Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Re-Opening of the Haiti Room; That was Then, This is Now

When I've gone to Haiti in the past, the month prior to departure transforms our dining room into what Greg affectionately calls The Haiti Room, with the big table covered with donated supplies, clothing, and all my "Haiti gear"- strewn about in piles, bags, and an ordered chaos that only I understand. But I didn't plan to open the Haiti room for this March trip.

On departure day of my December 2009 trip, last minute, I had the unpleasant surprise of the airline restricting passengers to 2 50-lb bags. So I packed up boxes and bags of the excess stuff, intending to take the second round of things this March. I happily gloated to myself that I wouldn't need to collect and sort all the stuff, as I already had loads of scrubs to take, and quite few bundles of medical supplies I could pack& go with. I ALSO gloated-- maybe this is a do-not-gloat lesson-- that I had only myself transport, no need to finance Stephen's part, and that Loudoun Community Midwives would donate my airfare as usual-- I wouldn't need to harass my friends and family with "begging money for Haiti" pleas. Oh, how orderly and "ready in advance for the next trip" I felt. Yeah, well. That was Then, This is Now....

As we all are painfully aware, the earth then shook Port au Prince and southern Haiti on Jan 12, 2010, like a terrier shakes a rat. The largest, capital city of one of the most fragile, least developed and poorly organized infrastructures on the planet, essentially crumpled like a pile of crackers, and now all the plans are changed. In fact, there are very few plans. Now we have hopes, and ideas, of how to help Haiti, but the grief and the unknowns are very difficult to navigate, and plans are very hard to make. Taking a lesson from the Haitian people, however, who DO NOT give up, EVER, I see people from all around the world and especially America, rallying to help. Midwives for Haiti has every intention of continuing and expanding our work to try to help Haitian women by training and supporting midwives in Haiti, and expanding skilled maternity care where it is needed most. American Airlines resumes service to Port au Prince on Jan 29 and some of "our people" will be on a flight this coming week-- and so on into the spring.

So, the Haiti Room is re-opened, and I'm getting ready for a trip March 5-13.
For my incredible supporters who have been asking already, here are the needs as understood right now:

Mostly, Money. I have my airfare covered, so funds will be spent in Haiti informal economy on food, fuel, travel, or otherwise donated to churches, schools, orphanages, or to buy medical supplies or other urgent needs of the trip. Just send me a check (home address or Loudoun Community Midwives,19465 Deerfield Ave. Suite 205 Lansdowne VA 20176). I will take as much as I get, and use it well. I never leave Haiti with more than $10 in my pocket. (Then I land in Miami and find an ATM!) If you'd like a receipt from a charity for tax purposes, then donate by sending checks or online donations to MidwivesforHaiti.org. Those will pay for salaries of Haitian midwives, medications, and staffing a new maternity center in Cite Soleil, the biggest slum in Port au Prince, with our graduates.

Hotel "Points" or Miles
In the past, I've been offered credit card "miles" or "points" to help with travel. This time, our trip group needs 2 rooms at the Miami airport for Friday night, March 5. Any Miami airport hotel. There is nowhere safe to stay overnight in Port au Prince, as we have done in the past, so we need to rendezvous in Miami then fly in together on Saturday. I will be leading my group of 2-3 RN's from Minnesota who have volunteered to help teach midwives nursing skills, help in maternity, or other med-surg/ER duties as needed at the hospital.

Supplies and Donations-
We can only take 2 bags each, as we may travel more in trucks this time-- but I know it will help to take
BedSheets (Theard says people are lying on the concrete floor of the hospital)
Ace Bandages, gauze, wound-care dressings
Pitocin, Antibiotics, Magnesium Sulfate, Prenatal Vitamins and Iron (discuss with me if you'd like to help purchase, I can get thru a wholesale pharmacy)

Help me Organize the Stuff, Later in February
In later February, before the trip, I will need some help getting the donations into orderly piles, ziploc bags, and bundles that will make sense when I am pulling them out of my suitcase at the hospital and a baby is crowning or a lady is bleeding or seizing. People who come to my house will be given beer or cookies. (Greg is conveniently going to a ReMAX convention in Florida the week before I go...my, he is learning how to survive this process quite well. I think our marriage will survive Haiti after all.)
I can't do this all myself, I am learning, and I know I have friends ( a lot of good, kind friends) who will help.

Thanks & God Bless.
Welcome Back to the Haiti Room! Grab a seat! There is a chair underneath those plastic bags somewhere...no, beside the gloves and the Lidocaine...

PS: Update: My wonderful financial planner, Ed Skelly of Sterling Financial Partners, has generously offered to match the first $500 cash/check donations to this trip 1:1, to help fund the purchase of drugs and medical supplies. My friends, you blow me away. : )

Thursday, January 14, 2010

News & Ways to Help

Midwives for Haiti has great news in that Shelly, our most recent American CNM volunteer, is unhurt, in Port au Prince. When and how she will get home to the US is another thing entirely, but thank God, she's safe. Here is an update from Nadene Brunk, the founder of Midwives for Haiti, in response to many concerned inquiries regarding the M4H project and the general situation in Haiti. God Bless you All for caring!

(see also: mercycorps.org)


Dear friends of Midwives for Haiti,
Many of you contacted me today to see if you could help us in any way. The devastation in Haiti is unbelievable for those of us who knew how bad it was before and frightening to think how many people who we loved are no longer alive.
Our teachers, students, and friends are safe in Hinche and the program will go on.
However, we know the worst need is in PAP. There is a rumor that AA is offering free airfare to doctors and nurses. Call 212-697-9767 to check it out.
Many want to go to PAP to help with relief there. But getting there is one thing and where you will stay, how you will get there from the airport and what you will eat or drink while there is difficult to predict. The missionaries we know in PAP are alive but have limited resources to house and feed others. I hesitate to give their names and numbers because they are not certain how long their own resources will last. We have not heard from our faithful drivers and translators in PAP.
We will continue our program in Hinche because it is more needed than ever. I think we will be able to have transport from PAP to Hinche lined up in the next week.
But if you want to go to PAP to help, know that you need to be a part of an organization that is really big and really organized or you may be in the same shape as the other survivors- wondering where you will sleep and what you will eat.
If we can partner with another organization that particularly wants to put midwives to work in PAP, we will get the information to you as soon as we can. Suggested organizations- Mennonite Central Committee, The American Red Cross, the UNFPA, Doctors Without Borders ( who could not find staff and doctors today to work in 3 toppled hospitals), Christian Services International, Circle of Health International (http://www.cohintl.org/)

Nadene Brunk

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


January 12, evening time, a huge earthquake hit near Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital.
Many friends who follow this blog or who just care about Haiti and our midwife training program, are emailing and texting to see if we have any special needs or information on the situation.

Of course, good news- bad news.
Good news; Hinche, where our midwife training program is headquartered, is about 70 miles northeast of Port au Prince, in the mountains. Nadene heard today by email from Danise, our Haitian midwife- teacher "I'm ok, no problem in Hinche". Nadene also reported everyone at Heartline Ministries, (Beth & John McHoul, etc.) our Port-au-Prince hosts when we travel through,are shaken but safe. So there are some big sighs of relief.
Of concern is Shelly,B. our American CNM volunteer who was working in Hinche last week. She was planning to be in PaP around now, and we do not yet know how/where she is, last I knew. My son Stephen has a Quaker friend, Julian, who was in PaP with his sister; they escaped a crumbling building but both have some injuries from rubble. My heart goes out to the Haitians, and friends there trying to help. It makes me weep to know that before this event, they were barely scraping by in terms of health care, infrastructure, and functionality...now what?
I think of the ravine below Petionville, housing 70,ooo souls in tiny huts and shacks, and I am afraid to imagine what has occurred there. Clearly our country, and the international community is going to their aid, and I thank everyone for praying, very hard, for all the people in Haiti.