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Service Programs

Building a Culture of Heart, Peace and Service in Haiti

Our service project in Les Cayes, Haiti June 15-29 focused on building a culture of heart and service. We focused our energies on developing relationships between Haitian students and American students for the purpose of learning each other's cultures, traditions, and lifestyles. This journey that was foreign to all of us was embarked upon by 30 people from both countries. The vision for the service project was to promote one family under God.

The project took place in Platon, Les Cayes, which is located near the peak of the Macaya Mountains. There, we planted moringa trees near the peak, to offset deforestation and helped serve the medical needs of the inhabitants of this region.

We arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on June 15 to begin the most incredible adventure of our lives. At the airport, we boarded a school bus that took us to our orientation, where we met our group leader and other members of our group. Then we headed south. After a three-hour ride we arrived in the city of Les Cayes. We held our orientation and meeting to discuss the plans for the next 10 days, which consisted of planting 1000 moringa trees donated by International Relief Friendship Foundation (IRFF) under the direction of Mr. Richard Sapp, and the medical service project with the medical group ALMEDHA (Alliance Des Medicins Haitian).

In the morning we met with the mayor of Les Cayes, Mr. Pierre Yvon Chery, and the Les Cayes city delegate, Mr. Abou Yves Mary at the delegate’s office. We shared about our project with them. They were very interested in our project and stated that they would like to partner with us in the future. They shared a lot about the historical facts and culture of Les Cayes with all of us.      

Trip to the Mountain

On June 17, at about 8:00 a.m., we left for Platon on an adventurous trip. We had to cross the Port Canal River on foot, which was a great experience for everyone. Most of our team members never had such an opportunity before. Everyone was very excited. We held hands together as we crossed the river. The water was clear as crystal and cool. The children from the community welcomed us, and many were swimming in the glistening, shimmering stream. We heard that at certain times the river can swell so much that no one can cross it.  It was a spectacular sight to see this beautiful, clear river. We crossed it without any problems and headed for the mountain.

Before entering the mountain, we stopped in a small town to get ourselves ready for the road ahead. We started climbing the mountain after lunch. We walked and walked for miles. While walking we met many of the inhabitants of the peak on their way to sell their goods at the market. The people of this mountain walk many miles every day—some 8, 12 to 24 hours from the peak to Platon. They were very surprised to see people from various ethic groups—black, Asian and white—walking and talking together with such friendship. They asked us, “What are you doing? Where are you going?” We told them that we had come to serve their community to plant moringa trees, and do a medical project in Platon.

They knew how far Platon was and how far we would have to go. At the time we really did not know how far we would really have to walk to reach the summit. So they were in awe that we would travel that far to serve them, and they thanked us for coming.

From this walking experience, we learned about the difficult life of these people who have to walk days and hours under difficult circumstances to find a way to make money to live. We saw all ages walking this path—old men, women, children, pregnant women carrying heavy loads, sweating heavily. We saw all kinds of animals, such as horses and mules carrying heavy loads, as well as cows, goats, and sheep, walking ready to be sold in the market. We also learned that in these communities there are no clinics, hospitals, even doctors to see these people. They live far away from civilization. They have to walk many miles to sell their goods to obtain money for their daily needs.  Walking up the mountain was an unforgettable experience for all of us.

Medical Service

Early the next day, we had our prayers and gathered to receive instructions for the day’s activities. At 8:00 a.m., the medical group ALMEDHA left to begin the medical project, a mobile clinic in an elementary school. During that first day alone, they were able to hold consultations for 176 people. Among these patients was one girl 10 years old who had yellow fever. The doctors administered intravenous care and monitored her all day to make sure that she was out of danger and prescribed her medicine. Another patient had an abscess inside of his mouth that required surgery. They were able to perform the immediate surgery to save that man’s teeth. Without the surgery that man would have lost all of his teeth, and the infection would have eventually affected his whole body.

On the second day of work, the doctors saw 76 patients, mostly children. Most of the children were diagnosed with malnutrition. Vitamins were given to all the children. Some had eye and ear infections. Due to a lack of medication, the doctors had to stop the consultations. Much of the medicines were given out the first day.

All together, 252 people were able to be consulted and received medicine for their various illnesses. Many had no money to buy medicine or even to go to the town, which is almost impossible for most of the people. The fact that we were there during those days to serve the people in Platon brought great relief to their medical needs. We were also able to distribute over a thousand toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes to the patients.

Moringa Trees

After lunch on June 19, we visited the location where the moringa trees seedlings were prepared for planting. A thousand seedlings, pails, heavy-duty shovels, and black gloves were donated by IRFF. We had a briefing in which Agriculturalist Lebien Jeandini Laurenceau and Mr. Sony Thelusma demonstrated the ways to plant the trees. The land that was being prepared for the trees was donated by the parents of Mr. Sony Thelusma, and they will take care of the trees and prepare them for future distribution to help reverse deforestation caused by cutting trees to make charcoal.

Seminars will be given by Mr. Sony Thelusma to educate the community about the health, nutritional, and environmental value of the moringa tree, to deter people from cutting them down. Educating the community and giving them seedlings to plant on their own farms is a way of giving new hope to the people living in Platon and the peak of Macaya. Our hope is that the trees will continue to grow and that people’s health will improve by the consuming of the leaves, flowers, and pods. This is one of the solutions to end malnutrition and help the environment.

We left Platon very early in the morning for the city of Les Cayes. In the afternoon, we went to the Immaculate Conception Hospital, where we visited the maternity and pediatric wards. In the afternoon, we visited the ACUSH (Association Des Coeurs Unies Sud d’Haiti). This organization hopes to reverse deforestation by teaching people how to create charcoal out of other material. Seminars will be given to the people to explain the value of trees for themselves and the environment. Presentations about the charcoal briquettes will help them understand that there are other alternatives that are much easier and better for them and that will protect the environment.

We left for Port-au-Prince to begin our political visits. While we were there we visited the Minister of Justice and Public Security Judge McEdume Kenson as well as the Judge Tribunal of the City of Delmas. We were able to learn how the justice system works in Haiti. The students asked many questions pertaining to laws of both USA and Haiti. We visited the judges' chambers and were invited to watch different judicial sessions.

End of the Journey

The end of our journey in Haiti came too soon for all of us. We boarded our Tap,Tap with tears to go back; remembering the experiences all the members of the Haitian and the USA team had together. Time stood still for many of us who served the people of Haiti. We met and worked with many wonderful people. We saw the reality and the suffering of the people who lived there and are grateful that we were able to make a difference in their lives.  During our service project we brought smiles, joy, happiness, and comfort to the people in Platon and Les Cayes. The tears, the walks, and smiles truly are something else. We will remember them forever. We only wish we could stay longer and give more.

We realize that the needs are great. Life in the countryside is very difficult. We hope to inspire others to give more and to build clinics, so the people will be helped on a daily basis. It is our hope that someone will be inspired to make it possible for a medical clinic to be built in Platon to help resolve the people’s medical needs and save many lives in the future.

NOTE: Moringas are considered one of the world’s most useful trees, as almost every part of the tree can be used for food or has some other beneficial property. The immature sed pods are generally prepared in a similar fashion to green beans. The seeds are sometimes removed from mature pods and eaten like peas or roasted like nuts. The seeds yield an edible oil and the seed cake remaining after oil extraction may be used as a fertilizer or as a flocculent to purify water. The flowers are edible when cooked. The leaves are cooked and used like spinach, being a significant source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, protein, iron, and potassium. The leaves are also commonly dried and crushed into a powder which is used in soups and sauces. The roots are shredded and used as a condiment in the same way as horseradish. The bark, sap, roots, leaves, seeds, oil, and flowers are used in traditional medicine in several countries.

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