went to the doctor you saw someone different and they had no record of your medical history or even what medications you were taking.  You would have to remember and communicate everything about yourself each time!  That’s a pretty extreme example, but it illustrates how having an EMR system helps improves the periodic clinic trips that serve the Haitian community.  Another really important function of the EMR system is that it allows the health workers to keep track of patients with chronic diseases over time.  Even cooler, if a patient has a problem that needs intervention between clinic trips the health worker can contact us, a doctor can access the patient’s records stateside, make a recommendation, and we can send money if it requires a hospital trip.  Between the EMR system and the health care workers, we’ve seen real improvements in the care of patients.

Given all this, you can understand why we felt it was necessary to act quickly when we heard that the computer used for the records got caught in a rainstorm.  Thankfully, the Grace Network is sending a few people down to Haiti this week and one of the team members agreed to be a computer “mule.”  So Sunday John Dimeo (the guy who wrote the EMR system) and I took our nerd-dom in all its glory and bought a replacement computer.  (Actually, to be quite honest, John is quite the computer guy so he asked the really important questions while I checked to make sure we didn’t end up with something pink.)  We ended up getting a Toshiba netbook with Windows 7, Microsoft Office, a laptop case (water-resistant), and a corded mouse for $433.62.  The computer has about 8.5 hrs of battery life by industry standards; this is important since electricity isn’t a reliable commodity down there.  John set it up so that the user can easily select which language he/she would like (French for our neighbors to the south) and installed everything necessary for the medical records system.  He passed it off to me yesterday and it’s pretty sweet.  This afternoon I’ll give it to the “mule.”  In the meantime, I’ll enjoy casting glances at this little piece of technology that holds the potential to impact hundreds of lives.  It’s pretty exciting that I got to have a hand in something so transformative and I can’t wait to hear the stories of the lives it’s touched.

Jessica Pritchard
Vwazen Nou Treasurer