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Service Programs

Women Offer Health Care and Education in Haiti

Cap-Haitian, Haiti - A dozen nurses and students from the US spent a week in northern Haiti offering health education and care to people in impoverished sections of Cap-Haitian from May 28 to June 4. This year’s project was the Women's Federation for World Peace's fourth annual service project in Haiti, the second one since the January 12, 2010 earthquake. Our focus to help those suffering from diverse health situations and poverty became more vital and intense following the outflow of earthquake victims who came to the Cap-Haitian, the second largest city in Haiti (where we have concentrated our most recent efforts). Even before the new arrivals, this city of 190,000 people on Haiti's northern coast had been straining to care for its citizens.

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Last year, based on the people’s request, we promised Cap-Haitian’s Mayor Fritz Joseph we would return this year and provide a health education seminar and a mobile medical clinic with ALHMEDA, the volunteer doctor team we have worked with in recent years.

I was joined by 11 outstanding volunteers from across the United States. There were six registered nurses: Beatrice Abbott and her husband Earl from Tampa, Florida; Lydia Martin, a friend of the Abbotts; Gudrun Gavin from Minnesota; Margaret Brewster from Boston, Massachusetts; and Julia DePauw, from Jacksonville, Florida. We were joined by four students from the University of South Florida: Joelle Abbott, Robin Baldwin, Manasa Kanithi, Huong Phan, and and by Kathleen Heitzinger, a high school student from New Mexico.

We met at the Ft. Lauderdale International Airport before boarding a plane for Santiago, Dominican Republic. From Santiago, we traveled west to the Haiti border, where Mayor Joseph’s brother met us and drove us to Cap-Haitian. We were blessed to have a large guesthouse waiting for us, rented for a year by Mark Spowage from California. We were welcomed by the mayor and three Haitians who worked with us for the entire week: Gardy Charles, Douyon Dameus, and Dimache Jackson. We had introductions and a planning session over dinner. Afterwards, we prepared the medications we had brought and retired for the night.


We spent our first day in Haiti viewing one of the world’s most wondrous sites, the Citadelle Laferrière, a large mountaintop fortress approximately 17 miles south of Cap-Haitian and five miles uphill from the town of Milot. It is the largest fortress in the Americas and was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1982—along with the nearby Sans Souci Palace. An icon of Haiti, the fortress was built by Henri Christophe, a key leader during the Haitian slave rebellion, after Haiti gained independence from France in 1804. It takes two hours to walk the road leading up to the Citadelle. It was a long climb, but everyone enjoyed themselves and took many pictures. We also enjoyed the Sans Souci Palace. While sitting in the park we met three Catholic nuns with whom we talked at length.

Health education seminar

We began our second day by traveling to a local gymnasium prepared by the Mayor Joseph. Once there we waited for the arrival of civic leaders, women’s organization leaders, and an association of midwife leaders from all over northern Haiti. Mrs. Beatrice Abbott, who is originally from Haiti and retired from the U.S. Air Force, led the seminar with presentations on hypertension, diabetes, infectious diseases, and malnutrition. She was caring and sensitive to the participants, reminding them of the need to simply wash their hands to prevent the spread of germs. She gave great advice on the above topics, indicating the need to change from a diet based on carbohydrates to one based on fruits and vegetables. Next, her husband spoke about first aid, CPR, and the Heimlich Maneuver. One older gentleman was so moved by this. He related a story of someone who had gone into cardiac arrest was taken to the morgue only to later revive; afterwards, the people thought he was a zombie and beat him to death with sticks. This reminded me of the Biblical verse: ”My people perish for the lack of knowledge.”

Mrs. Julia DePauw gave a wonderful presentation on midwifery. The midwives, some with 40 to 50 years of experience, were impressed. She covered all aspects of midwifery including prenatal care, essentials of birth, assisting with birth, complications, and post-partum care. She brought charts and explained what to do in emergencies such as when the child is in a breech position. She said that is best to bring the mother to the hospital, since a Cesarean Section may be necessary; she also showed how to turn the baby around in the womb in case the mother could not get to the hospital. Dr. Monique Jean, one of the ALHMEDA volunteer doctors, helped by answering some of the more technical questions.

The second day of the health seminar began with Mrs. DePauw continuing her session on midwifery by answering questions from a group of midwives. At the same, Mrs. Lydia Martin, assisted by Miss Huong Phan, gave a presentation on dental hygiene to the rest of the participants. She talked about basic dental care such as proper brushing techniques to avoid cavities, brushing of the gums to prevent gum disease, and brushing of the tongue to eliminate bacteria that could cause not only bad breathe but tooth decay. She brought many charts for the people to view and closed her session by handing out toothbrushes and toothpaste.

After this, Mrs. Margaret Brewster spoke on homeopathic first aid. She also introduced into foot reflexology, handing out a chart that showed all the systems of the body that can be affected positively by properly massaging the feet. She covered the whole anatomy, including the skeletal, muscular, nervous, and lymphatic systems. She showed ways to help the heart, lungs, liver, and reproductive system. The audience was amazed and excited about using these techniques even at home. Mrs. Brewster concluded her presentation by handing out 40 samples of plant-based homeopathic medicine to each woman leader present.

Altogether 250 persons participated in the two days of health seminars. Each received a beautiful certificate with their name on it, signed by Mrs. Angelika Selle, President of the Women's Federation for World Peace-USA, Mayor Fritz Joseph, Mrs. Brewster, Miss Kanithi, and myself.

Mobile medical clinic

On day four we traveled to Nan Banaan, a very impoverished area of the city. The people came to us with many kinds of ailments. One hundred and fifty families and individuals were already there, waiting to be seen. Our team of nurses worked seamlessly with the doctors from ALHMEDA: Dr. Monique Jean saw 63 people by herself, working five hours with no break until the other doctors arrived. Then, Drs. Jean Marie Colin and Wilgan Mompremier took over and saw another 87 people, working until 6:00 PM. While the doctors gave consultations and prescribed medicines, Mr. Abbott, Mrs. Gavin, and I handled the pharmacy. At the same time, Mrs. Martin took the patients' blood pressure. The others registered the patients and helped with the pharmacy before departing to visit a small elementary school, where they handed out toys to the kids. The patients were very moved by the doctors and the nurses and the care they gave.

The next day we went to Conasa, another part of Cap-Haitian. We were welcomed by the Delegate who is responsible for that area. Life in Conasa is difficult for adults and children alike. They lack the basic necessities of life, such as clean drinking water, sanitation, food, and shelter. Again the doctors saw about 150 patients, many of them anemic and suffering from malnutrition and worms. Mrs. DePauw, Mrs. Martin, and Mrs. Abbott took the blood pressure, while I translated for the patients so they could receive proper medication. At one point we had to go out and buy more vitamins and medicine. Everyone was grateful for all the medicines, toys, toothbrushes, and toothpaste that were donated by many people. The need is truly enormous.

While we were tending to the patients, some of the students went to a school and others went to a orphanage. At the Baptiste Evangelical Ebenezer College, they visited eight classes with about 160 students. Robin Baldwin taught some English lessons while Huong Phan and Dimache Jackson showed students how to brush their teeth; they distributed toothbrushes and toothpaste and also gave out toys. At Stella Home, where about 40 orphans reside, Manasa Kanithi and Kathleen Heitzinger gave out toys, flip-flops, toothbrushes, and toothpaste to the children. They also played games and sang with them.

We finished these four days of service with great satisfaction at being able to help people physically as well as uplift them spiritually. Our desire was to give people a taste of God’s love, expressing the paradigm of “living by the logic of love” as taught by the Women's Federation for World Peace founder, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon. We encouraged them to practice this way of life as well, taking responsibility for themselves and helping their neighbors.

Haiti has some of the most beautiful beaches anywhere. On the final day, we enjoyed the chance to relax on the shore of the Caribbean Sea before coming back to the States.

I want to thank each volunteer from the bottom of my heart for their love and sacrifice to serve the people of Haiti. My hope is that this vital work can blossom, especially with the interest many important people showed in our character education curriculum.


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