Guest Post: Health in Haiti
|May 18, 2010||Posted by Christina under Guest Posts|
I am sure all of you have been sitting on the edge of your seat, eagerly awaiting to see who the guest blogger is going to be and I am happy to be making my blogging début on Lauren’s site. As for my identity, I am Lauren’s younger, but much taller, sister. I will say up front that this blog post will be different than her usual posts, so I ask you to bear with me as I share my story and experience, while still attempting to focus on health and wellness (so I can at least TRY to stay within the topic of her site!)
A little background about me, I recently finished graduate school with a Master’s in Science and a concentration in Child Life. For the past year, while finishing up school, I have been working as a child life specialist intern at a children’s hospital in Bronx, NY. Since beginning my program in child life I have found that only about 10% of the population actually knows what the heck being a child life specialist even means, so I will quickly give you an abbreviated definition of, what I believe to be, the absolute greatest job in the world.
Child life specialists work in hospitals, clinics, or private organizations, where their main job is to decrease a child’s emotional and physical anxiety while being hospitalized. In the hospital I prepare children for surgeries and procedures, do diagnostic teaching for both children and their family, offer support during procedures, offer developmental assessment, lead support groups for patients and family members, offer bereavement support to families after a child passes away…the list goes on and on. It is a very emotionally and physically draining job, but it also offers the greatest reward you could ever receive from a job and I could never imagine doing anything else.
This past March I was offered an amazing opportunity to travel to Haiti with a team of professionals from Virginia to do relief work after January’s devastating earthquake. We traveled to the city of Petit-Goave and within the city, a small community called Pèsin. The children and adults we met there were amazing, and although I will try not to fill this blog completely with adorable pictures of the children’s smiles, there will be a heavy dose of photos in this post. But I dare you to look at one picture and not completely melt inside.
Healthcare in Haiti is, obviously, far behind ours in the US. While in Haiti we camped out at a Wesleyan ministry site where a medical clinic was set up. These doctors worked tirelessly throughout the night, assisting in births and attempting to save many lives. Although I could write about the horror we felt after one particular accident where the doctors tirelessly attempted to save 8 lives, what was more disheartening to me was the extreme need for the most basic of health care — items as simple as band-aids and hand sanitizer.
Children in Haiti LOVED band aids. Seriously, you would think they were candy the way they would beg us for one. Whenever we traveled into Pèsin we would bring a small first aid kit and kids would flock to that first aid kit like it was Santa’s toy bag. We had kids go as far as picking off old scabs to make themselves bleed and 3 children got a hold of red corn syrup and promptly poured it all over themselves to make it look like they were bleeding profusely. And once they got them, they would wear those band-aids with pride. They would stick out their fingers and arms, making sure the other kids knew and could see, that they were wearing a band-aid. If that band-aid were to get dirty of fall off (which would inevitably happen everyday) they would make sure to get a new one to replace it, regardless of whether or not they were still bleeding. It saddened me that something as simple as a band-aid could bring so much joy to these kids. To them it showed them that they were being cared for, and we were so happy that we could at least meet this small and basic need.
What also surprised me was how healthy most of the food was in Haiti. Although the kids did love to chew on sugar cane (something that made me cringe every time I looked at their teeth) they genuinely ate healthy food that had little or no preservatives in it. Dinner every night was usually some sort of brown or white rice dish with beans, corn, peas and chicken. Even their peanut butter was homemade and so much better than any peanut butter I’ve tasted in the States. One particular night our wonderful cooks made us the most delicious homemade pineapple upside down cake I have EVER had. They also love their fried plantains, which are not as healthy as something such as rice and beans, but even those were at least home cooked with no additives!
Growing up, I was never a soda drinker. My mom never bought it and those habits stayed with me as I entered adulthood. In Haiti, however, I was told that I had to try the Coke and I can say I was not disappointed! First off, soda in Haiti comes in these super cool half-liter glass bottles that are constantly sent back to the plant and recycled so some of the bottles were over 30 years old! So neat. Secondly, the soda there is made with real sugar cane, not with high fructose corn syrup like it is here. I was shocked by how different that made the soda taste! Haitians who have been to the US (or who have drank US soda before) call our soda “sugar water” and I couldn’t agree more. For someone who never drinks soda, I drank it quite a few times while I was there and loved it every time! What a difference using “real ingredients” can make!
I could write so much more about my experience there, but am trying to keep this post short. Traveling to Haiti was a life changing experience, one that opened my eyes and made me eternally thankful for my health and for the opportunities I have living in this country. I know we all love arguing about hot topics such as health care, but traveling to a third would country made me feel so incredibly blessed that we even HAVE healthcare. That we can do something as simple as wash a cut in clean water and apply a band-aid to help it heal. That we all have a right to free public education and access to clean drinking water. I could go on, but I will end this post with their smiling faces and a wish for you to think about how lucky and blessed you are.
Also, if you would like to read/see more about the trip I encourage you to visit Let There Be Light Photography where you can see some amazing photographs from the trip, taken from my wonderfully talented boyfriend (not that I’m bragging or anything…)
I also encourage you to watch the video about the trip that was made by our talented trip videographer.