Wednesday, December 4, 2013

It is the Season of Joy (and Hopes) for Midwives For Haiti

Just 17 days ago I sat and watched as 23 very proud and very new midwives sashayed up the aisle of the room above the Ebenezer market to their honored seats for their graduation ceremony.  The joy I felt was tinged with a sense of shock and grief because my brother had been killed in a tragic tree-cutting accident in Ohio 8 days before and I had just returned from his funeral. I sat and thought of the men who told me at his funeral that they would have never sat foot in Haiti if it was not for my brother recruiting them to come to help him with a construction project that needed their welding, electrician, or construction skills. I thought about all the people who are changed forever when they have contact and see with their own eyes the depth of the poverty and hunger in Haiti. I thought about all the good my brother had done for others in his life and what a senseless loss it was to lose him. It was really hard to get back into my life in Haiti that day.

But while the graduates sang and danced I was able to feel their joy and hope. We have hope they will find jobs - as did 95% of our past graduates - because to have a job means the world shifts for their families and the empowerment they feel is worth the work of MFH by itself. But with the additional high probability that each of these women will touch the lives of hundreds of women and babies each year for the rest of their lives- that is joy.

It was really a highlight of the weekend to have a team from Every Mother Counts and Christy Turlington Burns, the founder, present for the ceremony. They sponsored most of the costs of the education of these midwives this past year. They gave us the great news that they were going to continue their support for another year- such support allows us to expand our reach in other areas of our program and know the costs of training another class is a sure thing for our budget. 

On Monday we gave the team a tour of the hospital.  By the time Christy and her team arrived in the early afternoon all looked clean and orderly and every midwife looked totally in control. But what I did not know until later was that that morning our volunteers and students had arrived to find many women and babies on the floor who had delivered during the night or were in labor. I loved hearing the stories from Wendy and Jenn and Alica about the TLC our students gave to the women as they cleaned them and organized all of them into those that went home and those that needed beds! You can see Wendy's interview with Christy here:

There is much to be joyful about when we look at the number of women served by our mobile prenatal clinics- @600/month and those served in birth centers and hospitals all around Haiti- over 3000 per month in six of the 10 districts of Haiti.

There is also such promise of better things to come for the babies in the Central Plateau as Ohio State University is training 5 nurses to run a special care nursery and the equipment arrives for it mid-January. Monica Terez is leading the training, learning the language, learning how to get around in Hinche. OSU could not have chosen a more passionate nurse for this job. All those babies that have been lost in the past due to a lack of trained nurses and the ability to give them some support with respiration, feeding tubes, breastmilk, kangaroo care, warmth, etc. will now live and go home with their mothers. It will be a momentous day when that unit opens! This picture is of Monica assisting at a rural prenatal clinic.

And we bought another vehicle the week after graduation! As everything is in Haiti - it was difficult beyond belief with multiple obstacles to overcome. So we feel a sense of accomplishment and deep gratitude to have finally done this.  Every time I sat in another office and learned there was another fee, another certificate we needed, another hurdle to leap, I thought about all of our donors who gave so generously so that we can continue our mobile clinic program by having a substitute vehicle for our frequently crippled pink Jeep. As MFH still does not have official NGO status- a feat still in process- I am now the owner of the most expensive vehicle I have ever or will ever own- and will probably rarely drive it - have you seen the traffic in Port-au-Prince????!!!!!!

This next year holds such promise for good for Midwives For Haiti. I am thrilled to have a team in Hinche that includes Brittany, our house and volunteer coordinator- the title does not begin to describe all she does, and Emily Davis, our long-term volunteer from Brethren Volunteer Services who will head our data collection project, and Jenna Schmitz, CPM, a return volunteer who will stay for 7 months and has a proven track record of amazing feats every time she has worked with us. Each of these women gets a small stipend and lives with cold showers and the heat and the bugs and the dust- well, you get the idea- and their greatest joy is the chocolate our volunteers bring in every form imaginable. Brittany is becoming a great salsa dancer, Emily is learning the language, and Jenna is already changing things for the better for students and mobile clinics. These women give me JOY and if you met them you would know there is also HOPE for this world because of people like them!

Midwives For Haiti also faces many challenges for 2014. The outpouring of aid for Haiti is dwindling as the earthquake gets further into the past. As the board of directors struggles with what programs to cut in order to make the budget work, we are in pain when we realize some cuts may mean some Haitians losing their jobs. It is almost unthinkable. Most of our employees support extended families who will not eat or have a roof over their head without their relative's employment. We are short $80,000 and are busy thinking of ways to cut corners and still meet the needs of as many pregnant women as possible.

Life is fragile and precious. Midwives For Haiti programs are fragile and precious. In the past we have known both grief and joy. So we face the new year with hope and faith that together all of us can spread the joy.