Last week, Syndie & I strapped on our adventure gear, climbed into the car with all of our tough chick power and made the trek 3 hours north into Haiti's central plateau...on our own! We dripped through nearly an hour of traffic in the blazing heat wishing the air conditioning worked and finally made it to the outskirts of the city. Syndie dozed a little as we climbed the barren dry mountains surrounding Port au Prince. The well paved but narrow roads wound up, over & down into the “provinces” (Haitian word for the “countryside”). Cresting the summit our surroundings went from brown and dry to lush and green. We weathered rain storms, crazy big trucks, slick roads and magnificent views. Syndie woke from time to time bursting out with "Sa bel, mama!! tre bel!!" (It's beautiful, mama, SO beautiful!!) We arrived at the Midwives for Haiti compound just in time for dinner and to settle into our room, which will be our home, away from home, for the next couple of months.
If I haven’t said enough about Midwives for Haiti...let me just sum it up now. MFH is a small humanitarian organization doing some pretty remarkable things here in Haiti. They started a training program for Haitian nurses to teach them the full-spectrum of maternity care and delivery. From that program they have invested into the local hospital where both their graduates & students provide moms with tender care during labor and assist in identifying and treating high risk and emergency cases. Some would say that anyone who comes to the hospital is likely a high risk case, as Haitians often prefer to deliver at home. MFH also has mobile clinics that go out 5-6 days a week into the remote areas of this region to provide monthly prenatal care & identify moms that need referral or transport to the hospital. They also provide a Matron Outreach training program for the lay or village “midwives” who have had very little training, but a passion and heart to help their community members deliver babies well.
That is where Syndie & I will spend the morning today…
I love how the health dept curriculum that is used includes songs to teach hand washing, warning signs and such. Many of the matrons have never been to school or ever completed it. Last week as I sat in on class the current students were teaching about the female anatomy...several snickered as they reviewed the external genitalia visuals in detail. When the flip chart page was turned to discuss the internal female reproductive organs the crowd gasped with delight. One matron shared that they had never seen what the inside looked like before!! They were such a happy and excited crowd of sponges with this new information in front of them. The midwife who helped get this program up and going shared that this class is 22 weeks long & if they don’t mis more than 3 times they will get to participate in a “graduation” ceremony for their certificates & receive an ID badge that shows they have had training. She said that for most of them this is likely the FIRST and ONLY graduation they will ever have. So not only will they be able to provide safer care & know when to refer moms for high risk needs, this course also serves as a lifetime highlight for them as their families gather around them to celebrate at the end.
ONE of the reasons I am here for the next 2 months is to help out with a brand new training program. Jenna Schmitz one of the in-country staff midwives has been working hard to get a post-natal clinic off the ground. It may sound surprising, but at present mom’s receive monthly prenatal care, safe delivery care and then if all is normal they are discharged with their babies 6 hours or so later...never to be seen again. SO, in trying to help cut down the maternal & newborn complications & risk of death in the weeks following delivery TWO MFH graduate specialty nurses are being trained to provide all of the postpartum care in the local hospital here as well as follow up outpatient clinics for each mom during the 6 weeks after birth. They will eventually receive anyone who has delivered in the area, even if the birth was at home.
My other function here is to serve as a temporary “in-country coordinator”. I’ll be helping with volunteers that come to stay at the MFH house and work alongside the students or in the surrounding community. It's been a quick learning curve & my Kreyol is being stretched again too!
In the afternoons, Syndie and I have been going to a local hospital that is part of Mother Teresa’s ministries here in Haiti. We’ve been serving in the infant malnutrition ward, helping with feedings and providing stimulation, developmental play, physical touch and simply quick response to the babies needs as it is severely understaffed. The sister in charge is joyful and welcoming and Syndie LOVES “giving the babies milk” as she says. She is learning to hold and carry the little ones and truly enjoys our ministry there. We hope to go at least 3 afternoons a week and perhaps weekend mornings too as it is so nearby.
Here are a few highlights of our week:
Syndie running FREE in the countryside on the 4th of July...and every other chance she gets.
Ted came to visit with our new little guard pup… (no name yet)
A Sunday drive in the countryside. (yes this is a CHURCH!)
Post-Natal Care Training Classes
PNCP team - Jenna, Illa, Jusline & Rebecca