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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. 

 

COVID 19 RESPONSE

 
HAS once again has risen to the occasion  to assist the patients and surrounding communities  when special health needs arise. 
 
Recent upgrades to HAS’s water system included the very timely addition of a Mixed Oxidants (MIOX) water purifying system,, which can be put to work to battle COVID-19.
The MIOX system enables HAS to manufacture surface disinfectant tht is critically needed for COVID-19 related cleaning. HAS staff can produce 200 gallons per day of surface disinfectant, which is 2.5 times more effective at sanitizing/inactivating pathogens than chlorine/bleach.  Within the first week of use, that staff at HAS made enough disinfectant for the hospital and campus use and were able to distribute to neighbouring healthcare institutions and the local police station.
 
Jean Marc, the CEO writes “I can’t emphasize enough the positive impact that the production of disinfectant can have.  It allows us to not only keep our immediate front line healthcare staff healthy, but will allow us to scale up efforts to provide this to other institutions and to the community at large. Every case of COVID-19 we can prevent with simple disinfectant will slow the outbreak and reduce the number of patients at HAS.”

In addition HAS Community Health Program are working to introduce more hand washing stations in the community.  Hand washing stations are made with inexpensive, readily available materials such as buckets and faucets.  Tippy Taps require recycled plastic containers, soap and rope.  A recycled gallon container holds the water, and a recycled water bottle holds the soap. A foot pedal tips the tap, allowing the user to wash his/her hands without spreading illness. They use very little water to accomplish greatly improved situation and health outcomes.

 

REMEMBERING NORMA                                                            

 
Several months ago the CFHAS family lost a very dear and long time supporter of the CFHAS.  Norma Sheldrick (with her son) developed the system still used, to this day,  for the silent auction held at the Haiti Happening.  She and her husband, Roy, worked tirelessly to raise funds for providing clean water to the HAS community and visited the hospital in Haiti on a number of occasions. 
 
Norma was also a prolific writer.  It is our pleasure to share the following poem with you that Norma wrote about HAS
 
ALBERT SCHWEITZER HOSPITAL, HAITI
We went to Haiti there to see
A little girl on her mother’s knee
With legs so thin she couldn’t walk
And what a shame she couldn’t talk
But her smile was so precious
It warmed my heart.
Until I heard her mother’s plea
My child is hungry can’t you see
It saddens me to see her so
Malnutrition is a curse you know
But the hospital helps all who come
And gives them hope till their job is done
And the little children are well again
Happy and healthy and free of pain
When children drink from a dirty stream
We wonder what the future will bring
So clean water for Haiti is our aim
To help the children, to relieve their pain
Clean water wells can help them so
Put a smile on their face and help them grow.
By giving support to those in need
The reward will be very great indeed.
Norma Sheldrick
January 2000.
 
Thank you Norma for your many efforts on behalf of the Canadian Friends of HAS.  We hold you in our hearts.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS

 
As we all cope with the many changes that our current way of life has impacted us we have all had to adjust in one way or another.  And as such we at Canadian Friends of HAS have also had to adjust our plans.  Thus we wish to let you know that after a lot of consideration of the pandemic and the course it has us on and in consultation with the staff at the Grand Olympia the date for the Haiti Happening for 2021 has been changed to the last Saturday in April instead of the last Saturday of February, to which so  many of you have become accustomed.   So everyone!!!! Mark your calendars for SATURDAY APRIL 24,  2021 for the annual Haiti Happening.  As Georgina Cosentino, the chair of the Haiti Happening committee stated “ I realize this is a change, but if anything these past few weeks have taught us is that change can be accepted and even embraced.” 
 
Please pass this information to your friends and contacts so that we can all come together to support the needs of Hopital Albert Schweitzer.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

 
As we all contend with the COVID-19 pandemic and the ramifications of if on our lives, it  has also given many of  us time to ponder life as it was,  what the future will hold, what and how things will change, how we think about ourselves and others and how we interact with the world and the people inhabiting it.  That being said, we leave you with several thoughts of Albert Schweitzer for you to ponder.    
 
(In response to a discouraged friend) “never say there is nothing beautiful in the world any more.  There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a leaf, the trembling of a tree”
 
“Everyone must work to live, but the purpose of life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help others.  Only then have we ourselves become true human beings.” 
 
“I believe there is a reason for hope.  Hope is there like a small band of light on the sky before the sunrise.  There begins to stir in the world a new spirit, a spirit of humanity.  The terrible thing was that  we fell into inhumanity without knowing it” 
 
How many fine examples of goodness have we seen, read and heard about over the past months.  There is indeed HOPE! .  
We at the Canadian Friends of Hopital Albert Schweitzer thank you for your continued support and we wish each of you well as we continue to navigate our route through the COVID-19 pandemic.    
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