Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A note from Fidelis


(Ti Viktim Tou Piti Yo) 

     My breath catches as a little baby looks up at us from the floor. He seems all head and no body, staring passively at his visitors. Renald is 2 ½, but looks half that age. He doesn't talk or walk. He doesn't even have the strength to stand. His tiny little body is joined to a listless, laughless spirit which is also a sign of the malnutrition he suffers. But he doesn't recoil from a strange "blan" who picks him up stroking his arms and legs, caressing his face and head, and patting his back for a good hour.

     When a kind-hearted health agent brought Renald and his twin, Raymond, to our attention, their little legs were swollen tight, a sign of  their deteriorating condition. Unfortunately, our help didn't arrive in time to save Raymond. He died shortly after treatment started.

     We stand on the porch talking of how to involve neighborhood mothers in helping a rather clueless young father raise his infant son. All the malnourished children we are currently treating are motherless, most mothers having died in childbirth. It is said that for every mother who dies a child also dies. This has often been my experience, though families struggle mightily to prevent it.

     Four month old Souvni died recently despite all our efforts. My arms still know the feel of her featherweight body. But Madoche, a 2 year old orphan, and Renald still live. Madoche who is now standing, is a joy to watch as he shovels in the food we provide.

     Why do the innocent suffer? Why do these conditions exist?

     It seems to me that it is always the poor who bear the world's burden of greed for power and riches, most often in a high mortality rate. In Haiti, democracy is just a dream opposed by powerful forces here and abroad who have selfish uses for the poor.

     Despite all, the Haitian poor struggle valiantly on, their way of the cross strewn with victims young and old, but mostly young.

     For a passionate account of recent events in Haiti, including our own country's collusion in its suffering, read AN UNBROKEN AGONY: Haiti, From Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President by Randall Robinson or Dr. Paul Farmer's classic, THE USES OF HAITI. 

Sister Fidelis Rubbo

Pestel, Haiti

April 27, 2009 

My Blog

Monday, April 27, 2009

School supplies...short video

Hi all,

I just got word that we've received another $1000 to help support a classroom in Pestel!
In celebration of that gift I put together a quick video that shows how much fun and delight there is in giving to these kids and their teachers!



Thursday, April 23, 2009


Hi All,

Sorry about the link not working.  I contacted the IT department and got it worked out (hopefully!).   You should be able to click on this:

If you look closely you'll see the top of my head prominently displayed throughout most of the lecture (as well as Jen's sometimes!).  You can also see us during the standing ovation AT THE BEGINNING of the talk  :)   What a kicker.

This is another link if you have trouble with the above.   It should bring you to a catalog.  You can find the video under Penn State Hershey Medical Center-->Global Health Center


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dr. Farmer's talk

Hi All,

Here is a link to the talk that was given yesterday.  The photo was taken at the medical center in the auditorium.  Several of the people standing with me and Paul (we're on a first-name basis  :)   are medical students--several of the key students who have been instrumental in moving Global Health forward on campus.  Enjoy the video!  


I know you've just been waiting eagerly to see real evidence of me with Dr. Farmer


My Blog

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"I will NEVER wash this hand again!"

So I not only got to shake Dr. Paul Farmer's hand, but had the opportunity to eat lunch with him and several students, AND have my photo taken with him (you just know that photos will be posted soon!).

For those who don't know him, Dr. Farmer is one of the leading experts in Global Health. He has been advisor to countries, the World Health Organization etc etc. His accomplishments are truly inspiring and amazing. And he's only 49. Some of his early work in Haiti has been well-described in a wonderfully written book, Mountains Beyond Mountains (by Tracy Kidder).

The audience in attendance was over 450 people, and that doesn't include the folks who watched him up at Main Campus via video-feed. One of the surgeon's (Jack Myers, the surgeon who does many of the heart surgeries for the kids from Haiti) mentioned to Dr. Farmer that in his 30 years at the medical center, he has never seen the auditorium filled with that many people.

You can watch a 60 Minutes clip on him here

This was a very inspiring talk. He was very kind, gracious, and stayed to sign all the books that came in front of him (it was a long line!).


Friday, April 17, 2009

Just got this photo...

This is great!  I just got this from Fidelis....who got it from one of the people working with Dr. Leininger to install the Chateau Deau's.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Praise and prayer request for Haiti

The International Donors meeting for Haiti has wrapped up and this is the news:

"International donors have agreed an aid package of $324m (£218m) for Haiti, to help the country recover from hurricanes and food shortages.

The pledge comes after a meeting of more than 20 countries and financial institutions in Washington.

The World Bank agreed to provide $20m in aid, while the US said it would offer a further $57m."

This is WONDERFUL news!!!  
And furthermore, if Haiti can stay on track, they may be eligible for debt forgiveness within the next year.   To put that in perspective, Haiti currently pays out $3 million per month toward debts (I believe largely built up during the Duvalier reign-of-terror).  That's $3 million per month that could go toward improving their infrastructure, building roads (!) and supporting schools, doctors and nurses, feeding the hungry....and the list goes on.

Thank you to all who are praying about these things.  We should continue to pray that the government of Haiti acts wisely and honestly, and that they continue to make good-faith steps so that they can get their debt canceled.

Oh!  Also, I have an opportunity to speak at another local church about Haiti!  I'm really excited about that as well!


My Blog

Monday, April 13, 2009

Haiti News

For those who pray for Haiti, here are a few specifics as of today:

Praise: Haiti's inflation rate is at 6%...the lowest in 10 years!!!
Petition: Haiti's rainfall is below average. Some areas will be hardest affected (if you're REALLY interested, you can read an article on it here). Unfortunately, Pestel is one of those areas.

Praise: a major Haiti donors meeting began today to discuss the situation in Haiti.
Petition: for the donors meeting

Friday, April 10, 2009

Portraits of Pestel (and then a few extra)

Hi all,

I just uploaded these wonderful photos from our recent trip.  These are of people that we met along the way during our time in PAP and Pestel.  You'll see lots of (beautiful) kids.    

Many of these pictures are worth a thousand words, 
I'll let them tell their own stories...

Enjoy. And have a wonderful Easter!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Great updates!

A couple of really neat things:

First, we've already gotten $1800 donations since our last trip!
Second, we've gotten commitments for $2000 to go toward supporting classrooms next year!

Now related to my job:  I gave a presentation yesterday at the medical center to the head-honchos (better known as the Dean's Teams Council) on the proposed Office of Global Health.  The presentation was well-received (per others feedback to me).  Then, last evening, at a dinner for faculty-students one student asked a question of the Vice Dean for Education:  "So we've heard a rumor that there might be an office of global health...?"    So in front of about 200 people it was officially announced that our medical school now has an Office of Global Health (directed by your truly). 

That's really exciting, and I've had a few emails already of faculty who are interested in collaborating in some way.




Pestel's Water

We turn our faucets on and we get water.  
In Ecuador you get water but you wouldn't want to drink it!  You have to buy bottled water to drink.

Here I can wash my car with purified water.  I have well water that first goes through a filter.  I can drink the same water that I use to wash my car.

In Pestel getting water can be a very real challenge.  There are no streams or rivers, ponds or lakes.  Water is collected in big (or small) concrete/stone cisterns (either from roof runoff or just open to the air), barrels or other containers.  

The water is not 'clean' in the sense that you or I would want to drink it.  It can become contaminated quickly.  Consider what kinds of things can fall or land into an open-air cistern.

And when there is a drought and your cistern dries up, you must go looking for water because you cannot live without water.  You cannot call the plumber or run to the 'store' to buy bottled water.  You have to hike the mountains to find water from someone who still has water.  And then you'll likely have to pay for it.

On our recent trip we had the joy of seeing several of the newly installed Chateau D'Eau's:

These were installed just a couple of days prior to our visit, so the timing was excellent!
The villagers were quite thrilled for a number of reasons. First, these worked within 24 hours of installation because it had rained. Second, these were quick to install (compared with a traditional stone cistern which could take months, depending on supplies, etc etc). Third, these can be installed in very hard to reach places where hauling concrete bags, for example, would be difficult.
Fourth, they provide clean water because nothing falls into them. They are constructed with a filter at the top where the water enters. So we don't have to worry about a rodent falling in, for example, as happened to another cistern that I heard about.


We are very pleased with the feedback we've received on the Chateau D'Eaus.  The cost is $1000 for the purchase of the materials and for the installation (a trained team from the area installs them, which also provides jobs!).
Let me know if you're interested in helping with this! It's a great way to give, and it's a life-sustaining gift for entire families.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Village of Thomas Eli

On our first full day in Pestel we visited the village of Thomas Eli.  The village is about 1.5 miles off the road (I shall always use that word loosely, as Jon will attest  :).  I think it took about an hour and a half to two hours to reach by foot.  Slow going.
Here's a link to a map  that shows where the village is. 

On my prior trip to Pestel I was touched by the earnest requests from a teacher from Thomas Eli that was working (with 2 others) to provide elementary education to kids from this village.  The teachers were working for free and were in jeopardy of discontinuing their work because of not being able to feed their families.  I was amazed at their dedication and told them I would see how I could help them.   We were able to provide some money for them over the past 6 months, but more is definitely needed (this will be a recurring theme!).  We estimate that $1000 will sponsor a classroom of kids for a year.   There are 3 classrooms of kids (maybe 25-30 kids in each class).   These teachers really need our help.  I've encouraged the townsfolk to feed the teachers, which I think they'll do.  

We helped this village in a couple of other ways as well!  Some will recall that we raised money to build school benches.  This was the village that built the benches!  The carpenter donated much of his time and so there was some money left over.  They used that money to construct a door for the school room to keep the benches safe.  They're VERY thankful for the gift, and you can see the kids sitting on them in the photos (see below).

We also raised money for plastic cisterns (Chateau D'Eaus).  More on these later, but this village received one of the Chateau D'Eaus, installed by a team under direction of Dr. John Leininger (who works further up in the mountains--thanks a million, John!).  You can see a photo of the  Chateau D'Eau as well!


Enjoy the photos!

Specific ways to consider giving:

1.  We're hoping to get LOTS of school supplies for the next trip.  This is such a fun and practical way to give.  Classrooms, boys and girls clubs, sunday school classes or civic groups can all participate in this!  There are a bunch of schools that need supplies.  And during School Sales these are dirt cheap for us.  Let me know if you're interested!

2.  Teacher salary support for Thomas Eli.   $1000 will support an entire classroom, and I think that's a pretty good investment.  Consider adopting a classroom, in part or in full.  I'll make sure you get photos and updates.  

3.  Finish school room floor.  I know this may seem trivial, but I don't think it would take too much money to finish off the floor of that one classroom to make it more usable.

As always, thanks for reading!


If interested in giving financially:

Check to Slate Hill Mennonite Church
Memo:  Haiti Medical (Thomas Eli)
1352 Slate Hill Road
Camp Hill PA