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Guest Post: Health in Haiti

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.

14 Responses to Guest Post: Health in Haiti

  1. i cant even begin to describe how inspirational you are and how amazing it was to read this. so glad ur the guest poster!
    wow i mean you were so involved and were able to get such a great first hand perspective of Haiti and the children and the lifestyle. I feel kind of dumb for being a little clueless about the area in general but my eyes are seriously wide open after reading this! the world can expect great things from you girl! you’ve already accomplished so much to be SO proud of <3 GREAT JOB! and GREAT POST! <3

    ps. you remind me to be grateful and so blessed for all that i do have, and to not frown or focus on the things i have not. thank you :)
    .-= kelsey@snackingsquirrel.com´s last blog ..Operation Suprise Party =-.

  2. I love this post! I hope I’ll be able to work internationally after I get my MPH. I worked with refugees from Burma this past fall, and I think the resiliency of the human spirit of people who have been through so much is one of the most powerful forces I’ve ever experienced. The pictures of the smiling kids reminds me of them :)
    .-= zenlizzie´s last blog ..Music Monday: Strength Training Mix =-.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing your experience 😀 It must have been really rewarding working with kids in Haiti (which are adorable)! I loved the bandaid story- it’s the little things that should make you happy.

    Chewing on sugar cane…I’m sure that’s exactly what U.S. kids are doing, just in a different way 😉
    .-= Danielle (Coffee Run)´s last blog ..Curry on the brain =-.

  4. This post was absolutely fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing such an eye opening and interesting experience with all of us. Loved every sentence. I can’t wait to check out the video!
    .-= Andrea @ CanYouStayForDinner.com´s last blog ..Duck Tour: Seattle =-.

  5. Very nicely written Christina! You know how proud I am of you!

  6. […] out a guest post by Lauren’s sister about her trip to Haiti. This is so inspiring, I can’t wait to […]


    As many have mentioned, this post exudes inspiration from the inside out. In addition to being very engaging and informative, this post was well-written and incredibly insightful. I sincerely enjoyed reading about your experience in Haiti and thoughts on the health over there; I think that your first-hand testimony about what a difference using “real ingredients” in our food makes, is really powerful. It’s something that seems so small, and yet can have such a large impact on national health. Thanks again for bringing the matter of global health to all of our minds. Bring on the photography, and bring on the video!

    Also, you have officially inspired me to look into studying to become a child specialist after my graduation next April. :)

  8. Thanks everyone for all of your kind words! I’m glad everyone enjoyed the post, as I was a little nervous about making my blogging debut! There is so much I could have said about my experience in Haiti, and I am happy I could share a little of that experience with all of you.

    Aletheia, the thought that you want to look into studying child life after graduation makes me SO HAPPY! I’m not kidding when I say I think it’s the greatest job in the world! For you, and anyone else who may be interested in learning more about child life, check out http://www.childlife.org/

  9. Wow! You are an amazing young woman. What a fantastic post and what a wonderful thing you did. You have a tremendous passion for what you do and it shows. I hope that you get your pick of hospitals to work at since any of them would be lucky to have you.

  10. This was such a great post! I absolutely loved every single picture. And that’s awesome that they eat healthily (minus sugarcane!). Plantains are so yummy, especially fried I’m sure. =P
    We need more people like you Christina!

  11. Popped in to say hi! I’m so glad I found your blog–I’m a runner recovering from an injury, and your blog helps inspire me that I can be up to my full 10 miles a day again!

  12. exceedingly Nice website. I just finished mine in addition to i was looking for several design ideas plus you gave me a few. May i ask you whether you developed the website by youself?

  13. Incredible inspiration and the graphics are priceless, especialy the smiles. Bless you!
    Bob´s last post ..What Have We Always Been Told About Salt

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