Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Some photos from our trip to Haiti

Hi everyone,
I quickly uploaded some photos of our trip to Haiti. Enjoy! More stories and photos and videos to come (promise! :)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Op-Ed piece by Ban Ki-Moon

I wouldn't normally send along an entire article, but I think this one is important.  This is an op-ed piece in the NYT by current United Nations General Secretary, Ban Ki-Moon.  You'll recall that he and former President Bill Clinton recently visited Haiti.  

I would encourage you to read this (hence, the reason I'm sending it  :)   
I was pleased, for example, with how things appeared (always a key word) in Port-au-Prince during this trip.  There are new street signs all over the place, at least one road has double-yellow lines (read:  a suggestion to not pass), more street lights, cleaner streets.  It's just noticeably not quite as bad.

And this op-ed piece raises the very real possibility of hope for economic improvement....See what you think.


Haiti's Big Chance

Published: March 30, 2009

It is easy to visit Haiti and see only poverty. But when I visited recently with former President Bill Clinton, we saw opportunity.

Yes, Haiti remains desperately poor. It has yet to fully recover from last year's devastating hurricanes, not to mention decades of malign dictatorship. Yet we can report what President René Préval told us: "Haiti is at a turning point." It can slide backwards into darkness and deeper misery, sacrificing all the country's progress and hard work with the United Nations and international community. Or it can break out, into the light toward a brighter and more hopeful future.

Next month, major international donors will gather in Washington to consider further help for this unfortunate land, so battered by forces beyond its control. Outwardly, there seems little cause of optimism. The financial crisis has crimped aid budgets. Haiti's own problems — runaway population growth, acute shortages of food and life's basic necessities, environmental degradation — often appear insuperable.

Yet in fact, Haiti stands a better chance than almost any emerging economy, not only to weather the current economic storms but to prosper. The reason: new U.S. trade legislation, passed last year, throws open a huge window of opportunity.

HOPE II, as the act is known, offers Haiti duty-free, quota-free access to U.S. markets for the next nine years. No other nation enjoys a similar advantage. This is a foundation to build on. It is a chance to consolidate the progress Haiti has made in winning a measure of political stability, with the help of the U.N. peacekeeping mission, and move beyond aid to genuine economic development. Given the country's massive unemployment, particularly among youth, that means one thing above all else: jobs.

My special adviser on Haiti, the Oxford University development economist Paul Collier, has worked with the government to devise a strategy. It identifies specific steps and policies to create those jobs, with particular emphasis on the country's traditional strengths — the garment industry and agriculture. Among them: enacting new regulations lowering port fees (among the highest in the Caribbean) and creating the sort of industrial "clusters" that have come to dominate global trade.

In practical terms, this means dramatically expanding the country's export zones, so that a new generation of textile firms can invest and do business in one place. By creating a market sufficiently large to generate economies of scale, they can drive down production costs and, once a certain threshold is crossed, spark potentially explosive growth constrained only by the size of the labor pool.

That may seem ambitious in a country of 9 million people, where 80 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day and half of the food is imported. Yet we know it can work. We have seen it happen in Bangladesh, which boasts a garment industry supporting 2.5 million jobs. We have seen it happen in Uganda and Rwanda.

President Clinton and I saw many good signs during our trip, both large and small. One day we visited an elementary school in Cité Soleil, a slum in Port au Prince long controlled by violent gangs before U.N. peacekeepers reclaimed it.

It did my heart good to see these children. They were well-fed, thanks to the U.N. World Food Program. Even better, they were happy and they were learning — as children should. It was a sign of more normal times.

We visited a second school, as well — this one for gifted students called HELP, short for the Haitian Education Leadership Program. With money raised privately in the United States, it provides scholarships to the very poorest Haitian children who could not otherwise dream of attending university. All these young people go on to lead productive careers. They make good salaries. They embark upon lives of promise — and virtually all of them stay in Haiti.

I told these young people that I thought of them as "seeds of hope," for they represent a better tomorrow.

To an outsider, it is striking how modest the obstacles are in relation to Haiti's potential. Visiting a clean and efficient factory in the capital, we met workers earning $7 a day making T-shirts for export — vaulting them into the Haitian middle class. Under HOPE II, the owner figures he can double or triple production within a year.

All this is why, in Washington, we will be asking donors to invest in Haiti, to step beyond traditional humanitarian aid. This is Haiti's moment, a break-out opportunity for one of the poorest nations to lift itself toward a future of real economic prospects and genuine hope.

My Blog

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Haiti trip

Hi Everyone,

We made it back safe and sound. Lots more to come over the next
couple of weeks. I think (know) we have some really great photos and
video, but instead of blitzing all this good stuff (like I did last
time....sorry!) I'll be taking more time to push out stories, updates
etc to you.

But for now, here are a couple of photos of kids we've hosted for heart surgery:

Anderson with Nakesha at her house.
Nelson out in his village of Barna


Try it out here: http://picasa.google.com/

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Haiti Photo from MSF

The caption reads: "A woman with her child in the remains of their house in Gonaives, Haiti. After the hurricanes Hanna and Ike hit Haiti, more than one million people were left homeless and in need of everything." Photo: Klavs Bo Christensen
The MSF (Doctors Without Borders) website has a Blog that has some touching photos. Here is one such example.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Re: Office of Global Health

YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! So proud of you, Ben!!!!!! And so excited for you!!!!!!! Excited to see what God will do next!!!!!

MOM & DAD :-)

Office of Global Health

Hi All,
I just got out of my meeting with the Dean (and the Chair of the Department of Humanities). 
In short, despite the difficult economic times, the Dean asked me if I would be the Director for the Office of Global Health!!  Which, btw, is an entirely NEW office....didn't exist until just now!
The Department of Humanities is offering up an office and some administrative support to help develop an office of global health.  That's huge!  And my Department of Family & Community Medicine has been very supportive all along.  
This is really mind-blowing.  I spoke with my department chair who is very happy about it and supportive, but similarly shocked that a new position would be developed during these times. 
When God has a plan, Watch out!  Or rather, Hold on tight!!!    :) 
There's that verse that says that God's plans are better than our plans.   I would NEVER ever have dreamed this up.  This plan far surpasses any expectation or thought that I had.  

But this is not about me:   this is clearly about God's will becoming more evident and 'being done on earth'.  This is about how good and big God is, that He still moves in the hearts of Kings (and Deans) today to accomplish His purposes. 
By all accounts, this is not a time to expand and develop new official positions.  And yet that is exactly what is being done.
Thank you for praying!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Prayer requests

Hi everyone,  

Please consider praying for the following
1.  The current director of the United Nations (Ban Ki-moon) and former President Bill Clinton recently wrapped up a visit to Haiti (!).  This helps to bring attention to the hard strain the people of Haiti try to live under.  You can read about it here .   In the article it also mentions that an international community donors meeting will be held next month for Haiti.  Haiti has been in a particularly vulnerable period with the food crisis and the 4 hurricanes that swept through last year.  They had made significant gains prior to this, and the international community is aware of the improvements.  But with a million people displaced by the hurricanes (over 10% of the entire population) and increasing desperation for the basics (food, shelter, water) all the good that has been achieved to this point may be wiped out quickly.   So we can pray for God's compassion to be evidently poured out on these people, and that He gets the credit for bringing this about.
Haiti's situation reminds me that all our good human work is fruitless unless it is done with God.

2.  I am meeting with the Dean of the medical school tomorrow to discuss the situation of global health at Hershey.  God is pressing more and more on my heart the need to work for the poor and needy through my medical center.  My sunday school just looked at Ezekiel 34:17-31  which examines the 'fat sheep' versus the 'thin sheep'.  I can't get this image out of mt mind and heart (which is a good thing!).  I know this meeting with the Dean is part of God's plan for me and my medical school.  Please pray that I would have the right words and that God would continue to move in the hearts of leadership.   (Remember how He used to work in the hearts of kings to accomplish His will?  He still does that!!).

3.  Our trip next week.  Jon and I leave for Haiti next Friday.  Please pray for safety and that our hearts would be moved to greater compassion.  These are very humbling experiences for me.  We will be meeting with a number of people on this trip and I pray that we would be an encouragement to them.

Thanks much!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Trip in 2 weeks!

Hi everyone, 

Our itinerary in Pestel is filling up (nicely!).  Here's an example from Sister Fidelis:

"For your visit, it looks like Thursday has filled up with a visit to the Bena clinic, return to Pestel, visiting St. Francis school to pick up the children's response to the children's pictures and letters you brought last year, visiting the hospital, and seeing Dr. Seneque, the mayor, and the trade school group."
Just so that you know:  the Bena clinic is brand new!!  As is the trade school group.  Very exciting developments.  I'll be able to share more about this after the trip.   The children's pictures she mentions were done by kids at our church's VBS.  I delivered those on my last trip.

I have a few requests to throw out to everyone:
1.  I'm going to put together a color-pamphlet to give out to the development group members (30 in total) that has a bunch of ideas in it that they could consider implementing.  I'm looking for photos (i.e. online) that I can download, put into a Word file, and then print out.  These could be ideas that are both utilitarian or decorative/toys that they might be able to make.  For example, I'm working with a friend (Johnny Zook) on identifying solutions using bamboo (because they have bamboo).  These would also be very practical 'solutions' to issues related to clean water, sanitation, recognizing dehydration and signs of pneumonia.  If you have any interest in helping me with this please let me know!

2.  Here's another clip from Sister Fidelis' email about a landing strip:
"I have been talking to some people about the airstrip idea. They see a lot of difficulty with it, though I've also gotten some good suggestions from them about it. One idea that gets away from the airstrip is to buy a yacht, or get a second-hand one donated (which I've known people to do). One with some speed could get from Port-au-Prince to Pestel in 2 1/2 hours, I am told. It could be docked here when you are not in town and could double as an ambulance for us to take our urgently ill people to Jeremie or Port-au-Prince. We lose quite a few because of poor travel options. I wouldn't mind using it either to get to places occasionally. One of my questions would be about the price of gas to operate one. Would it be prohibitive? Size would be a consideration, one that is big enough for you and your group but not too big for smaller uses."   

I recall looking into this at one point and one of the issues (besides the cost of fuel) was going to be care of the boat hull because it would build up barnacles unless it's treated regularly.  
So if you have suggestions or thoughts on 
1.  where we could get a boat to transport, say, about 6 people...
2.  solutions on how to care for the boat in Pestel
3.  creative solutions for use of the boat.  For example, I can envision that the local 'owner' is loaned the boat until he/she can raise enough capital to purchase another one in order to bring goods to market.  This is a HUGE barrier currently.  This requires some knowledge of business plans...which I don't have!!

Pretty cool, huh?!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

March trip to Haiti

Hi Everyone,

I want to give a brief (?) update!

The next trip to Haiti will be March 21 and I'll be traveling down with my brother-in-law, Jon Anderson!  We'll be meeting up with Anderson Thelusma (the first boy we hosted for heart surgery) at the airport in Port-au-Prince.  I'm anticipating that we'll also be meeting up with Nakysha (the 3rd Haitian child we hosted) and her mom/family at the airport so that we can spend some time at their place (which is very near the airport).  The next day (Sunday) we'll fly out and then drive to Pestel to meet up with Sister Fidelis!!  We'll also get to visit with Nelson (the 2nd child  we hosted for heart surgery)!! 

We'll be busy visiting a number of villages while we're out there, some of which I've been to in the past, but several new ones.  We'll be visiting with Alfred (you can read his story here ), going up to the village of Toma Elli where school benches (and a door for the school!) were recently built through donations from our family, friends and church members!  

We are partnering with Dr. Leininger to install 5 plastic cisterns throughout Pestel.  We've just purchased them.  The neat thing about this is that not only does it provide a way to collect water (which can be scarce this time of year) but it also provides some employment for people that Dr. Leininger has trained!  

We'll also be delivering all the bouncy balls, marbles, barrettes, OTC medications, and schools supplies that have been donated. 

This trip will be a special joy for us, thanks in very large part to all of you who have given, have been supportive and encouraging!!

 What do we hope to accomplish?   I've mentioned some of this above.  Beyond that we'll be visiting the new clinic in Abrico (you can click on this  and scroll down to see a video of Abrico) which just started up last year, talking with community leaders about furthering the initiatives of clean water, health care, and education.  Two particular interests that I have are potentially establishing a system of community health worker training (which would link in with my medical school) and exploring the land for a possible landing strip (so that we can fly straight in from PAP).  

Finally, I have been asked to meet with the Dean of my medical school (at his request) next week.  He wants to learn more about what I have in mind for global health at the medical center.  So please be in prayer about this as well.  I'll let you know how that meeting goes.  :)  This is really quite a huge leap in a short period of time.

Thanks to everyone!!!