Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Data entry

Hi everyone

I'm hoping to get the household data entry finished up by the end of July.   The data will be very important as we plan for 2012.   

I still have about 40 surveys that need to be entered.  If you are willing to help with the data entry please let me know.  I can send you 10 pages (or more if you'd like!)


Thriving Villages Blog

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Almost no drama for the week....

I think I've steeled myself for a certain level of drama, especially in Pestel, but for some inexplicable reason there was none this time!   The time in Pestel was really very nice.  I enjoyed the experience very much, and felt like I got most things done that I wanted to

The travel was a different matter.   16 hours to Pestel from PAP, instead of 8.   And 13 hours from Pestel to PAP due to a crazy 'detour' traffic jam.  I have a bit of video that I'll send.  Unreal.

And to top it off, my airline woes continued.  FIrst, I had one of the stranger experiences at the airport that I've yet encountered.  A big guy took my bags as I stepped in line outside.  Usually I don't let them them do this, but he really grabbed them and trucked off, yelling out "Fast lane!  Express lane...follow me!"   A mass of people stood in front of me to get inside.  I called out to him to bring the luggage back, but then several of the workers also encouraged me to follow him, grabbing my hand and pulling me after him.   He then had me climb up and then hoisted me (literally) into the front-end of the tight group, all packed in like sardines wriggling to get through the door.
Arguing erupted as some of the Haitians (rightfully, in my opinion) didn't want to let this worker through with my luggage (but he was a big guy, and the airport police stepped up over the wall to try to wrestle him, the luggage, and me through.  
The way I got through the door was something like being birthed.  I mean, it was very strange.  I was pushed from behind while airport police grabbed my arms from the front, and I somehow landed inside into a cleared out space with my luggage, and the mass behind me.
I ended up paying ($$) dearly for that one, and it did me no good whatsoever.  

I used a different airline than the one I typically take.  The flight was to leave at 2pm and I had prudently arrived 2 hours in advance.   After waiting in line for a solid hour, and realizing I had only passed through stage 1 of 5...I began to wonder if I was going to miss the flight.  Well, it turned out that the computers weren't working well and they were having a difficult time printing out tickets  (When I did finally make it to the front I was met with, "Sir, there is a problem with your ticket...").   Anyway, the flight was delayed anyway by 2 hours, so it didn't end up mattering too much.  Except it was hot.  And I did get my ticket.

Finally we were ready to board and they let us go up to the walkway that led to the airplane.  But the plane had not fully unboarded yet, so we stood in this long, thin, poorly air conditioned glass hallway.  After about 30 minutes we were finally allowed on board, but it was too late for a poor 80 year old lady who fainted and vomited.   Yours truly responded to "Is there a doctor on the flight?"    I won't relay the account, but it was less than satisfactory from my perspective.  I couldn't get anyone to translate for me initially, and when someone did, they received quite contradictory commands from some other guy who essentially kept telling them to do all the wrong things.   Ugh.

So what's the point?  I don't know!  I guess I just needed to get that off my chest.

Sometimes this stuff just ain't easy.  And there's usually a bit of drama thrown in there somewhere.

Thanks for all the kind and gracious words, by the way!!   You really made my day!
Thriving Villages Blog

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What do Mennonites and Haitians have in common?

What do Mennonites and Haitians have in common?

There are many answers to this one, I'm sure.

When I began attending the Mennonite church we started receiving a publication called The Mennonite. It was (and is) a wonderful magazine, and one thing jumped out at me. There is a steep learning curve on the number of organizations that Mennonites are proud of. MCC, EMM, EMU, MDS and so forth.

To those who are Mennonites these terms are obvious, but to the uninitiated they can become a dizzying collection of letters that you suspect mean something important to someone. You're not in the loop yet, and as you peruse the pages of The Mennonite you see more and more of these organizations, often listed out in the same sentence. Some of the acronyms become so complex and lengthy that you wonder why they just didn't use a clever word-string like "WeDoGoodStuff".

Haitians seem to love acronyms as well. For example, there are 5 Pestel organizations that are working with Heifer International: KPA, OEJEDP, REJEDP, SOUP, and ASSOPAD. (How do you like that last one?) And of course there are more than just those five.

Yesterday, not to be left behind, the 18 workers and 1 manager of our health program recommended that they develop a name for their 'organization.' I thought that made sense, given that we've been calling our work generic terms like "Vitamin A Campaign", "Child Health Campaign", and "Anemia Campaign". Ok, I said, let's come up with some names. "Oh no, Dr. Ben, we already have three names that we talked about as a group." They wrote the names up on the board, and of course they all had acronyms.

Now I'm pleased to announce that a new organization exists in Pestel! I can tell they and Dr. Seneque are quite pleased with it. The new organization is APPAS.

(I subtly suggested that ASAP could be clever because of it's connotation in the USA. Oh well)

I think I have this right: Association of Peasants from Pestel Advancing (or Assisting) Health.

Not bad!

Look out Mennonites. The Haitians are starting to catch up!

PS: I would like to find funding to print up shirts (they really want matching, labeled shirts) with APPAS on it, and we'll print out new name badges for them. This will help identify them to the villages and I think it helps to highlight the important work they are doing.

Thriving Villages Blog

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Quite an honor...

Hi all,

The hospital has been without electricity all day, and they finally got it turned on about an hour ago.  So Dr. Seneque thoughtfully sent someone to pick me up and bring me (by!) to the hospital to check email.  

I was going through email and almost deleted this one because I thought it was some announcement....but it turns out that it is VERY good that I did not delete it.   

This, of course, comes as an incredible shock to me.  I am quite sure they picked wrongly, but I'll certainly take the opportunity!   This will fall about a month after the "White Coat Ceremony", held in August for the incoming 1st year medical students.  I have been asked to be the keynote speaker at that, which is another honor (and surprise).

So you can rejoice with me!!

Dear Dr. Fredrick,


During Alumni Weekend (September 16-17), we will be celebrating 40 years of medical school graduates from Penn State College of Medicine. As I am sure you know our first class graduated in 1971. There will be a celebration event on Friday, September 16 during Alumni Weekend and as part of that celebration we will be producing a publication to share with those in attendance. The publication will be entitled "Four Decades of Shaping the Future of Medicine".


Former deans as well as Dr. Cheston Berlin and Dr. Graham Jeffries will be featured in the booklet and we would like to feature you as one of the 40 individuals we have selected who have impacted and shaped the College of Medicine and the Future of Medicine. Your work has brought much pride to the College of Medicine. Would you be willing to be profiled in this publication?


Thriving Villages Blog

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Email #3

Ok, so here's the thing:   I'm sitting in Dr. Seneque's office right now where he has electricity...and that means a fan is blowing on me.  So I am not at all eager to leave.   I may just keep writing emails all night as an excuse to stay put....

I'm attaching a photo of a mom and her two kids.  I saw the mom last night when she was having a bad asthma attack.  She had an inhaler, and I wrote a note for her daughter to go to the clinic and get some prednisone.   The pharmacy doesn't have prednisone.   Scratch that.
I showed her how to use the inhaler correctly and gave her some instructions.

This morning she was doing great!   She was pretty happy and so were her kids.

Another brief note:  I received an email that I have received $1500 grant to help with the anemia campaign!!  The timing on that is very good.

Thriving Villages Blog

Email #2

This email has no connection with the prior.  

The training went well today, but it's going to be a nail-bitter to see if we can get all the material covered in time.  Every day requires a substantial modification of the plan for the next day.  We tackled Medical Records today....I gotta tell you:   the workers are really great.  But it's also clear that I'm stretching them beyond their educational training.    They are eager, interested, engaged...all the things you want from learners.   I do find myself having to 'step back' to describe something that I had taken for granted they would know/understand.   Sometimes they just don't have any reference to work off of.   That requires a level of creativity on my part....frankly, fun and challenging.  As long as it all works out ok!!

I met with KPA's leadership this afternoon.  I have got to say:  Sister Fidelis has done a Fantastic job in organizing and developing this group!!   They are a true breath of fresh air (actually, more appropriately right now, they are a true breath of cool, refreshing air.  It's hot!).  And they are so well grounded in their love for the neighbors.  It's a true testament and witness to Sister Fidelis'  own heart.   I 'pitched' a couple of thoughts to them to potentially help position them in case (or, When) Heifer increases their involvement in Pestel.  They are very interested in the solar fruit dryer that Johnny Zook has developed, and will be providing us with some feedback on the Char-Rocket stove later in the summer after they've had more time to work with it.

They also mentioned their desire to start up an orphanage.   Again, this gives you a glimpse into the sorts of items that are on their heart.   I think I've told you about their community gardens:  plots of land cultivated by members of KPA, and some of the produce is sold at low cost to needy families.   They also have a program that helps impoverished families with essential needs (such as a roof for the house).   

These are not wealthy individuals in the sense of finances.  They are wealthy in terms of their spiritual wealth.  They are really filled with God's love.  You should meet them.   :)


Thriving Villages Blog

Email #1

Hi all,  I'm going to send a couple of separate emails because the content/tone is so different.  I hope you'll excuse the profuse outpouring....

June 14, 2011

Yesterday after I wrote in an email that 6% of children in Pestel have severe malnutrition, I finished up my online work, closed down the computer, and went out to meet Dr. Seneque in the health center. On the other side of the room, lying on an old gurney, was a small child, a limp sleeping infant. I went over and looked at him and my first thought was that he was dehydrated and may have cholera. But then I recalled that they were treating cases of cholera in tents outside (there are several patients with cholera in those tents even now. Dr. Seneque said that with the Cuban medical teams, they treated 8000 patients for cholera). I looked more closely and saw that he was dehydrated, but also malnourished.

There was no IV running, no nurse attending to him, no medical therapy. I thought all of this a bit odd. I stepped outside where I met Dr. Seneque and I mentioned the little child. The boy has malnutrition, he said. His mother had passed me going into the hospital as I went out, and the mother and boy were there, not because of the child, but because of the grandmother whose right leg has a bad wound on it. She was lying on a mattress on the floor parallel to him, and I had seen her as well but I didn't know they were related.

IV fluids could have killed this child with severe malnutrition. The medical tendency to fix this problem quickly has actually been shown to do harm. It turns out that the boy was not even in the hospital for himself, but was given a bed to lie on to sleep.

Here is one of the 6%. And it is a great sadness to see him and know that he is not unique in his illness. Imagine 100 people in a room, and 6 people out of that 100 have the same very visible problem. Now imagine another 16 people with a moderate or mild case of the same problem. This is the situation of malnutrition in Pestel. There is no error of hyping up this problem, any more than there is in over-dramatizing a destructive tornado or hurricane. Telling it just as it is is horrifying and tragic enough.

NOW:   I am back in the clinic and the grandmother is in the same position as yesterday, but I didn't see the baby and mom at first.  I happened to go out to the back where an acquaintance greeted me, then showed me over to the baby and mother.  The baby looks to be about 3 months old by size, but the mom said she's 6 months old.  It's a girl, not a boy.   Her skin looks pretty rough with some rashes and splotches.   She's a tiny thing.

The mom is depressed.  She looks so sad.   As hard as it is to see the baby, it is equally as hard to watch her breastfeed the child with the little girl's eyes staring straight up at her mom, and her mom being expressionless....sad.   

Thriving Villages Blog

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hello from Pestel


We left Port-au-Prince yesterday at 6AM and arrived in Pestel in the dark at 10:30pm.    It's supposed to be an 8 hour drive...but we had car trouble.  :)   The radiator blew a hole in the bottom, and fortunately it happened when we were next to a garage that could repair it.

It made for a very long day.   

The training went well today, and the materials I brought and the strategy for the Anemia Campaign seem to be acceptable to everyone so far.   Actually, what's really cool is that Dr. Seneque is sending out Vaccinators this week to vaccinate as many kids as possible, and we can give the Vaccinators the child-carried records so that they can start updating them.    If the vaccine campaign had happened last week the child-records would not be in Pestel....and the kids would have gotten vaccinated, but then next year no one would know who-received-what....   So some kids get too many vaccinations while others never get any.    

I was able to see Anderson for a bit Saturday night and he continues to do well.  Nakesha had a graduation party on Sunday and her mom was VERY busy making all sorts of things for the party.   BIG three-layer cake...baked goods etc etc.  

I spoke more with Dr. Seneque about UNICEF's request that we consider tackling malnutrition, and he thinks it's a very good idea.   He is quite eager for it, actually.   He had been getting supplies from Medicines for the World but at some point that stopped.  So he's very familiar with the protocols etc.  This is a HUGE problem with HUGE and complex solutions.    I am praying for wisdom. 

By the way, not incidentally all of the supplies made it to PAP, and about 1/2 of the supplies made it out to Pestel.  I think that's remarkable, especially when you hear about the incredible difficulty I had in the airports (Dulles, then Miami).  

The next big question mark is whether the cell phone data entry process will work in Pestel or not.  It would be really really nice if it just went smoothly.

It's exciting to tell people about the work going on here.  It's really mind-blowing when you sit and add it up quick....all the things that have happened, and are happening....all the people who are participating and organizations that are 'signing on'.   It's no small matter, in my mind.

I don't know if it's hot where you are, but it ain't too pleasant here.

One last thing:   I received a photo from from one of the workers today.  It is a picture of about 5 or 6 kids from up in his section (Section 4).  He wanted to give it to me to show me some of the kids that we're helping.   This small gift means a great deal to me.

Thriving Villages Blog

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Appendix A

Ok--so you might be nervous opening an email from a physician with the word "appendix" in the title.  But it's not THAT kind of appendix....

I put together a couple of clips from my visit to Unicef's depot.   Nothing fancy (and no music...sorry).   But what is cool is that I showed these clips to my kids and they were so excited!  They were thrilled that all these medicines are going out to help the kids in Pestel.   

And of course I am too!


Thriving Villages Blog

A moment to reflect

It's a worthwhile exercise to pause at times and take stock.

You have seen these numbers:

  • $3...the cost per child to run the 2010 campaign. This will increase to $5 per child in 2011 because of the Anemia Campaign.

  • 12,000...the number of children that received Vitamin A and Anti-parasitic medication twice in 2010 and once in 2011 already. That means we are well on the path to eliminating Vitamin A deficiency in all of Pestel! We planned to reach about 50% of children in 2010, but instead we have reached about 80% of children!! We are ahead of schedule.

  • 50,000...the number of Vitamin A capsules provided by Vitamin Angels. They provided the same number of Albendazole tablets. They have identified our project in Pestel for a site visit with an external auditor in 2011.

  • 230...the number of villages that we've identified in Pestel, and we're still counting. We have mapped these by GPS. We can see gaps on the maps where the workers still need to visit/explore. Through this approach we intend to reach the furthest child in the furthest village.

  • 7...the average Hemoglobin level on the island (Section 6). Normal hemoglobin levels are above 11.

  • 25%...percentage of children with some degree of malnutrition. 6% of children from ages 6 months to 5 years have moderate-to-severe malnutrition. UNICEF is interested in partnering with us to tackle this very large and daunting problem.

  • 1 in 8...the odds of a child born in Pestel dying before the age of 5. We expect this will improve already because of the Vitamin A supplements (which boost immune function, reduce death from measles and other causes). Immunizations are about to begin which will further reduce death from other preventible diseases such as tetanus. Further reductions will be seen as we drill wells, install water treatment units such as the one to be placed on the island (Water Missions International), and address elements of malnutrition.

  • 1 million...tablets of iron that UNICEF is providing for the new anemia campaign. The original plan was to pilot the anemia campaign on the island with 1400 children. We are instead expanding this to 12,000 children throughout Pestel!

What you may not have seen:

  • 4...the number of new health workers that we added to the ranks in 2011. That brings our team up to 18 workers with 1 manager. 19 Haitians are now being given meaningful work with reasonable pay, thanks largely to Variety International's ongoing generosity.

  • $20K...the amount that Variety International has provided to install a robust water treatment unit on the island (this funding is beyond their annual commitment!). The unit is designed by and installed by Water Missions International.

  • 5..Haitian community organizations in Pestel with which Heifer International is now working. 5...also the number of goats that each of the 120 recipients will receive from Heifer, with the expectation that recipients will eventually give away 5 goats to their neighbors. Heifer's involvement is very important because they bring a solid resource base with them, decades of experience, and provide elements of economic development, personal responsibility training, and community involvement in decision-making.

  • $350...the annual amount that Dr. Seneque needed to begin immunizations. The request went out by email and was provided within by a donor within 24 hours. This is just one example among many. We have witnessed this kind of generosity repeatedly. Individuals are generously giving in a faithful (and quiet) response to God's leading, churches are becoming involved, organizations are being directed by God to participate. It is an exciting work!

  • 15,000...child health records that were brought down to Pestel in June. Each child will receive a unique medical record number, and their parents will have a record that they carry home with them. The record includes information on immunizations received, Vitamin A & Albendazole administration, and the child's levels of hemoglobin and malnutrition.

  • 20...cell phones purchased that are compatible with's program to allow health workers to collect data on the children using cell phone technology. This will hopefully reduce the time to collect, enter, and analyze important health data from Pestel. This kind of data provides a higher level of credibility for the work, and organizations are very interested in this. I will be sending the data we entered last year from the Child Health Campaigns to UNICEF because they are interested in seeing it.

  • 4...the number of trips to Haiti I've taken so far in 2011. Again, I am able to do this because of a very caring family that feels the weight of all this, generous donors, a supportive boss, and a great deal of prayer and encouragement from people like yourselves.

  • :) … on the faces of the parents and children. Smiles on the faces of the health workers who wanted to celebrate completion of a full year with the program! Smiles on the organizations when they see that we've collected baseline data. Donors smiles when they see their gifts being well-used, and the joy they experience through participation.

God is multiplying each and every gift and effort. We seek to do well with what we have been given because we know that pleases God. May our responses be faithful, and may God be recognized for pouring out His Goodness on the people of Pestel as He has already begun to do in a most visible way.

God is good to you too and desires good for you. He desires that you seek Him for He is Good, The Source of Goodness.



Thriving Villages Blog

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Update from somewhere above the Atlantic Ociean

This is a first for me:  emailing during my flight.  Very cool!   

I had a GREAT meeting with Dr. Mohamed from Unicef on Friday.  I'm really excited about that.  He's pushing me to consider developing a malnutrition strategy beyond micronutrients.  He wants me to consider taking on severe-moderate malnutrition for Pestel.   This is a HUGE program.  I started to think through this, and I gotta tell you:   this is a huge effort.    I really have to think this one out before getting into it, and I would appreciate your prayers and thoughts/insights/wisdom.    The upside is that he is willing to commit resources toward it  (he mentioned, for example, that if a specialty nutrition center needs to be built he would be build it).   He would bring in the World Food Programme to assist with the Moderate-mild malnutrition part of it.   I mentioned that I thought Heifer International could potentially become involved as well to provide support to the family with the goal of preventing the child from falling back into malnutrition state.   

Also, I just received contact information about an organization that does well-drilling in Haiti.   Just before that I read an excellent review article on the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene.  The article mentioned the substantial impact on malnutrition that diarrhea has.  Recurrent bouts of diarrhea actually worsen the child's immune system (making them MORE susceptible to the #1 cause of child death:  Pneumonia), and worsen malnutrition (due to malabsorption, intestinal parasites, etc).    Hopefully you can see how the cogs appear to be fitting together....

I worked on some of the data these past few days as well.   6% of children in Pestel are severely malnourished.  28-25% of children have some degree of malnutrition.   All this data was collected last year.   

Back to Unicef:   Mohamed was very pleased with the approach toward Pestel.  He introduced me to someone as a 'partner with Unicef', which is a very good thing.   Unicef is in the business of promoting health/welfare of kids worldwide.  They support efforts by organizations and governments (as opposed to running campaigns themselves or opening clinics themselves).  I hope that this effort in Pestel will bolster their confidence.  

We were able to obtain 20 SIM cards today.  Phew!   I had a challenging time finding them.   Also, Anderson helped me figure out how to lock-down the 20 cell phones so that the workers cannot call their friends/family at will.   That's also a huge relief because it wasn't clear to me how to monitor their usage of the cell phones (and those are the sorts of expenses that can rapidly get out of control).
Anderson is doing well, as is Nakeysha and her family.   Her dad, Isai, is in Canada right now.

I head back to Haiti next weekend, and out to Pestel.  Gonna be a busy busy busy week.  There is a lot to do between now and Friday night.  And then a lot to do in Pestel.

I am challenged with all the work, as you can imagine.  And challenged with time away from my wife and kids.    This has been an exhausting 6 months of constant activity.   I am looking forward to a break in July.

As always, thanks for reading, praying, and encouraging!!

Thriving Villages Blog

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hait or Bust

Hi all,
  I am writing from Les Cayes right now at Heifer International's office.  A few snags came up

1.  I couldn't pick up the Iron tablets from UNICEF's office because they were not open before we left for Les Cayes.  We're talking about 1 million tablets!!   So I'll get them tomorrow (Friday) and transport them out next week.

2.  It rained so hard over the past day that....Dr. Seneque could not make it to meet me in Les Cayes.  The road up in the mountain (River Glaz...something you literally have to drive through, is running too swiftly) Unfortunately I found that out only once we had arrived in Les Cayes (about  a 4 hour drive today from PAP).    I had brought out 3 VERY packed cases for him to take out to Pestel with blank child records (15,000 of them!), supplies for the upcoming Anemia Campaign, etc.

3.  When I arrived at Heifer's door I found out that all the staff, including the people I was supposed to meet with, were in a meeting that was potentially going to last all day.   

4.  And just when I thought that the 4 hour drive was in vain, I ended up having a couple of very good meetings with Heifer Intl.  In short, their staff was meeting with Heifer's Country Director, and he interrupted their meeting to say Hello to me.  We had a very good discussion, and it sounds like he's interested in combining our interests to see greater impact.   He has good ideas about what has not worked in Haiti and what might work in Haiti.

In short, it appears to be the start of a very good relationship!  And I'm thrilled for Pestel!

Thriving Villages Blog