Wednesday, February 24. On Arrival

We arrived at Port Au Prince (PAP) from Miami in a flight packed with expat Haitians and members of various charities and missions. The airport building at PAP is closed because of the damages it sustained. They are using a storage structure as the terminal.
This time we had to drive from PAP to Les Cayes because the domestic flights are not working 100% yet. It took us 5 hours to cover the approximate 225 km, and over 1 ½ hours to get through PAP. The capital has been turned into a massive refugee camp and the level of destruction is appalling. The buildings and houses that collapsed were mostly flattened, hence the level of deaths.
Once we left PAP we were shocked to see how much destruction has been caused to community after community along the way. The road is lined by tent villages for many kilometers and the road itself has been badly damaged in various points. It was not until we were close to Les Cayes that we could see regular life going on, the road buzzing with children dressed in school uniforms.
At Les Cayes we went to visit La Bonet, a computer business we want to engage for our computer project. We finally arrived at Ile a Vache close to 10 hours after departing Miami. The island is tranquil like always, but its people are feeling the economic pain of the catastrophe that has affected the country. There is less work both at Les Cayes and at the island itself, for one, the hotels on the island do not have guests and had to cut down their employees. There are also some people from the main island that have moved to Ile a Vache, but not many, and then nearly everybody has lost some family members or friends that lived in the affected areas.
There have been various help initiatives that have reached Ile a Vache after the earthquake. A boat with food and different supplies was brought by the owners of Abaka Bay hotel. Two catamarans from Martinique have delivered rice, baby formula, medicament and other basic supplies to Port Morgan Hotel. From there the supplies are being delivered to Seur Flora orphanage in Madame Bernard and also to our clinic at Kakok.

Thursday, February 25. Clinic Day Work

Early in the morning we go running around the island. We see F, a retarded girl who we know had been raped years ago. We had heard that she had been raped for a second time last year and that she was pregnant. We inquire about her baby and they tell us that she was very ill during her pregnancy and her baby died at a hospital in Les Cayes. She looks more quite than ever and she is definitively a sad girl now. Xavier notices that she has some king of rush and asks her to come to the clinic later today.

We go to the clinic for a day work. There are 17 patients waiting. Among the illnesses treated today are two cases of malaria (diagnosed with the microscope), a broken wrist, baby dehydration, bad cases of skin allergies, fishermen with hand cuts, old people with hypertension, heart conditions and general weakness, and two cases of asthma.

F comes to the clinic and I cannot get a smile from her, not by giving her chocolates or by showing her the pictures I take of her. In the past she had always reacted very happily to both things.

Xavier asks Surzie, the nurse in charge of the clinic, if she has ever talked to F's mother about the possibility of having her take contraceptives. Surzie says she has talked to F's mom and she agreed to have her protected from more unwanted pregnancies. We get a pregnancy test to make sure she is not pregnant before setting her on a course of contraceptives

The clinic is well stoked with medicament, we just noticed that they are lacking some basic supplies (batteries for the stethoscopes, lancets to draw blood, etc)

In the afternoon we touch basis with the school administrators, Alexy and Marie Anne. We have organized a meeting with parents and teachers for tomorrow Friday.

We are also contacting all organizations we know who are currently trying to help Ile a Vache to see if by coordinating efforts to become more efficient. On Saturday we will visit Seur Flora in Madam Bernard and on Tuesday we have a clinic at Cay A'Leau.

Another project we are trying to get started during this visit is the water purification. We have enlisted a couple of good local workers who are currently unemployed to build two prototypes of slow sand filters.

Friday, February 26. The School.

Last night we sustained heavy winds that did not died until midday today. We cannot stop thinking about all the people living in those makeshift tents we saw along the road. They must have been blown away during the night.
In the morning we have another shift at the clinic. Cases of arthritis, bronchitis, fever, a man with a bad genital laceration, a child with a big and old abscess on his leg that has to be opened and drained. Several cases of hypertension and diabetes that came for their scheduled follow up treatment. S, a psychotic regular patient, comes to get her shot. This patient has made a remarkable recovery as to the quality of her life since before of receiving medication she had been ostracized by her community. Xavier treats more cases of severe skin problems.
In the afternoon we have a meeting at the school with parents, administrators and teachers. The meeting was intense and well attended by over 100 people we explain to the parents the effort behind Kakok Foundation for the purpose of helping their community through health and education. We stress the concept that, even thought they do not have to pay for their children to attend, the school is not “free”. We share with them the total annual cost and the breakdown per child. This helps them comprehend the effort needed to run the school.
We explain that there is a lot of solidarity towards Haiti and that we understand how poor their community is, hence our effort to make the school and clinic 100% free of charge. But we ask them to contribute to their community as a means of paying for the free education and health care they receive. We ask for every parent with children attending the school to volunteer community hours to clean up the village and its beaches. Every child whose parent participates in the community effort will receive a voucher to attend the school. We also ask them to be responsible for the good keeping of the school books given to their children so that we can create a book bank in order to lower the yearly cost of books.
The meeting runs for more than 2 hours and we think that it has been quite successful. Among the people asking questions and offering suggestions is Jean Huge Pierre. He is a young and bright man from Ile a Vache who Xavier and I had been helping pay for his studies in Port Au Prince. We came to know him through his brother Yvenel, a boy with a natural talent for painting. In the past years we had commissioned him to paint many signs for the school and the clinic. Few years ago we offered him to help paying for his art studies in Les Cayes if he ever considered seriously following a career.
A couple of years ago Yvenel started working at Port Morgan, the hotel where we always stay in Ile a Vache, and one day he reminded us of our offer. But instead of asking for himself he asked us to consider helping his younger brother Jean Hughe, a very dedicated and bright student, to pursue University studies at PAP to become a teacher.
We were moved by Yvenel's generosity and we committed to pay for Jean Hughe's studies at PAP's University. Jean Hughe was at PAP when the earthquake did strike on January 12th. He was trapped for one day under the rubble of his cousin's house where he was living. He lost everything and many of his fellow students. His college has been destroyed, he is psychologically affected and he does not know when, or if, he can resume his career.
At the school meeting Jean Hughe asked what could be done to help those students who show top qualities. He offered to teach an advanced seminar in order to help the brightest students to improve their opportunities. He explained that he felt obliged to give something back to the community because the way he had been helped. This left us thinking about starting a program to finance higher education at Les Cayes for one student every year who turns out as the best of the last year school class.

Saturday, February 27th. Madam Bernard.

Last night there was extremely heavy rain and our thoughts went again to those living in tents.
We set running early in the morning to Madam Bernard (a 2 hour walk distance) to talk to Seur Flora. She runs an orphanage with 65 children, 20 of which are severely handicapped. She also runs a school for 400 children and a clinic. She is a remarkable, tiny, Canadian nun who has been working in Ile a Vache for the past 22 years.
On the way to Madam Bernard we stop at every village with a school to talk to the principals. We are gathering information and making contacts in order to better know the resources in the island and see if we can join efforts in the future.
Seur Flora updates us on her establishment. She says that around 100 children from PAP who have lost their parents have arrived in Ile a Vache. They are mostly living with local families but they all attend her school and she feeds them. She received food supplies by helicopters from the international help plan working at PAP, and she is being supported by CRS and USAID Haiti. We exchange information about the running of the schools, books and medication purchasing. We give her a $1,000 donation,
We run fast on our way back because ominous clouds are gathering. We arrive at Port Morgan right when the sky seems to be falling over our heads. It has been torrential rain for most of the day today. We had leaks in the room and it is impossible to see ten feet away. We have heard that Les Cayes is flooded. We cannot start imagining what is going on with the displaced people in the main island.

Monday, March 1, 2010. The Clinic.

Today it has been a tough one. This morning we went to the clinic by boat because we had some boxes with medical supplies to take with us. They are part of the relief supplies that had arrived at Port Morgan Hotel from Martinique. The rest went to Seur Flora's clinic.
As soon as we start visiting patients, a distressed family arrives with an 8-month baby boy having severe convulsions. The baby has a temperature of 104 F and has great difficulty breathing. He is totally stiff. Chaos follows. Xavier starts applying oxygen and inserts a gastrointestinal tube to pump empty his stomach in order to stop the baby breathing his vomit. At the same time he uses a syringe to pour paracetamol into his mouth. We do not have intravenous Valium to inject him. We fill a palanquin with water and submerge the baby in it trying to keep his temperature low. We know we have to transport it to the hospital in Les Cayes if he is to survive.
I call Port Morgan hotel and ask them to send us a boat to transport the baby to the main land. I also ask them to send some money with the boat and to arrange some land transport at Les Cayes to drive them to the hospital. In Haiti there is no State subsided health care, if you cannot pay it, you do not get the treatment.
After 45' or so, a small boat from the hotel arrives and Xavier goes with the baby, his mom, his grandma and Surzie. It is a very small boat and it is going to take them a while to reach the main land. I remain at the clinic with Zet, the nursing assistant, and we help the rest of the patients as well as we can.
I wait for hours to know what happened. It takes well into the afternoon to get the news. After they had left from the clinic, Port Morgan Hotel sent a faster boat to chase the first one they had sent. So, the four people and the baby had to change boats in the middle of the see. Once they arrived at Les Cayes the transportation waiting for them was a motorcycle! Xavier jumped on the back of it with the baby and they sped to the hospital. By the time they arrived the convulsions had diminished and the baby was seen straight away by a hospital pediatrician. Xavier paid for the admission and assured the hospital that we would cover their bill. We still don't know the final diagnosis, though it seems the baby had severe bronchitis. It seems that he has good chances of recovering.
In the afternoon we have an accounting meeting with the school administrator and the director. We are not totally satisfied with the way the school is being run and we start thinking how to make improvements.

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010. Cay A'Leau.

We have a meeting at the school with the teachers at 8 am, right before the beginning of the first class. Xavier explains to them the philosophy of Kakok Foundation and its charity status. We are not a business and the school is not a business. The Etoile du Matin School was built for the community. We ask them about their work at the school and for any suggestions they might have.

Today is “Dispanse Kakok on wheels”. We are going with the clinic staff to spend the day at Cay A'Leau to tend to the population of this tiny island. Captain Pierrot, a local fishermen, takes 5 of us and plenty of medicament and supplies for a 30 minute ride on his small boat with heavy waves because of strong winds.
Cay A'Leau is somehow chaotic. There are over 100 people, mostly women and children, packed in the small school waiting for us to set up. Surzie is in charge of the pharmacy, Zet does the triage of the patients, and she registers them by writing on a sheet of paper their names, age, health issues, temperature and blood pressure. Marie and I help with the flow of patients and assist Xavier.
We visit 52 patients and the health issues are very similar to the ones we see in Ile a Vache: hypertension, malaria, infections, skin problems, wounds, back aches and here there is a lot of eye problems and cataracts. The island is mostly bare of any trees and it is covered by white sand, so the amount of light is enormous.
The oldest patients we see is an 82 year old woman and the youngest a 19 day-old baby. We distribute lots of medications. We cannot see all patients because our captain needs to leave by 2 pm. Walking back from the Dispanse to the hotel we come across the grandfather of the baby with the convulsion. He says they still do not have any news.
All in all we have seen quite a number of people, mostly children, from PAP living now in Ile a Vache, and even in Cay A'Leau. We heard that around 500,000 people have left PAP.

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010. Back to Miami

We are going back to Miami today. The boat from the hotel takes us to Le Cayes where we meet the guy who took Xavier and the ill baby to the hospital on the motorcycle. He says that he went back to the hospital to inquire about the baby because he was very happy having been able to help. He says that he had never used his motorcycle service as an ambulance. He tells us that the baby seems to be recovering.
We have been able to arrange to go on a five-seat plane from Les Cayes to PAP. The plane belongs to a mission from the USA that helps piloting small planes to transport aid. They were bringing supplies to Les Cayes and they sell the empty seats for the return to us and to other 4 people.
We have many hours of waiting time at PAP's airport. Xavier is calling the doctor who took care of the baby at Le Cayes hospital and he is telling him that the baby had recovered and the parents took him home without wanting them to make further tests.