Name: Herlyne Das
School: Brandeis University
Major(s): Biology and HSSP: Health Science Society Policy within the Pre-Medicine Track
Class year: 2018
When did you get involved with YSI?
I got involved May 2015.
Which expeditions have you gone on?
I have gone on Summer 2015’s expedition in May, as well as, the expeditions that just happened this summer. May 20-June 5 2016.
What is your current position? Can you describe your main responsibilities?
In Haiti, I am a group leader and clinical coordinator. On campus I am the vice president of the Brandeis chapter of YSI. As one of the group leaders in Haiti focusing more on the clinical aspects of the mission, I taught the advocates how to give the public health education talks to our patients based on their diagnoses. I also ran the clinics that were held during the first two sessions. I coordinated which patient went into each exam room and which public health session to place them in to teach them relevant information. I worked a lot to accommodate walk-ins that came into the clinic, prioritizing children and the elderly. I also led the advocates into the community to do a lot of field work, [such as] follow-ups on our patients to make sure they were taking their medication [correctly]. We surveyed them on the services we [provided] in order to get feedback on our clinical care. We encouraged them to give us as much advice as possible [so that we can continually] improve our public health/clinical program. Throughout this entire expedition, I did a lot of translating during the clinical and field work days. It was amazing to see how much people improved just by one day and how they really took the public health educational talks seriously to the point where they immediately began to make life changing choices that will improve their health. It was rewarding to see our efforts actually making a difference.
What is your favorite memory from your trip(s) to Haiti?
My favorite memory from my trips to Haiti has to be our clinical days that occurred this summer (2016). Seeing all the preparation we do for the clinics come to full effect is unbelievable. Many people from all over the Lakou and Pont Morel hear about our clinics and come to us for help. It is remarkable to see the [number] of people we help in just one day of work. Although clinic[s] are the most overwhelming [days] for me (because of the amount of responsibility and work that has to be put into running the entire clinic in two languages), I love every minute of it! I feel as if I am truly engulfed in my Haitian culture as the Haitian patients confide in me their illnesses so that I can provide them the appropriate services. The trust I received from the locals is breathtaking and fills my heart. Speaking Haitian Creole has broken the barrier of trust within some of these locals because they view me as one of their own and that acceptance is everything. [I learned] that you can not always help everyone because we can only do so much and as humans: we are limited. The challenges I faced throughout the first clinic helped me make the next clinic run much more smooth[ly]. Somehow by the grace of God, we were able to see 100 patients our second clinic with this new efficient technique I tried, when we were [anticipating seeing only] fifty-five. The advocates, the group leaders, the nurses, Dr. Tony, Kevin, and I all worked together as a team and that allowed us to make a huge difference in Leogane. Going into the community the next day and hearing the positive feedback from the patients gave such an enriching feeling because what we are doing for the people of Haiti actually works. The locals are benefiting in ways that are unexplainable and it is so incredible that I played a role in making that happen.
Why did you choose to become more involved with YSI?
I chose to become more involved with YSI because it was the first time I worked with an organization that I could see real life positive changes occur on the expeditions while I was there. I could see where my [donations were] being used, and [I] could see that the mission statement YSI has was being met. The lives of the locals of Lakou Bazil, Pont Morel, and now Carrefour Vert are improved because of the resources we offer. Coming from a Haitian family, I feel like I am connected to Haiti in [inexplicable] ways. I feel like I have a duty to do as much as I can to help my people, and YSI is the best organization to join to do that. YSI goes right [to] the root of the problem and works its way inside out rather than outside in. What we do in Haiti is unquestionably effective because we are building a foundation with the community in ways that enrich the locals through our program[s]. We continuously learn SO much from the locals and are able to improve our services from their advice. This [dedication] is why I love being a part of YourStory: we are genuine, authentic, and, most importantly, effective.
What is your biggest takeaway from the experiences that you have had with YSI?
The biggest takeaway I learned from YSI is that there is no immediate solution when trying to make a change, [especially] in a developing nation. I learned that you have to make a sustainable foundation that will [create] a positive long term impact for the demographic that you are trying to reach. I [will always want] to return to Haiti and give all my efforts to make some type of positive difference. YSI has taught me there is just no way you can step foot into Haiti and not want to come back and help improve the conditions. It would be a disservice if I ever turned my back on YourStory, and I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to be as involved as I have been. I learned a lot from Kevin, my mentor, Mary Lombardi, Dr. Tony, the translators, the other group leaders, the advocates, and most importantly the local Haitians of Leogane. Ayiti Cheri, will always be my second home.