Haiti: from volunteer health-care providers’ points of view

This post contains both:
1) the live twitter feed, and
2) the compiled version of that feed …

of tonight’s (Sept. 7) panel presentation on — Haiti, as seen by medical volunteers from Asheville’s Mission Manna and other relief groups.

Twitter coverage was provided by Lorin Mallorie.

Mission Manna provides medical care for malnourished children and continuing health care education for adults in and around the Haitian town of Montrouis, while nurturing relationships through respect and creation of understanding between our two cultures.

Panelists include:
Tim Plaut, son of Dr. Tom Plaut, who is a physician at MAHEC and an organizer in Mission Manna’s program in Haiti.
Todd Kaderabek, chair of the Mission Manna Board of Directors.
Ora Wells
Sharon Roberts

Plaut, returned earlier this year from his eighth trip to Haiti,  serving as “trip leader” for five children’s clinics conducted by Asheville’s Mission Manna.  In the 1960s Tom served in the Peace Corps.  He taught sociology for 28 years at Mars Hill College, retiring in 2005.  He serves on the boards of the Center for Participatory Change and Mission Manna, an Asheville group of health providers and volunteers providing nutrition and medical services to at-risk children in Montrouis, Haiti.

The panel discussion began at 7 p.m. at the Reuter Center at UNCA, and was organized by the World Affairs Council of WNC, the UNCA Political Science Dept. and the NC Center for Creative Retirement.

Twitter coverage began at 7 p.m. and ended at 9 p.m. Here is a compilation of the tweets:

Excellent turnout, a full house, Mission Manna will discuss their medical clinics based outside Port-au-Prince in Montruis Haiti.

Recovering from back surgery, Tom Plaut is not present, but his son Tim Plaut will lead the discussion

The panel includes: Dr. Wells, “Papa Noel” pediatrician from Brevard; Sharon Roberts, nurse at the Genetic Center, trip leader; Glenn Cohen, pharmaceutical representative; Todd Kaderabak, Mission Manna board chair and trip leader.

The presentation begins with a video filmed by Tom Plaut of the Port-au-Prince earthquake destruction and the aftermath in the city. The moving video continues at Mission Manna’s base in Montrouis, about an hour from the capital, showing Mission Manna volunteers at work. The need for medical attention is clear — lines of hundreds of Haitians wait for treatment from these Asheville medical workers.

The rural, impoverished village of Montrouis is clearly a far cry from hectic city life in Port-au-Prince. Mission Manna focuses on nutrition and health of children in Montrouis, 2 hours North of Port-au-Prince

Tim Plaut: If it was so bad why do I continue to go back, and look forward to the next trip? I’ve never seen children die of simple hunger before. We do it so we can make a difference, however small, in this big world of ours.

It never fails, on the way home, somebody always says, I think I got more out of this trip than I gave, Plaut says. Why do we do it? We do it because of love.

The last trip Mission Manna saw 1,500 kids, providing nutritional supplements and deworming medication.

Whatever sacrifices we make to take these trips, the Haitians make more, making sure we have something to eat a place to sleep, says Plaut.

Dr. Wells, or “Papa Noel” or, as he is known in Haiti, is speaking: My motto is, wherever there’s 2 or 3 people gathered, I’ll talk about Haiti. Mission Manna was begun by a young girl named Maggie, who traveled to Haiti as a teenager and fell in love with Haiti and a Haitian man named Luxo, whom she married. She is now finishing her degree in Public Health in Ohio.

The people of Montruis never see doctors, says Wells. Haitian staff for Mission Manna work year-round; there is always a well stocked pharmacy – which is very rare and impressive in Haiti. Each patient has a health card, so they can be monitored year by year. Each child is weighed and measured then they see the doctor .

If you can deworm a child twice a year, you can save their life, according to the world health organization, Wells explains. Therefore Mission Manna’s twice-a-year doctor visits are saving children’s lives. After being weighed and measured, children go to the toothbrush and vitamin station. They are given akamile, which is a nutritional supplement made in Haiti, supporting the local economy.

This spring was the first time children quit growing due to earthquake stress.

Children suffer from protein deficiencies, which give them orange hair when they are taken off breast milk and/or given just carbs. Children are often swollen from lack of nutrition

About 2 million people left Port-au-Prince after the earthquake adding to sickness, starvation and stress in places like Montrouis.

Joakin Jean is a dying 2-month-old baby with water in the brain who could not nurse. The mother was told child was dying. Joakin needed expensive surgery, but the Mission Manna team members said they would try and help. We met a team from Miami at the airport with neurosurgeons coming next day; they gave Joakin the surgery for free.

Though he is mentally disabled, Joakin is now happy and healthy, and his mother is “tickled to death,” says Wells.

Wells also worked in Leogone, the epicenter of the earthquake. He worked in a nursing school where students saved lives in the absence of doctors in Leogone. The first 2 days, these students were actually doing amputations. Go to www.haitinursing.org to see student updates.

No riots, they just sit there and suffer until we can get to them, says Wells, showing incredibly graphic pictures of horrific injuries. Pictures of day 22 after the quake are incredible: doing amputations with saws and kitchen knives.

You can leave Haiti, but it never leaves you Wells. The first time you go to Haiti it breaks your heart; then it steals your heart, his says.

There is progress, but it’s more or less stalled. There are stockpiles of supplies, but no logistics to administrate, says Wells.

Todd Kaderabek is speaking now. Says he had a different first experience: The first time he went, it was so bad he thought he could never go back. Haitians just don’t have the choices we do. They don’t choose to see their children die, they don’t choose to have no water. But we do have a choice, and I was making the wrong one. The right one is to get involved and to stay involved.

For 5 years now, Mission Manna has had an ongoing health project, where their Haitian leaders keep the program going year-round.

A new sustainable nutrition project is being implemented for the past year. The Haitians will get trained on how to take care of their goats, which will reproduce and spread through the community. We looked extensively at the way the Heiffer runs its projects, Kaderabek says. Mission Manna just bought 17 female goats for Haiti.

Mixed with the akamile, the goat milk will be a complete nutritional supplement. Haitians don’t currently drink goat milk, which is something Mission Manna hopes to change. The program will grow as Haitians who receive goats give one back from each litter to Mission Manna to redistribute.

Sharon Roberts begins speaking: I’ve traveled extensively in my life, I don’t mind having to squat to take a pee.

Instead, she took it as a personal challenge to go to Haiti.

“I am a genetic councilor,” which has nothing to do with my work in Haiti.

Often seeing 500 patients a day, Mission Manna doctors sometimes work all day without taking a break, Roberts says. It is hard to get used to seeing lines of parents with their children waiting all day long just to see the “blanc” doctors.

This work is not for everybody, she says. To work in Haiti you have to have flexibility and a positive outlook. On one of her first trips she worked as a dewormer, which she says is “one of the most disgusting jobs in the universe.”

A big part of the project is expanding our worldview and learning that a way to change world is one child at a time, Roberts says. Somewhere in our aging and as we grow, we have to see, and help other see, beyond our own driveways.

The last speaker is Glenn Cohen, who has lived in Asheville for 14 years and is a member of Grace Episcopal Church. He explains that his kids said to him, “Daddy, we could have just as easily been born Haitian. And wouldn’t you want someone to take care of us?”

Cohen also almost didn’t return to Haiti after his first trip; his daughters changed his mind.

Mission Manna’s “Go Project” is Haitians taking care of Haitians. They don’t want to be saviors, Cohen says.

Cohen’s favorite part of Mission Manna is the measurable results, like measuring the growth of a child year after year. Going to the same places, seeing the same kids year after year, with their measurable results.

Mission Manna’s biggest fundraiser is the Grace Episcopalian Pumpkin Patch, which they do every year. The pumpkins will arrive Oct. 2 in north Asheville. Come out and help us unload! Bring your kids to buy pumpkins through Halloween!

Question and Answer segment –
Q: How do you break the language barrier?
A: by hiring guides and translators for each medical station.

Q: what about the government?
A: The problem is, that to work in government, you have to be corrupt, or you will be killed by those who are, says Wells.

Q: Can the Haitians find good government ?
A: Only God knows, says Wells. Right now there are stockpiles of money, stockpiles of supplies, but there is nobody to distribute it.

Kaderabak adds: I agree they need jobs, but the precursor to that is education.
Yes, JOBS JOBS JOBS, says Cohen. Remember that Haiti is deforested, which makes farming difficult if not impossible.

The first time I went I asked – What do Haitians need – govt? roads? hospitals? Says Wells. Remember, there is NO public education in Haiti.

Largely the media shows Port-au-Prince as Haiti, which is just not the case, that’s one part of the country.

Over 80% of secondary schools were destroyed in the earthquake, and over 25,000 businesses. Instead of giving stuff, the US needs to create jobs. The US is not perfect, but we are trying, often its a double edged sword.

Q: what has been the rule of the ex-patriots ?
A: A lot of money flows back – (actually 1/3 of Haiti’s economy comes from family living overseas).

There is a tier system, the bourgeoisie control the government and the money
While ex-patriots give money, they don’t choose to go back to Haiti and work there, because there are no jobs. France helps Haiti, which was colonized by France, but not much; it just forgave Haiti’s debt … after the quake, but doesn’t help much.

The US trained commando’s in the Dominican to overthrow Aristide, the first democratically elected President of Haiti.
The US also identified HIV with the 3 H’s – Homosexuality, Hemopheliacs, and Haitians, shutting down the tourism industry in Haiti. Without ANY scientific backing or proof, which has now been recognized as a terrible mistake.

Mission Manna’s translator wanted Baby Doc back – a terrible dictator. Yes he was a terror – but we had electricity, we had food.

Haitians soldiers fought with the US in the revolutionary war.

The first thing Bill Clinton rolled out was sweatshop factory garment jobs, says Kaderabak, However, Clinton and Bush are also trying to modernize the mango industry in Haiti, making them world exporters. In my opinion these are not the jobs Haiti needs. Haiti needs agricultural jobs in the provinces, says Kaderabak.

Q: Will feeding the goats be difficult ?
A: Not really, part of the training is to teach families how to graze the goats, and they will also lease pasture land.

A: Mission Manna is fiercely independent and always will be. We grassroots fundraise like there is not tomorrow – then, spend it. Mission Manna doesn’t have stockpiles, we get the money and we go to work. We are not taking an entirely American view; we will see how they want to do it.

Montrouis was the #1 vacation spot for France and Hollywood in the 1920s.

The connection to Montrouis comes from the Episcopalian diocese. The young Maggie would not let Montrouis go, and pushed Mission Manna’s program.

Mission Manna is a registered 501(c)3 org, and donations are tax exempt (although it is not recognized as an NGO in Haiti).



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