24 teachers, 150 kids, 8 volunteers, 5 interpreters, 98 degrees… Creativity was made for weeks like this!
In July, a team of eight volunteers with the American Friendship Foundation traveled down to Haiti to work with teachers on strategies to integrate creativity into the classroom. The team included Jeff Clark, Terry Clark, McKenzie Clark, Erica Stanislawski, Kenny Askew, Julia Smith, Rose Neese, and Kris Neese.
The program started with a two-day workshop for Haitian teachers. Twenty one teachers from J Nissi School and Institution Mixte Frère Silar, along with three future teachers from the HELP organization in Port-au-Prince, shared ideas around critical thinking, brainstorming, creativity, and the arts.
In Haiti, as in many other nations, the educational system is focused on rote memorization. When teachers can help their students to solve problems in creative ways and to think outside the box, they are planting seeds that will help this next generation of leaders to tackle larger issues like the environment, politics, and social justice.
Teachers are the conduit to get students thinking in new ways.
At the center of the training were a series of creative challenges hosted on www.kreyatif.org that provided the 24 teachers with a practical set of exercises (in Haitian Creole) to leverage in their classrooms.
Teachers were treated to an award ceremony at the end of the event where they received a certificate of completion for completing the training.
Following our professional development workshop, it was time to bring in 150 kids for a two-day “Creative Camp” and let our Haitian teachers test out their new skills!
Creative Camp was fun summer opportunity for the kids living onsite at the Ororaedh Orphanage alongside students who attend J Nissi School in the extremely impoverished Cité Soleil area.
It was amazing to watch how quickly the entire group adapted to the concepts around critical thinking. The teachers taught with authority and confidence, and you could see the students’ minds firing up and having fun.
The approach on this Creative Camp was that our team of AFF volunteers took a backseat during the event. Haitian teachers were the star of the show!
The week was amazing, but there is still work to be done. The team that organized the teacher workshop and Creative Camp is looking for ways to build a consistent delivery mechanism around these ideas.
It is a simple and obvious philosophy… Haitians are going to find the answers to Haiti’s issues. Investing in teachers and students, specifically in their ability to tackle tough problems and work as a team, is a great partnership opportunity for us.
Thank you to all of the people who provided encouragement and financial sponsorship for this project!
Meet Dr. Bordes, an OB/GYN who manages a medical clinic for the community of Canaan, Haiti. Dr. Bordes started his work here following the 2010 earthquake when hundreds of thousands of people were sent to this “temporary” camp outside of Port-au-Prince. Six years later, Canaan has developed into it’s own city and is having it’s medical needs met thanks to the service of Dr. Bordes.
In this interview, AFF volunteer Hubermann Alcean had a chance to ask Dr. Bordes about his vision for the clinic and the medical needs that are going unmet within the city of Canaan.
Dr. Bordes shares his growth plans for the Canaan medical clinic including:
Building more advanced maternity services including a delivery room, pre-op and post-op space, and postpartum care.
Offering counseling services by a professional psychologist for victims of sexual assault.
Expanded emergency care services. Many of the residents of Canaan can’t get transportation to other hospitals or are turned away because they can’t afford the care.
Round-the-clock care for Canaan to save more lives!.
To all of the American doctors and nurses who have traveled with us to Haiti, you know Dr. Bordes and the extraordinary work he pours into the city of Canaan. We are proud to be partnering with him to support his vision for better medical services in this burgeoning community.
Raw Video Transcript in English
(Thank you, Hubermann Alcean)
The picture I have for this community.
So, we need a clinic or hospital that can see different types of people.
So now we have general consultation for patients who have colds and fevers. And right now we do c-sections we do deliveries now.
And now we need a space that can provide different services based on the type of patients and people that we are seeing.
For example, we would like to have maternity service.
Including patients who have preeclampsia.
A room for postpartum or pre-op.
Post-op for after surgery or after operation.
And he would like to have a space also to see children.
And he would like to see infants, like little babies.
And let’s say if someone comes and has a c-section, after that if there is an issue with the baby we need to be able to ask about the baby and have a place for the baby to stay for the night for follow up.
And that’s for maternity.
Now we see all cases pretty much.
And we would like to offer a service based on the people’s culture and people’s familiarity of cultural differences if you want to call it that way.
And because we have a psychologist on board we started seeing a lot of patients that came here for sexual assault because it’s a big community and it’s a lot of people who live here and so many different types of people and we would like to have service where if someone was to be sexually assaulted and they need assistance and after being seen medically they have a psychologist that can come and counsel them and give them advice on how to move forward.
And even though we have a public hospital just right around the corner doesn’t necessarily mean that this hospital can provide all care for everybody. And if there is a lack of equipment and services, let’s say someone comes in from a car accident and they’re not allowed to take care of them because a lack of resources and sometimes that person might die trying to get somewhere else to get better care.
And that’s why I want to say we need an emergency service just to be able to see someone right away who has been in a car accident or something big happened and save some lives.
And we can say that those type of services are very important for this community and the fact that most people who live in this community don’t have enough money to afford anything else that would be awesome to have that kind of possibility for them.
And just think of someone gets in a car accident at 1 o’clock in the morning.
And let’s say someone is sexually assaulted during the night.
And let’s say to be honest just during the day like if someone were to go somewhere else to get care you have to have a private car some kind of transportation to get out of there. And that’s why most people come here is because they can’t afford the transportation to get somewhere else. They have to come here and with what little I have, I have to be able to do something.
And as Jeff can say, one time when he came in there was a patient that had a really bad emergency and he had to take him somewhere else to get care.
And we think if we can build a hospital that can provide those type of services and we can assure you that we can save some lives and a lot people won’t die because they can’t get that kind of care.
In October 2013, I had the opportunity to participate in a medical mission trip to Haiti with the American Friendship Foundation. Our team was primarily made up of RNs, respiratory therapists, doctors, and cardiologists and we were sent to serve the people of Haiti with free medical care at a variety of clinics around Port Au Prince.
But what do you do when you sign up for a medical mission trip but have no health training what-so-ever? Well, in my case, you’re assigned to be the eyeglasses guy! I work as a businessman, have never worn eyeglasses, and do not have any formal training in eye care. For our service trip to Haiti I had the opportunity to learn quite a bit about eyeglasses and would like to share those lessons with you in this blog post.
How to Get Eyeglass Donations
The first step in this process was to get eyeglasses donated. For our trip, we accepted prescription glasses, reading glasses, non-prescription sunglasses, and children’s glasses. Our goal was to collect 200 pairs of eyeglasses, which we were able to do quite easily. Here are the resources we used to get eyeglasses donated:
Church Collection – I ran a two week drive at Imprint Church in Woodinville and was able to get about fifty pairs of eyeglasses donated. We were allowed to hang a sign, add a blurb to our weekly announcements, make a post on our Facebook page, and mention it in the weekly newsletter. Imprint Church only had about 200 attendees at the time this article is being written so this was a pretty good source for us.
At Work– I wasn’t able to do any mass communications through my company to ask for donations, but as people asked why I was going to Haiti and what our goal was, I always made sure that I mentioned the word “eyeglasses”. Several people brought in their old eyeglasses or donated some pairs of new readers, but the best strike came when one of the women in our accounting department called a friend who does the bookkeeping for an optometrist in Bellevue. She was able to pull in about 125 pairs of glasses from that one source!
Visit Optometrists – After seeing how many pairs of eyeglasses were donated from that single optometrist, I got in the car and drove to several other optometrists in the area. All of them were very willing to help and we got about 50 more pairs of glasses. Many of these optometrists have a box set up in their office where people can donate their old glasses to the Lions Club, but they still seemed to have a “secret stash” on hand that was a big blessing for our trip.
Lions Club – The Lions Club definitely has a well-run program for eyeglass donations and it looks like they are very generous in providing those glasses to organizations like ours. We contacted our local LERC (Lions Eyeglasses Recycling Center) but were told that they need about a three month notice before making a donation. It didn’t work out this time around, but with some advanced planning this would be the easiest place to get donations.
Hospitals – Some of the doctors on our trip placed a collection bin in their office and at local hospitals. I created a slight variation on the sign we used at my church and they were able to collect about 25 more pairs of glasses.
Get Lucky – In the end, our single biggest donation of eyeglasses arrived one day before our trip and was just flat out lucky! One of our team members is a real estate agent, who knew a title rep, who happened to have over 200 pairs of brand new reading glasses sitting in her home for reasons I don’t think we’ll ever understand.
Getting eyeglass donations is just basic marketing… mention it to enough people and things will come together! I was extremely doubtful that we would reach our target of 200 eyeglasses, but in less than three weeks we collected just under 500 pairs of glasses for our service trip to Haiti!
How to Sort and Organize Donated Eyeglasses
Before leaving for the trip, it was important to organize all of our donated eyeglasses in a way that would make them easy to find and distribute during our mission trip.
We purchased clear bags from Office Depot that were 4” X 8” with a white label on the outside where we could write down the styles mentioned above. The bags cost $30 for a 1000 baggie pack, which was worth every penny! We then separated the different styles into gallon sized Ziploc bags so we could quickly set up shop in our various clinics around Haiti.
The Lions Club had one of the better organizational systems that I noticed so I created a variation on their system and labeled our eyeglasses as follows:
MV = Multi Vision
These were our bi-focals and tri-focals. We didn’t even bother bringing these down since it would be nearly impossible to match them to the patient.
SV = Single Vision
These are your standard prescription eyeglasses. We had an optometrist offer to examine each pair of glasses and identify the strength of the lens, but we decided not to take him up on his generous offer because we had no way to give a true eye test once were in Haiti.
Optometrists will cringe when they read this, but we simply marked the glasses as weak, medium, or strong in a very subjective test conducted on my living room couch.
R = Reading Glasses
Reading glasses all had a number that ranged from +1.00 to +3.75 printed on the side. We wrote down the strength on the baggies used for the glasses because the print is super tiny and difficult to read.
SUN = Non-prescription Sunglasses
Initially we had all of our sunglasses in one bag, but after a couple of days we learned that it is much better to sort them into male and female styles to keep the lines moving quickly.
KIDS = Kids Sized Glasses
This was a very small part of our overall donations, so we just kept these in one bag.
How to Distribute Eyeglasses in Haiti
After all that work collecting and organizing, and one long flight to Port-au-Prince, it was time to start distributing the glasses. Here are some of the lessons I learned that might be valuable to you as well.
Don’t try this without an interpreter!
The essential question: Do you need glasses for sewing OR for walking? This tells you if they need readers or prescription glasses.
The literacy rate in Haiti is around 50%, so giving them a test for “reading glasses” started many conversations on the wrong foot as they explained that they couldn’t read. Have your interpreter ask if the patient needs, “up close glasses for sewing or reading.
Reading glasses were the best thing that we brought. Using our Reading Glasses Test in Haitian Creole it was very easy to provide an eye exam and assess which strength of glasses they needed. Feel free to use that tool as you see fit.
In hindsight, I wouldn’t recommend bringing prescription glasses down without the ability to administer an eye exam. People would just try on pair after pair, and eventually I think they picked a pair because they felt sorry for me. I would imagine that only 1 in 10 people who received prescriptions will actually use them for the long-term.
If a patient tries on prescription glasses, have them walk around a bit. Don’t give them the reader card as their test.
Watching their face as they try on glasses is important. Their body language will you tell you if you are on the right track.
Almost everyone we met had issues with their eyes being irritated, burning, tearing up, and similar ailments. In Port Au Prince the roads are dusty, trash fires are burning, and there is lots of truck exhaust. Eye drops are the answer to that, not glasses.
Sunglasses were a very popular item in Haiti! Initially, we gave them out to everyone who complained of eye irritation, but then we started noticing that everybody in line was suffering the same symptoms. From that point on we only offered them to patients with cataracts or other eye ailments that weren’t able to help with.
Distributing eyeglasses in Haiti was a very worthwhile and educational experience. On future trips, I am only going to bring reading glasses down because I know that I can be pretty darn accurate getting the right pair of glasses in their hand. Please feel free to use our Haitian Creole eye exam as you see fit!