Saturday, April 03, 2010

Update from Tiffany's Trip

Our Bermuda Dental Team and Communications Director are finally back home once again. It is a difficult transition for anyone going from third to first world nation, but the experience and life lessons learned are invaluable.

I've been busy over the last week continuing my work with NGO coordination. While in Haiti, I spent time in Jacmel meeting with the World Health Organization, Ministry of Health and my own workers on the ground to come up with a plan for Haiti Village Health in Jacmel. In the end our motto was "Go big or Go Home". Because of Haiti's centralized system of Healthcare we were running into several hurdles in working with the Ministry of Health. Dr. Delouches greatly appreciated all the work that HVH was able to contribute but as the WHO was stepping up to the table I began to work for other ways to be most effective in networking individuals and getting the job done.

So, after my Jacmel trip, I left Dr. Mona in charge of Health logistics and managament, Fredo in charge of the Guest Hostel and Ruth working as a nurse volunteer and assisting at the guest house.

I drove from Jacmel to Leogane to meet with Jim Luce of Orphans international Worldwide and his team from New York City. I had actually met them for the first time on a layover in NYC on my way to Haiti. We had a great meeting in Leogane which turned out to last the day as several members of the team joined me in PAP. We met with Americares who will be investing 50 million dollars in Haiti over the next 5 years. We also met with JPHRO, Jenkins Penn (yes, Sean) Haiti Relief Organization who are servicing a refugee camp of 50,000 people in Petionville. I also met Adam Marlatt of Global DIRT who is simply doing incredible work on the ground in Haiti getting supplies, people and patients to where they need to go.

From there I came up with a plan for NGO networking within not only Jacmel but throughout the country. I've been working on that plan this past week, and through NGO partners have presented it to NOAH, the National organization for the ADvancement of Haitians and also to a member of the Haitian American chamber of commerce.

As the plan develops further, I still continue to focus on the job at hand. Getting supplies, volunteers and patients to the most appropriate places to receive care.

My last 2 days in Haiti were busy ones. Our first problem came with finding a hotel in PAP. You wouldn't think this would be a problem but it was. And not in-expensive either, $400 for 3 rooms. Oh, how nice the air conditioning felt. My final day we had a meeting with Direct Relief International and the American Logsitics support network. Then I was off to catch my plane to Cap Haitian in the north while the team returned to Leogane. I had planned to spend more time in Cap to visit the clinic but my meetings in PAP took precedence. My HVH clinic manager, Santo Pierre met me at the airport and then we were quickly off on a Haitian mini-bus to the Dominican border.

It was the first time I had travelled to the Dominican. It's funny, typically the north always seemed much more crowded and chaotic than the south but after having seen the devastation of the earthquake the North truly looked green and beautiful. Santo and I talked busy the entire time to the border, where we decided to purchase a truck for our doctor and nurse...which would double as a part time tap tap (cab service) and also a standby ambulance. It seems like an excellent example of a cost recovery program.

The dominican border is interesting if you are travelling by local transport. I got off the Haitian minibus in Ounaminthe, got on a motorcycle with my suitcase sitting on the handlebars and Santo on a second one. At the border, I paid the Haitian departure tax of $10 USD. Then we continued by motorcycle about 500 feet and that was it. I got off, my suitcase was put into a wheelbarrow and Santo and I crossed to the DR border office. They took my passport, entered it into a computer that had an attached internet card, I paid another $10 USD and I was in. I took a motorocyle with Santo to the Dominican bus station and then boarded a proper air-conditioned bus for Santiago. (3 hours for $5). I must admit, it is a fast and efficient way to travel.

In Santiago, my medical student Roosevelt Pierre (Santo's brother) greeted me at the bus station. Well, I had to use some of my basic spanish, find a pay phone and then eventually through the manager of an internet cafe, I found Roosevelt.

He had a friend pick me up in a cab and we went for dinner before heading back to Roosevelt's dorm room. Myself and 4 others sponsor Roosevelt's medical education. In return he has made a commmittment to us to return to Haiti to work for the Haitian people. He has 18 months until he completes his studies and I am hoping to obtain a residency position in the USA or Canada for him. Doctors like him will be the leaders of tomorrow for Haiti.

So, next morning I was up at 0400 for the Jetblue flight from Santiago to Bermuda via NYC.

It was a whirlwind trip, only 7 days on the ground but it provided me personally with direction as well as my staff on the ground. Haiti Village Health has expanded from our initial clinic in the north but we still uphold the principles of bringing sustainable health care and support to Haitians, by Haitian.

I will be returning to Haiti on Thursday for 10 days for further meetings, and will be spending time at my village in the North.

I will keep you posted.
Tiffany Keenan