Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A good way to end the year!

Merry Christmas!  

I had an excellent discussion today with Anna, regional manager for Heifer International.  In short, Anna is willing to explore further the possibility of Heifer's involvement to help the people of Pestel!   This is a wonderful possibility! 

Heifer brings expertise in livestock and agro-ecology (issues related to soil improvement, crop growth etc etc).  The benefits, potentially, to people in Pestel would be
1. Improved nutrition through development of agriculture and livestock  (think:  protein!)
2. Improve economy--think of goats/pigs/etc as bank accounts.  When times are particularly tight they can 'withdraw' from their accounts by selling chickens or pigs etc.  Once their animals begin to reproduce, they can sell these and generate new income.

I am now planning to meet with some Haitian representatives in PAP during my Jan trip  (gonna be busy!).  

You gotta love it!

A BIG thanks to Rebecca and her friends with Variety International who made these connections!

Monday, December 13, 2010

December updates

Merry Christmas everyone!

My next trip to Haiti is scheduled for January 13-16th when I will meet with Dr. Seneque in Port-au-Prince to talk about 2010 as well as to make sure we're on the same page for 2011.  For the first time I'll also be meeting with Dr. John Leininger with whom I have communicated plenty in the past several years!  Dr. Leininger is the man who introduced me to the Chateaux Deaus!  And he helps to arrange their installation in Pestel.  

Patient persistence.  The Chair of my department likes that phrase.  Through patient persistence I am seeing God moving in people's hearts to join in the effort.  This is really good stuff!

We're selling calendars!  Each calendar supports the effort to provide medications to 5 children.  Thanks to Dr. Linda Chambers for her great work on this!  

My friend Stephen Sands is working on developing a website to allow people to give to this work.  If you have ideas or suggestions on how to improve the site (which is in its infancy) please feel free to pass them along!   I'll send the link along in a bit.
Haiti Medical

A few very somber notes:

  • Cholera has struck Pestel.  Dr. Seneque is seeing a lot of cholera.  
  • Violence has mixed with protests in the streets of PAP after the recent Haitian elections.  In short, there are allegations of fraud, and the US has issued a cautious statement suggesting that the will of the Haitian people may have been thwarted.  
  • Sarah Palin and her husband are in Haiti right now with Franklin Graham.  This is not a good time to be in Haiti, frankly.  The airport was shut down on Friday due to concerns over violence.  Please pray for their safety, and that they would use their status to highlight the great needs of the Haitian people.  

On quite a different note:   I was able to contact an organization in PAP that flies helicopters.
I've asked them if they'd consider flying me out to Pestel directly from PAP.   :)    We shall see.   That'd be a pretty cool option, don't you think?

And we are still waiting for word from Heifer International about their possible involvement in Pestel.  

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Banking in Haiti

This is really cool.   It's called 'mBanking'.  They have been using it in places in Africa for quite some time.  My friend Jon Eager (who went with me to Pestel this past June) told me about it.  mBanking would do Pestel a world of good!  Some of you know my great struggle-and-frustration with getting funds out to Pestel.  VERY challenging.   This could make a lot of that problem obsolete.

The two major phone companies in Haiti:  Digicel and Voila.  Voila is mentioned in the article below.  I also know that Digicel received a grant to implement it as well.


I've Seen the Future (in Haiti)

St.-MARC, Haiti

Damon Winter/The New York Times

Nicholas D. Kristof

On the Ground

Share Your Comments About This Column

Nicholas Kristof addresses reader feedback and posts short takes from his travels.

Go to Columnist Page »


Cash is so 20th century.

I've been experimenting with a 21st-century alternative, using money on a cellphone account to buy goods in shops. It's a bit like using a credit card, but the system can also enable you to use your cellphone account to transfer money to individuals or companies domestically or internationally. And it's more secure because a thief would have to steal not only your phone but also your PIN to get access to your money.

What's really astonishing, though, is the site of my experimentation with "mobile money." Not in the banking capitals of New York City or London, but in this remote Haitian town of St.-Marc.

Mercy Corps, through a United States government-financed program, is providing food for people here in St.-Marc who have taken in earthquake survivors. The standard method would be to hand out bags of rice, or vouchers. Instead, Mercy Corps will be pushing a button once a month, and $40 will automatically go into each person's cellphone savings account — redeemable at local merchants for rice, corn flour, beans or cooking oil.

I took one of these phones and walked into a humble little grocery shop with no electricity — "Rosie Boutique," named for the owner's little daughter — and became the first person to make a cellphone purchase there. I typed the codes into my phone, and then both my phone and the store's phone received instantaneous text messages saying that the transfer was complete. The food was now mine.

"It doesn't get any cooler than this," said Kokoévi Sossouvi, the Mercy Corps program manager. She's right — and the technology isn't just cool, but could be a breakthrough in chipping away at global poverty.

You see, the world's poor face a problem even bigger than being fleeced by bankers. It's being ignored by bankers.

Most poor people around the world don't have access to banks. In particular, one of the biggest challenges for the poor is how to save money. The poor often have money coming in just a few times a year — after a harvest, or after a temporary job of picking coffee beans — but each time they have no way to save it.

Banks typically won't accept tiny deposits. In West Africa, private money dealers accept deposits, but they charge 40 percent annual interest rates on them. So money is more likely to be kept under a mattress, and stolen or squandered.

The poor do establish their own savings accounts in the form of chickens, goats or jewelry that they can buy and later sell. "But what if your goat gets sick and dies?" notes Ms. Sossouvi.

That's why the most powerful idea in microfinance isn't microloans, but microsavings — helping the poor safely store their money. And mobile phones offer a low-cost way to make microsavings feasible and extend financial services to the poor. About three-fourths of Haitians have access to a mobile phone, and similar numbers are found in many poor parts of the world.

Kenya has been a leader in mobile money, but many other developing countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas are now jumping on board as well. For the poor, mobile telephones could have as profound an impact on finance — on banking the unbanked — as they have on communications.

One terrific poverty-fighting organization in Haiti, Fonkoze, is also expanding into financial services through mobile phones. It is implementing a system whereby Haitians in America will be able to use cellphones to send unlimited remittances to the phones of relatives back in Haiti. On the Haitian side, the recipient of the money would be able to go into any Fonkoze branch and cash out — or, better yet, use the remittance as the start of a savings account.

Nothing goes as planned in the developing world, and that's true of mobile banking. Many people in the program here in St.-Marc are illiterate and have trouble mastering the codes, and the first time I tried a transaction I lost a cell signal. Central banks and regulators are sometimes wary of telephone companies engaging in finance.

But Robin Padberg, the chief executive of the Voilà cellphone company that Mercy Corps is working with, says that early in the new year the mobile money system will be expanded so that anyone will be able to make purchases, put money into a mobile phone account or take cash out. That'll be a milestone in the inclusion of the poor in the world of financial services.

And some day, I'm pretty sure, I'll engage in as sophisticated a financial transaction as Haitians — say, walking into a deli and buying a pastrami on rye with my BlackBerry — without even leaving Manhattan.

Haiti Blog

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pestel and Cholera

Hi all,

I wanted to make you aware that it appears that cholera has spread to Pestel.  Both Dr Seneque and Sister Fidelis have now mentioned this.

Please pray for wisdom.  And pray that somehow the issue of cholera would resolve quickly in Pestel.

Dr. Seneque emailed me today to ask that the workers be allowed to continue working through January (you may recall that we have the workers taking a break until March 2011).  He wants to use them to spread the word about cholera up into the mountain communities, and to do community education.

This is really good news, in my opinion, because it indicates that he sees the value of having built a 'network' of workers from the various sections.  It is also important because it allows the workers to take on a new level of responsibility related to health.

The challenge here will be in developing something rather rapidly to respond to the cholera issue--a worker education program to address hygiene, keeping safe, responding appropriately to illness.  This is no small feat.   There is also the added challenge of treating sick people with very limited resources (i.e. lack of IV fluids in Pestel).   These are not insurmountable, just challenging.

The workers have served important purposes in 2010:  they have done a fantastic job of delivering the medications to 12,000 children WHILE obtaining crucial baseline data.  Beyond this, they were instrumental as an early warning system for Hurricane Tomas, and now they may be used to combat an epidemic.    The last two efforts go well beyond our expectations.  

My next trip to Haiti will be in January--this was confirmed today.   I'll meet with Dr. Seneque in PAP.  Please be praying about that meeting also. 



Thursday, December 2, 2010

Haiti updates--early December

Hi all,

I'm seeing reports that cholera is making its way out to the southeastern part of Haiti which is where Pestel is located.   The UN and Red Cross are deploying folks to Les Cayes, and there are suspected cases around Jeremie.   Also, I heard back from Dr Seneque yesterday and he indicated that he is very busy with cases of cholera.  I am hoping that these "cases" are not truly cholera.  That would be awful.

I will not be making a trip to Haiti this December, but will be exploring a quick trip to meet with Dr. Seneque in January (in PAP).  

Haiti is in a bad way right now, as I know you know.     The elections were held this past Sunday and the results remain up-in-the-air.   Until a new government is established the foreign donors are unlikely to release the funds that are waiting.  The US, for example, has $1.3 billion already approved.  Realistically, from what I learned from others today, the new govt is going to be established as early as February.  But then there is a ramp-up time for them.

I have received some very encouraging news though!

Several individuals have expressed their interest in using their skills to help the people of Pestel, whether here in the US or on-the-ground in Pestel at some point.   This is a HUGE blessing and gift.  
We were up in NH the past couple of days for my grandmother's funeral, and in talking with many of my relatives it was clear to all of us that this effort on behalf of Pestel is at the point where it is ripe for others to come on board, take over established efforts, help with the 'management' aspects, and so forth.
And these folk are starting to appear    :)    
Others are giving financially and through words of encouragement and prayers.   I am keenly aware of how important these are.   Thank you.

A few other neat notes:
1.  Rebecca is pursuing a key contact with Heifer International.  We will see if they might become involved in helping the people of Pestel.   Their investment would be HUGE!
2.  Johnny is now looking into options for folks in Pestel to make their own soap.   This would be a fantastic local solution.    We'll be trying out his CharRocket stove and Solar Fruit Dryer in March when we go out to Pestel.   
3.  We have enough funds to purchase 3 more Chateaux Deaus for Pestel.   One will be attached to the brand new clinic in Abricot (which, btw, the villagers there built after receiving a grant!!  Love these people!).   In light of the cholera epidemic, the need for water is most apparent to everyone these days.   
4.  I calculated out the cost to treat the 2000 (or so) kids on the island (Section 6) for anemia with iron therapy.   I'm pretty sure we can do it cheaper, but the initial cost appears to be $6000.  That's $3 per kid per year.   We'll combine that with the Vitamin A & Deworming campaign to get some cross-benefit.  So the true cost will probably be somewhere around $2 per kid per year.   We'll pilot the effort on the island first, work out the bugs, and then extend it to the rest of Pestel in 2012, most likely.   

Please continue to pray for wisdom, prudence, patience, and persistence.  


Monday, November 22, 2010

USA Today article

This is a succinct article from USA News:

The need for good leadership to make non-glamorous political decisions is key.   I found this to be a powerful reminder of how much prevention saves, not only in terms of $$ but human lives:

Installing permanent systems is less costly than delivering emergency water, Schindall says. A $5 million water system that Oxfam built recently in Cap-Haitien serves 100,000 people and will last decades, Schindall says. In contrast, Oxfam has spent $30 million in nine months providing emergency water from tanker trucks and water bladders to 316,000 people, she says.

"Putting in the most basic infrastructure is what will keep people safe in Haiti," she says.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Fwd: Hydrography of Pestel Map

Hi all,

I thought I would share with you this new project that I'm undertaking with a 3rd year medical student (Novneet Sahu) to begin to map out crucial data for Pestel.

This not only looks neat, but in my mind it's really amazing.  Just on this little map alone you can see
1.  the 6 sections of Pestel outlined.   The ONLY other place I've seen the 6 sections has been a hand-drawn map on the wall of Dr. Seneque's office.   And using the software we can find the exact GPS coordinates for the boundaries.   
2.  You can see where the roads in Pestel go (dotted lines).  
3.  You can see small streams.  This is entirely new information.   Novneet found these geographically-accurate maps on the internet that were made to work with this particular software.

Now, this is what we'll do:
We are having someone in Pestel send us (by email) the list of village names AND their GPS coordinates.   That means for the first time (ever?) we will be able to exactly locate the villages throughout Pestel.   Remember, with the Child Health Program we found about a 100 villages that were not on the official rolls.

Once we place the villages on this map, we can then 'attach' all kinds of data to it.   Take the anemia testing for example.   If we tested 20 kids in Village A for anemia and 'attach' those 20 results to Village A....we can then color code ALL the villages based on severity of anemia.   We can see instantaneously on this map which villages have the worst levels of anemia....

Same with malnutrition...

Same with educational opportunities...

Same with rates of childhood fever...

And so on!!!

This will be a powerful tool to help in planning, coordination, and also in promoting the work that is being done and needs to be done.


I'm pretty psyched

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Novneet Sahu <novneetsahu@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, Nov 18, 2010 at 3:42 PM
Subject: Hydrography of Pestel Map
To: Ben Fredrick <benfredrick@gmail.com>

Haiti Blog

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cholera update

Cholera has unfortunately 'entered' Port-au-Prince.

A cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 600 people in Haiti has gained a foothold in in earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince and is expected to spread widely and quickly in the sprawling city of 3 million people, health authorities said on Tuesday.

The article also cites that about 9000 have been infected so far.  That will be a low estimate because no one knows for sure the true number.  Not all affected individuals will seek care, for example.

I also saw this really shocking video of the garbage build-up in PAP.  Prior to the earthquake there were a number of large green dumpsters around PAP.  The city was actually looking more and more cleaned up.   Then the earthquake...and now this (and cholera)   

Finally, this is a short account of how hard it is to be a mother in this setting:

A Haitian mother struggles to provide her family with safe water

Here's  a snippet:

Poverty worsens situation

"I never treated the water," she says. "But at the hospital they told me to treat with chlorine before using it. I'm really scared. My young son was sick with cholera. This could have happened to my other children as well."

In a country where more than 50 per cent of the population lives on less than $1.25 per day, however, money for soap or fuel to boil water is not always an option for the majority of the population.

Ms. Merceda, for one, could not afford to regularly buy chlorine tablets to treat the water she and her children drink. She says that if it comes to deciding whether to have food on the table or to have safe drinking water, food would take priority.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-2298/Dormino
A girl collects water from the Artibonite River in Grand Dessaline, a town in Artibonite Department, Haiti. The river is believed to be contaminated with cholera.

Regular supplies of chlorine tablets to purify water are not available in community markets. As part of its cholera response activities, UNICEF has been facilitating the distribution of chlorine tablets, also known as Aquatabs. To date, UNICEF has provided almost 1 million tablets, each capable of treating five litres of water, to communities in cholera-affected areas of Haiti. Another 100 million have been ordered.

Aware of the danger

Celeste Jameson, a neighbour of the family, says the option of boiling water to make it safe is also not always available.

"Most of the people in this neighbourhood don't have the money for charcoal," he says. "And if they have it, they will use it to cook food and not to boil water."

Having safe drinking water is made even more difficult in Ms. Merceda's household, because the family does not have access to a sanitary toilet. Like their neighbours, the family relieves themselves in a small local stream, the same place they use to wash themselves.

"It's very hard for me," she says. "My husband is a farmer. He doesn't earn much money and I don't have a job. I do tell my children to wash their hands after going to the toilet. But I can't control them all the time. Soap is expensive, too."

Still, Ms. Merceda is aware of the danger posed by unclean water. She says she will try to use chlorine tablets to keep the water safe or at least boil the water before using it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pestel and the hurricane

Hello everyone,

For those who are relatively new to these emails, we welcome you and want you to know that while I have sent out requests at various times for specific funding opportunities, I don't think I've ever gone so far as to put out the appeal I am about to make.

The lives of the Haitian people in Pestel were thankfully spared from Hurricane Tomas, as you know.  However, early reports about the agricultural devastation up in the mountains are being confirmed.  I read a disaster report today.  In the report helicopters flew across the southern aspect of Haiti.  Only four areas were cited as suffering substantial damage and Pestel was one of those four.  Fruit trees have been ruined, the land has been torn up in places, and many farmers/peasants lost livestock.   Those who live day-to-day will undoubtedly struggle in the upcoming days.

We know Pestel.  We have followed along from a far, and some of us have walked the mountains and into the villages of Pestel.  This is our time to act--it is a call to action.  We will raise the flag to make sure that Pestel's plight is noticed, and we will contribute to helping them in their time of considerable need.

The situation was difficult prior to the hurricane, a poverty-laden land that had to somehow absorb the influx of families after the earthquake.  You've seen in the videos how people have taken in their siblings with children.  

I would ask that, despite our tendency, we might be sensitized to the needs during this specific time.

This is an email I just received from Dr. Seneque.  He is the only Haitian physician who lives and works among the people of Pestel.  
He is responding to my email from earlier today:

            I'am very glad to see, how you carry Pestel in your heart. This site was hit hard as you said, during the storm. Some localities, like 5th, 4th,3th sections have been damaged badly. The peasants loosed everything( plantations and all). So, we can feel the food emergency, coming up. If you can do something, this is the real moment to help. We can contact the mayor and many churches to see how to do it.

As I consider the situation, one disaster was averted as the hurricane diminished and was moved to the west.  That was clear evidence of God's hands over the storm.  Now I make this appeal as a prayer that God's hands would move in the hearts of His people to avert another crisis:  that of starvation and suffering.

I do not want to send any sense of guilt or manipulation in this email.  Rather, I see it as my responsibility to act on their behalf, and this is a specific moment of very great need.    

I do not have expertise to 'manage' a disaster, so I will seek advice.  Please let me know if you have interest in helping somehow with this effort.

We need people to pray that organizations capable of providing food, of helping to replace livestock and of rebuilding the farmers' lives would respond to the needs of the people in Pestel.    

Here is an opportunity to give financially.  You can give through Slate Hill Mennonite Church.  You can give online:
(Scroll down along the right side:  Donate button)

I have asked Dr. Seneque to learn about the needs in the mountains.  I will forward that to you once I learn.

Are any willing to contact organizations to see if the organization would consider working in Pestel?
Heiffer International
World Vision
Feed the Children
Mennonite Central Committee

All of those are working in Haiti already. The possess expertise to help the villages regain their baseline and move well beyond it.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Two pieces of news

I had the pleasure of videoconferencing with the VI board this morning, and learned that they have accepted my proposal for 2011!!  This is wonderful news, and a real boost as we end this year.  We are currently raising funds through calendar sales.

The strategy that seems to make sense to me (and I'd like your feedback) is to use the knowledge gained from 2010 to raise funds to cover the costs of the Child Health Campaigns.   We know that it costs $3 per child per year.  That's how much it cost this year.   The more funds that can be raised (outside of VI's funding) to support the Child Health Campaigns will allow funds from VI to be used to advance the health effort for kids in Pestel.  We would be able to start an anemia treatment initiative (piloted on the island, then more widespread throughout Pestel), a malnutrition initiative, and lay the groundwork for immunizations.   

Secondly, I received the following email from Sister Fidelis.  This is hard for me to read.  If you have ideas, please let me know.  Ben

Dear family, friends and Sisters,
     First I want to thank all of you for your prayers and good wishes as Hurricane Tomas approached and waned.
     Unfortunately, I need to make some corrections to earlier sunnier predictions of our situation here. For two days I could not reach our people up in the mountains. We are in the lower, coastal town of Pestel right now and have been through the duration of the storm. This morning people came down the mountains to the market. And then I heard plenty.
     Many people lost sheets of corrugated tin from their roofs. Many trees came down killing many animals (goats, pigs, chickens, and even cows) and damaging a good number of houses. Their crops were just devastated, literally flattened from the high winds. Plaintain trees, which have very shallow roots, were all uprooted, but also vines like yams and beans were snapped leaving people without the food necessary to feed their families. Luckily for us personally, our house and new clinic were unaffected. However, the new school which was built next to our clinic had its entire roof blown off. I hear that the higher up the mountain people are, the greater the damage. This is the worst storm damage we have had here since I came to Haiti nine years ago. Sister Jo, Katie Large and I are returning home tomorrow to pray and commiserate with our friends and neighbors up the mountain.
     There was not a lot of loss of life in Haiti with this storm, however life around here will be much harder with this new catastrophe. So please keep us in your prayers. And if possible, send a donation to Development Office  c/o Sr. Carol Ann Grace   6832 Convent Blvd. Sylvania, Ohio  43560. Checks should be made out to Sisters of St. Francis and Hurricane Relief in the memo.
     Much love to each of you, greetings from Jo and Katie too, Fidelis

Haiti Blog

Friday, November 5, 2010

Word from Pestel

I've heard from Anderson (in Port-au-Prince) as well as Sister Fidelis (in Pestel).  All are doing well.

This is the report from Sister Fidelis in Pestel:

A lot of rain and wind last night.  Not much damage anywhere except some damage to trees.  "We've fared very well."  It was most severe early this morning.  The weather was very unusual and there was a lot of wind, shifting back and forth.   

Two people died when trying to cross a flooded road far up in the mountains.  Some homes were destroyed in a nearby area.  In Jeremie there was no structural damage to the Haitian Health Foundation buildings.   

They had the most gorgeous sunset--dark blue and magenta.  She asked me to thank you for your prayers.

We could not have hoped for a better outcome to our prayers!!!  For me this has been an incredibly faith-fortifying experience.  I have really wrestled with this one.   
The hurricane diminished in power and moved out to the west between Haiti and Cuba.  It appears to have spared PAP and the tent villages.  And it has spared the people in Pestel, for whom I have a special heart.

The message that I am to tell about is this:  God is good, great, mighty, and merciful.
At times we see these different aspects of God more clearly.  

I pray that through my emails, my talks, that God would be known today among us and among the people of Pestel as being Mighty, as He has shown Himself in this circumstance with a hurricane.  
He has been compassionate, acting mercifully toward Haiti 
We can affirm that God is good...even amidst a hurricane we can state this truth.  Even when things look very bad indeed.
Let Him be known among us as a Great God who is mighty to save, merciful to the weak and poor, and good all the time.

Please pray for Anderson whose anxiety was worsened through these circumstances.  He feels loved and cared for, but he has had a difficult time, having lived through these hard circumstances.


Thursday, November 4, 2010


Tomas continues to change.   Currently it is a Tropical Storm, but picking up in intensity.
By Friday AM they are predicting that it will regain the strength of a hurricane.  
Its path has fortunately angled to the west of Haiti (as opposed to some predictions leading it directly over PAP).  

(the "S" = Tropical Storm;  "H" = Hurricane)

I spoke with Sister Fidelis last evening.  She is in Pestel down by the water.  She and the other leadership are aware of the impending storm.   

Even though the hurricane appears to make land far out to the southwest, that is exactly where Pestel is.  

The hurricane HAD potential to be a Category 3.  It HAD potential to go directly over PAP.  I've been watching it closely for this past week, and I've been amazed at how it has shifted to its current trajectory.  

How do we pray about a hurricane?   Several of us have been talking about this.  One thing I learned through prayer is that God is able to do far more than we ask or imagine.  I had no idea in my head that this hurricane could potentially have dissolved in the ocean south of Haiti, but that is exactly what is started to do!   
We don't want it to hit Haiti and  not any other people as well.  

What I know at this point is that it had potential to be VERY VERY bad.  And Haiti appears to have been spared that level of destruction.

If you have a Haiti calendar, consider praying for the people in the calendar.  Those are folks from Pestel.  If you would like to be reminded of others who live in Pestel, here are a series of photos:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Haiti trip cancellation

Hi all,

Two important things to pass along

First, we had to cancel our trip to Haiti.   Despite re-arranging and trying to work out the details, it became very clear today that the doors had closed for us.  Obviously this is disappointing.  But we all feel that it is the right thing to do at this point.  My traveling companions have been fantastic through this process, very flexible and willing to go-with-the-flow.  
We were hopeful that the Hurricane would miss Haiti.  Or that we could make it out to Pestel (and bunker down) when it hit.  
Surprisingly, the hurricane was downgraded to a Tropical Storm status, and then just this morning was downgraded further to a Tropical Depression.  Over the past 48 hours there was a very real possibility of Hurricane Tomas dissipating almost completely!   Which is, frankly, an incredible possibility that didn't even occur to me to pray for!   And this could still happen.   However, around noon today it was upgraded again to a Tropical Storm.  And it looks to be arriving over Pestel around 8am on Friday, just when we'd be taking off from PAP.   Long-story-short:  we were grounded by our flight organization, and since they were filled up on Friday, Saturday and Monday....there was no opportunity to get out of PAP.  Again, this all came about within the past couple of hours.

So we will be looking at dates in Jan/Feb (maybe March).  

Second, I had a FANTASTIC meeting this morning with a group called Kingdom Builders.  What an encouragement.  These are generally business-minded Christians who meet periodically to discuss ways to integrate their beliefs into their work, develop ideas, etc.   I had the fortune of being invited by Stephen Sands.  There is a lot I could say about this time.  In short, a number of individuals provided excellent feedback and suggestions for me.  One guy wants to provide more opportunities for me to do my talk.  One guy wants to help put together a 3 minute video (his business makes commercials).  One guy is going to do some networking for me, etc etc.  These are just some of the examples.   There was a lot of energy and enthusiasm.   And this is a gift from God.

Thank you for your prayers for wisdom.  

Please continue to pray for Haiti.  

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hurricane Tomas?

At this point it's unclear whether we'll be going to Haiti this Thursday or not.  A tropical storm, Tomas, seems to be angling toward Haiti.  

Importantly, it may make landfall on Friday the day we're supposed to travel from PAP to Pestel.  Also, and more importantly, it is likely to make landfall over Pestel.  

But it's not clear what is going to happen.   I'm seeing reports that it is weakening and may not make hurricane strength.  Also, the prediction this morning was that it would make landfall on Friday at 6am.  Now the prediction is Friday at 2pm.  

My hope is that it weakens further and slows down.   My prayer is that it just doesn't even hit Haiti.  As you know, they don't need a hurricane at this point.  


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Haiti and cholera + rain

Two important hazards right now for Haiti:

1. Cholera.  

 The Ministry of Health has confirmed 4,714 hospitalized cases and 330 deaths from cholera.

• UNICEF is procuring 600,000 bars of soap from within Haiti, and has placed international orders for 100,000,000 water purification tablets for delivery within the next week.

2.  Hurricane Tomas

This hurricane is expected to be sweeping up along the south side of Haiti sometime around Tuesday/Wednesday of this week.  The projected paths include Haiti, though.  

We'll of course be keeping an eye on it as it relates to our trip this Thursday, but the bigger concern is for the people still living in tents in PAP, and for those who are trying to make strong headway against cholera.  


Haiti Blog

Monday, October 25, 2010

Some more news

Hi everyone,

Currently we have enough funds in the Slate Hill Church account (thank you to all who have given!!) to do the following:

$6500 School support--included in this is some funds to be able to expand one of the schools to 9th grade.  I would LOVE to see a high school for Pestel (talented kids go to cities...and stay)
$300        Thomas Elie school floor--this will allow the school to finish off the floor of one of the schoolrooms
$600         Alfred Bonhomme--support for Alfred's kids to go to school (4 kids, one now in high school)
$700         Health vouchers
$750         Abriko Clinic (new clinic in the mountains that just opened up and needs some supplies)   You may remember that the village of Abriko built their own clinic AND school over the past year by receiving a grant.  I have been VERY impressed with this particular village, ever since my first visit to Pestel.  
$500         Play therapy supplies for kids with post-traumatic stress disorder after the earthquake.  Sister Jo is a licensed therapist and this is an excellent opportunity for her to use her skills to help the kids in Pestel who migrated in from PAP after the earthquake.
$1800 Sewing school--this is a new venture to provide space for young women to learn skills in sewing

How exciting is that?!?!   I'm personally thrilled.  Imagine what good will be done through each of those gifts.  Try attaching your imagination to God's promises (as opposed, for example, to concerns for the future) and you get some really incredible possibilities.  Imagine these good gifts (which come from God through us) being used to help someone who is ill...a child who is hurting after the earthquake...women learning to sew...children going to school for the first time...

This is joyful news and we know that God is honored/praised/thought very highly of    through it.

The United Nations office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) said Sunday that 254 people have died, while 3,015 cases of cholera have been reported.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2010/10/25/haiti-cholera-water.html#ixzz13Mu4UGFI

From what I reading the infection appears to be leveling off.   
Again, cholera is indicative of widespread poverty.  With a huge # of people migrating out of PAP after the earthquake, the other areas have absorbed the impact.  But obviously not well.  More mouths to feed (in high-malnutrition areas), more people crammed into small houses and rooms.

It is telling that Haiti has not had an outbreak of cholera in many decades (one place indicated that it's been a century).  

Finally, I visited a most unique farm in Gettysburg on Saturday with two friends--Johnny Zook and Doug Stauffer.  We learned a lot of really important lessons that we believe can be adapted to help small farmers in Pestel.  The way forward for agricultural purposes will very likely need to include livestock (cows, goats, etc) and chickens    [I had to look up whether chickens were considered livestock or not, and apparently they can be, but I guess they're often put under 'poultry'].  



Friday, October 22, 2010

Two notes

First, I received a quick email from Rebecca to say that Water Missions International was sending water purification units up to St. Marc!!!  This is the same group that is going to install a water treatment unit for Pestel.  
Unfortunately the official death toll is now at 135.  Please continue to pray.  Some may be called to give as a faithful response to God's leading.  For those interested in giving I would recommend 

Second, I want to share this really awesome story with you from Vanessa Carpenter.  Vanessa was my guide on my first trip to Haiti several years ago, and her organization was responsible for bringing the kids from Haiti to Hershey for heart surgery.   She has been a great encouragement to me and she has witnessed God doing extraordinary things for the people of Haiti:

God at work:
Vanessa Mesidor's case was referred to me a year ago May 2009.  When we drove up the mountain to see her in the baptist mission hospital her doctors there and the US doctors with me said she only had a month to live.  As we know (We know nothing and God has a plan)  He kept her alive until we could get all of the proper paperwork and doctors to help her lined up.  Oct. 2 2010, we flew into Memphis.  Oct. 3 we went to church and everyone prayed for Vanessa and her upcoming surgery.  Monday we went in for our pre surgery work up and meeting.  Only to be told by the head of Cardiology that Vanessa was to ill for surgery.  They could not operate on her.  
We were very upset the host mom wanted to ask for a second opinion but I said no we had to abide by their decision.   I could not take Vanessa home right away so I had the host mom take me to the airport so I could go to Virginia for a few days before I needed to be in Kentucky, Wisconsin and Chicago.  I got a ticket and went to the gate.  Cried and prayed God this is in your hands.  I am sorry I did not get Vanessa here soon enough.  But to you "all be the Glory".  After two hours of waiting and it was almost time to board and the phone rang.   It was the Cardiologist can you please come to the Hospital tomorrow with Vanessa the two surgeons would like to see her?  I told her I am at the airport but yes we can have her there tomorrow.  She told me just take your plane have the host mom bring her in and we will conference you.   I got off the phone called my husband in Virginia.  Told him I thought I should stay he agreed.  So I canceled my flight and called the host parent to see if I could spend another night with them and we could take Vanessa to the Hospital the next day.  She was thrilled.  I told her do not get your hopes up.  It is in Gods hands.   They came back to the airport and picked me up.  Vanessa was very excited to see me (the host parents did not know enough Creole to tell her I was coming back so they waited and surprised her).   I explained that we had to go back to the doctor the next morning early.  We all went to bed.  Even this was a chore for Vanessa as she had to sleep sitting straight up.  If she laid down her heart would stop.  
On Tuesday Oct. 5 we went to the Hospital to meet with everyone.  I got to speak directly to the two surgeons.  They explained that she had only a one in 4 chance of getting off the OR table.   They did not want to shorten any of her possible time with her parents.   I explained to them that both mom and dad understood this.  That father had told me it would be  better for her to die asleep (go meet Jesus in his words) than to come back to Haiti and suffer a long prolonged painful death.  After lots of conversation, Dr. Knott-Craig said ok we will try.  Vanessa was admitted and I stayed right there with her.  At 6:30 the next morning they came for us.  We went down to pre op then back to surgery.  I was surrounded by the loving church family we had met on sunday.  We all prayed and left her in Gods hands.  Papa had asked the night before when I called to tell them yes they were going to operate the next morning, Papa asked if the Surgeon could please pray before surgery.  This request was told to the surgery team.  Before they started they all gathered in the corner and prayed for Gods will.  The entire OR Team.   Surgery started and they gave me updates every hour.  In the echo and all of the tests that they had done it only showed two heart valves not working properly.  However when they got in to her chest they found 3 not working all three needing major work.  The first they were unable to repair so they replaced it.  The second they repaired to the best of their ability, but it was only working at about 50 percent.  I was told that it needed to also be replaced but that the odd of living through two heart valve replacements were to high for them to do it now.  Then on to the third valve, it did not look good but they were going to see what they could do.  The next update was that the third valve they were able to repair and it was not leaking.  Working 100%.  Vanessa was headed to recovery.  
When Dr. Knott-Craig came out to speak with me he was very tired.  It had been a very long and hard surgery.  He stated that even though she made it through the surgery she had 72 hours that would be critical "we are not by no means out of the woods yet".  I cried thanked him and continued to pray.  Seeing Vanessa hooked up to all of the machines was a wonderful sight.  They had to leave her on the vent longer than usual but just 6 hours after surgery they did another ultrasound of the heart and found that it was working even better than it had right after surgery.  By the mornings Ultrasound it showed even more improvement.  By the afternoon everyone in the VC-ICU were amazed at how well she was doing.  They had said right after surgery to expect 1 week in VC-ICU and at least another week or more on the Cardiac unit for another week or more.  
Well Vanessa was taken to the regular Cardiac floor on Sunday just 4 days in VC-ICU (she could have been moved if they had a bed the day before) then just 3 days on the floor, she was well enough to go home to her host family.  TO GOD BE THE GLORY.  
Vanessa in one week from being operated on walked out of the hospital and is doing great.  She continues to get healthier and stronger each day, with each breath she takes.  
And yes I am in tears.  Just trying to write all of this is so hard on me.   God is so Good and I am so blessed to be a part of these children's lives.  
The Doctors are all blown away, her heart is working at Normal sinus rhythm, there is NO leakage around the valves, she has earned the nickname of "The Miracle Child"
Vanessa has gained 21 pounds in just two weeks.  Now that her heart does not have to work so hard her entire body can heal gain weight.  
Nurses and Doctors from around the hospital stopped in to see her, how she is doing.  
Thanks to everyone how has helped get Vanessa here and her care.  If I tried to write the list I would forget someone,  Please thank you, thank you, thank you all who have helped save this wonderful little girl.   Thank you to my family who put up with me.   I love you all.  

Vanessa A. Carpenter
Angel Missions Haiti - Director
home 540-380-4588
Cell   540-580-9721
Answering service 1-800-409-7948

Haiti Blog

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pray for St. Marc, Haiti

News of a diarrheal epidemic has been released today.  The area is northwest Haiti near a city called St. Marc.  

This is a link to the news item:

So far they've confirmed 54 dead, but the number is likely higher.  The case-fatality rate appears to be almost 10%....which means:   out of every 10 people that get the infection, 1 is very likely to die.  That's a very disturbing number.

They are thinking this is either cholera or typhoid, but they haven't identified it yet.

We do not see cholera or typhoid here because these are diseases of dire poverty.  I could get into more detail, but for those interested it would be best to let you read about it on your own.

A local physician in Hershey was raised in St. Marc and has been supporting schools in St. Marc for decades.  Please pray for Dr. Mortel and those who care greatly about his work in St. Marc.

Please pray for the people in St. Marc and their families, for those who are working on their behalf with little-or-no resources, and for Aid organizations that can mobilize quickly with IV fluids to resuscitate people.

If it is cholera, it is deadly primarily because the people do not have access to IV fluids.  With IV fluids people do not die.  It's essentially that basic.  


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

CharRocket Stove

Hi All,

Here is a quick video that shows Johnny's CharRocket stove.  It doesn't have any words, but hopefully you'll get the point.   

The general gist of it:
1.  it uses 'junk' wood or dried out bamboo (which they have in Pestel) as fuel.  Don't need to cut down trees...
2.  the temperature gets up to 500+ degrees very quickly.
3.  It's HIGHLY efficient
4.  It produces charcoal WHILE it cooks your meal.  The charcoal can be turned into briquettes....which can then be used for another meal or to be sold at market.   The charcoal is made also from 'throw away' stuff--in this video he used corn husks, for example.  
5.  It's safer.   Kids get severe burns using the 'open fire pit' method.  

We anticipate bringing this down to Haiti in March.  


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mid-October Update

Why not do a mid-October update!??!

The 2011 Haiti calendars just came off the press Thursday!   This is a fund-raiser, as you probably recall, to purchase supplies and medications for the Child Health Campaigns for Pestel.  
Quite literally:  every $3 raised last year helped one more kid.  I know the low cost seems ridiculous.  The challenge, though, is in helping 100 kids ($300) or 1000 ($3000) or 10,000 ($30,000).  So you see, every $3 gift helps one more child, and helps us to reach the 12,000+ kids in Pestel.   [Many thanks to Linda Chambers for leading this fundraiser!!!]

My meeting with the engineering firm in Harrisburg went very well.  The effort is focused on northern Haiti, which is quite distinct and geographically removed from Pestel.  But I think really good things can happen through this firm!!  And I'm contacting faculty at Penn State's main campus to try to get them involved.   While my efforts are clearly focused on Pestel, I have been mindful that one of the reasons God brought me to Penn State Hershey and has shown me favor in the position of Global Health Center director is to, among others, pull in the Penn State resources for the betterment of the people of Haiti.   Pretty great to see this moving forward!!!

I just received a most encouraging email from Michael of St. Joseph's/Wings of Hope/Trinity House.   You'll recall that St. Joseph's was leveled (quite literally--all 5 floors collapsed) during the earthquake, and Wings of Hope was condemned.  His email focused on Trinity House (down in Jacmel).  Quite interestingly, they are now working with Water Missions International to establish a water purification system for Trinity House as well as the surrounding poor people.  This is the same group that is going to set-up a water purification system in Pestel!!  Michael and his 'family' have started up a bakery and coffee-roasting business in Jacmel to help support the schools and orphanages.   

For various reasons we'll need to put the work in Pestel on hold from from December thru February.  That means the workers will be without work for those 3 months.  Strategically I know this makes sense.  But 'culture eats strategy for lunch', so I'd ask you to pray that the workers and Haitian physician have patience with this process, which is certainly a work-in-progress.

My next trip is in November.  I'll likely be going back in early March with a couple of men from my church.  We had a really great time last Sunday showcasing Johnny's "CharRocket" stove and new solar fruit drier.  We're eager to get these innovations down to Pestel to see how they use them!!  That'll probably happen in early March.  

We've had several more gifts lately--some giving to support a classroom or to the sewing programs or wherever-it-is-most-needed.  Here's one that's particularly special:  a young boy in our church named Ben recently had a birthday party.  For his party he asked for gifts FOR the kids of Pestel.  Balls and toys and jump ropes and sports items.  :)

"Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord."