YourStory International is proud to announce that our summer sessions have begun and are a huge success so far. Caroline Mountain will be sending us updates from Haiti until the end of June, including advocate work and training, interviews with various advocates and locals, and some awesome photography! We are launching a new series-- Greetings From Haiti-- to share these updates with you.
Day 1: The advocates and officers for session three arrived in the Port au Prince airport excited to see Haiti (for many it was their first time) and get settled in the compound. After driving to the compound, orientation led by our president, Kevin, and a freshly cooked meal, the advocates began adjusting and enjoying the beautiful, welcoming nature of Pont Morel.
Day 2: Kevin taught advocates how to talk to patients about their health. “Kevin had different advocates pretend to be patients and demonstrated to us what to check for. Kevin showed us how to look at different people's conjunctivae to tell whether not they have anemia.” Later in the day, “we [walked] over to the neighborhood down the street [called Guerin]. We set up three stations and collected information from people in the neighborhood about their health. The immediate interest from those in the neighborhood was shocking!” Caroline explains that, “our goal when we go into a neighborhood like that is to screen people to see if they really do need medical assistance, and if they do, we [can] find them [again] tomorrow to book them an appointment in the clinic. All the advocates got great experience, having public health related conversations.”
Day 3: One of the many joys of summers in Haiti, is that it gets “HOT HOT...wow.” Despite the heat, the advocates, Kevin, and Allie all hit the road to sign people up for appointments. They split into two groups-- one in Morel and one in Guerin--, and as soon as they set up, people flocked to the stations for help. “In [the above] photo Kevin is training the advocates on how to diagnose patients and how the patients can help themselves. The advocates taught locals how to change their diets and lifestyles to benefit their health, such as lowering their heart pressure, acid reflux, and prevention of mosquito and water-born illnesses. The growth of the advocates by the end of the day was remarkable, they grew from being timid, to speaking up to their patients on their own.” Kevin also emphasizes to advocates how to speak directly to patients to make sure the patients understand how important what we're telling them is! “In this photo Alicia and Shayla, two advocates from UMass Amherst are teaching patients about topics such as mosquito and water born illnesses before their appointments.”
During these first few days, Caroline interviewed Alec O'Brien, a rising junior at UMass Amherst. He is a public health major. Alec said that, “[we] saw some very serious things, [and] it felt good to feel important and connected to the community. We stopped to see one person, and by the end we saw over thirty people! It felt good to be able to ask questions, diagnose them, and check basic things [that we take for granted]. Being able to give them public health education on things that could substantially improve their health [feels good]. It was tough to see a lot of people that I knew wouldn't be able to afford the healthcare they needed or get it in time. For example, one young boy had what we believed to be lymphoma. It's very hard to see a lot of conditions that people live in that they have no control over... It's hard to see people live with issues that could be easily [fixed] in America." Alec said that, “I realized there were so many things I didn't even know to be grateful for. It was hard... But it was good to see how grateful people were for our help. It was very inspiring to see Kevin work so late and see as many people as he possible could. It really opened my eyes to how lucky I am. Not everyone can just go to Haiti to help, but there is so much basic human kindness that we can do too."
Day 4: Today was the clinic day, so all of the work-- signing people up and doing preliminary exams-- started to pay off. Advocates, with the help of translators, went to pick up the patients for their appointments. Each patient is given some basic health training and education, then brought into an exam room to speak with one of our health professionals. “In the photo below, Alex, a nursing student from UMass Amherst, is taking the blood pressure of a patient. This is to assist Kevin in the diagnosis of the patient. The clinic required a lot of work and patience from the advocates, and with of the help of the translators, Dr. Tony, Kevin, and Nurse Allie, they all got great hands-on learning experience. In total, we saw and were able to assist 84 patients! Today was a great success for YSI.”