June 24, 2010
Still touched from the outpouring of love and compassion that enabled us to run the first Naturopathic Earthquake Victim Relief Clinic in Haiti, I have since been asked over and over again “So — when are you going back?”, and “So — did you manage to find money to keep the bonesetter working?” At first I could not even imagine that such an incredible project could happen again, but then more and more people offered to come back with me and help, and gave me more donations. I am surprised to see that in such a short-lived world full of distractions, entertainment, and new disasters, Haiti has not yet been long forgotten. The media forgot, but you have not. Opening my heart to the possibility of organising a second trip, things have just continued to pull together.
We are therefore proud to announce that we will be returning in September with five highly trained natural healers who can each see about 150 people per day, joining two Haitian healers to offer a clinic for about 8000 poor people, most of them destitute children. Please join us in our effort to fundraise whatever we still need to cover the running costs of the clinic, most of which consists of the modest wages we pay to the local clinic staff: the medicine preparers, translators, drivers, and local healers, as well as for renting the Jeep.
Where we are now
The outcome of the poll on our website as to whether we should focus on going back a second time or keep the local herbalist and bonesetter Oliama working was clear: everyone agreed that both elements added something essential, and that both should happen. Thanks to your help, they are! Oliama has been continuing to see many of the patients who came to original clinic out of his house in an underprivileged area. He is offering free services as a midwife to help destitute women give birth, and has made house calls to those so badly injured from the earthquake that they cannot walk. This is the hallmark of our clinic: we go to where the sick are. Right now, we have already raised 25% of the total cash needed to run the clinic again, and have received several large donations of natural medicines. We received a huge wave of positive feedback, with many eyes filled with tears by our stories, and to our surprise even had articles published about the clinic.
Much to our surprise, the clinic received publicity. Besides our lovely website created as a gift to the Haitian people by Andrea Lemon, our efforts were featured in the last email newsletter of the Flower Essence Society with up-to-date unpublished stories. Another article was published in Homeopathy Today.
Making a difference
I was amazed to hear that doctors who went with the conventional medical relief teams felt that their work made no difference and was not received with gratitude by the people. This was not at all the case for our clinic. However, the usual help organizations had pitched military camp-like sterile tent cities far outside of Port-au-Prince (right beside the military camps in fact). We, on the other hand, went to were the sick were, finding the destitute children in the rubble heaps they call home, and speaking to them in their own language. How would an illiterate child of five with a devastating malarial fever from an impoverished broken home get onto a bus or taxi for two hours to make its way to such a menacing looking place surrounded by armed soldiers? However, they were able to stand in line when all of their neighbors lined up and they could see the doctor from afar.
The September clinic
When we return in mid-September, we will have a larger staff than last time so we can extend care to more of those countless miserable and sick people pushing and showing in line. The main reason for us returning only by that date and not earlier is that July and August are the hottest months in Haiti, when people try to avoid being out in the sun during the day. We cannot ask of sick people to stand under the beating sun for hours in a screaming line in that kind of heat. We will return once the intensity of the heat abates. With us this time will be Jinpa and Julia from the original clinic, as well as holistic health practitioner, herbalist, and bodyworker Cynthia Thomas from Minneapolis; herbalist, bodyworker and bonesetter Gabriele Simon from New York City; to be joined a week later by herbalist and bodyworker Sandra Lory from Barre, Vermont, and local Oliama and his sister Eliane, both herbalists, bonesetters and midwives in the Afro-Haitian tradition. We are grateful to have such experienced healers join our team. Oliama thinks that Julia is some kind of powerful magician or goddess for making all of those things happen. From what we hearing, people are still very sick such as dying from one day to the next in malarial fevers; having a lot of heart troubles since the shocking earthquake; and a lot of infections including next to blinding eye infections.
Despite the overwhelmingly positive response to our last clinic, we felt that one thing demanded improving: many distraught patients asked, “Now that you are leaving, where will we get a refill of this medicine that works so well?” We realized that in a sense, we were creating another model of dependency on foreign help. This time we will therefore offer educational classes for those who wait in line, including talks on which weeds to use for common colds, how to boil guava leaves for diarrhea, and how to inhale smoke of dried eucalyptus leaves to cure a cold. Since we had very good success with essential oils, we will make a point of using locally made Vetivier essential oil as much as we can, so people could buy that locally if they can afford it.
We learned that our employing the local herbalist, midwife and bonesetter reminded may people of their local alternative “Oh, I forgot — I also have a bonesetter in my neighborhood — maybe I should go see him!” We are thus trying to increase Oliama’s visiblity and prestige to allow the Haitian people to reconnect with their own naturopathic tradition. As a result of the first clinic, Oliama has received a small but steady number of clients who have some kind of livelihood, and who give a 50% co-payment for the treatment.
My father, by now 86 years old, is still in Haiti living in a small tent that we brought him when we came in March. Living in a tent in the hot and cold extremes of the climate, and having to get on his knees each time he goes to bed or wants to rest is too much. Luckily, a new visit of the earth quake damage engineers have determined that my father’s house does not have to be torn down, but can be fixed by adding new pillars for support. I will try to do all that is needed to get him back into a room with a bed. We are still working on him receiving a visa for the US, so he could leave the country in case of another catastrophe.
This is it in a nutshell!
Please do whatever you can to support the next Haiti clinic. You can find the list of what donations in kind are most useful, a photo gallery to pull photos from for fundraising, as well as the donation information on our website under How to Help.
Much love to all of you from your brother,