HAITI HAPPENING – Interview with Guest Speaker – Jessica Laguerre
Let’s face it. Hamilton in winter isn’t the ideal travel destination for a woman who spends most of her time living and working in the warmer climes of Haiti. The snow, the ice, the cold….who would brave all that in February? The answer of course, is Jessica Laguerre. The Chief of Staff at Hopital Albert Schweitzer graciously agreed to board a plane, put on her winter coat and join in the fun at the 17th annual Haiti Happening at the Grand Olympia, February 29. “The work you do is amazing,” she says. “the funds, the support, the resources, and just the love, passion and commitment.” As our guest speaker, her message was simple: Thank-you.
According to Jessica, the support the hospital has received from the Canadian Friends of Hopital Albert Schweitzer (CFHAS) over the past 17 years has been invaluable. “In the past year, we’ve seen a lot of healthcare institutions just not have the resources to do what they want to do,” she says.
Jessica points with pride to the reputation HAS has built in the community over the last 63 years. The hospital of course is known throughout the Artibonite Valley for providing affordable quality care….with the emphasis on the word affordable. “That’s a challenge in the big cities like Port-au-Prince,” she adds. “But once you get to remote rural communities-which is most the landscape of the country-that’s even more limited, and the barriers are greater.”
Even in this day and age, some patients walk 6 to 12 hours in order to get to HAS for treatment. The need for quality care for everyone in the community is evident, and so is the need for financial support. “When you have a partner, a supporter, an ally that has been fundraising for you for over 17 years, you will never really be able to measure that impact,” Jessica states. “We talk about the hospital, but it’s one hospital with four community health centres. Two of these centres are in the mountains, and two are near the hospital. (The funds) allow us to help support staff salaries, and give us the money for training, for resources to get people together (for community group meetings).”
This year’s Haiti Happening raised over $39,000.00 – funds that will go directly to the hospital for Maternal and Child care services. That’s music to the ears of the doctors, nurses and staff at HAS. “We believe in a preventative healthcare approach. What can we do to prevent a mother form having a complicated delivery, or how can we make it safer to have a baby at home?” Jessica asks. “…A lot of the money goes into funding and supporting this.” Maternal and child care are not the only services offered at the hospital, but they are some of the most sought-after ones.
With the support of its 450 employees, the hospital admits about 14,000 patients each year and sees about 300 patients each day in the outpatient clinic. The health centres see about 100,000 patients every year. Each patient pays a small fee- often less than 5 to 10% of the actual cost of the services. It’s the support from organizations like CFHAS that makes this model sustainable and which would be very hard to maintain and keep the mission true without it.
The word “thank-you” comes up in the conversation again and again. “I’m just beyond grateful…..”It’s support like this – and people like this, here in this room (at Grand Olympia), who give us the resources and the skills to really do the work. Not only to do it but to do it well. I think that makes the difference.” she says.
It’s a tradition of care that began in 1956, and continues to this day – thanks in part to the tireless and passionate efforts of dozens of volunteers with CFHAS and its supporters. They’re people answering the call and Jessica Laguerre couldn’t be more proud.
Contributed by Karen Cumming
Thank you everyone for your support and participation this year. The passion continues. See you all next year.