On Friday we painted a school in Jonesville, one of the original pirate settlements on Roatan. Last week we visited the school to drop off worming medications for the 54 students there, and while we were there we noticed that the school was in dire need of painting. We spoke to Norma, the lady who runs the school, and offered to come back and paint it. We rounded up some help, got 10 gallons of paint from our friend Joseph’s foundation Intensive Heart Ventures, bought some primer and some brushes and rollers and headed back to paint the school the following week. It was perfect–Norma got the students to clear out the building, their session ended for the season, and we arrived at an empty building ready to prep and paint.
We had Pat and Randy with us (two cruising sailors from SV Homeward Bound who have been
helping us with our clinic), Larry (a longtime expat living in the neighborhood of the school), and four kids from French Harbor that have begun having around the boat. I love having them around; they remind me of Bichal and Yvenson and Jonas and our other young Haitian friends. Noah is always the one the kids gravitate to the most–as he is the most ferocious-looking, the young kids naturally hero-worship him wherever we go, so it is usually Noah that takes charge of the kids when they are working with us. Noah has a knack for connecting with the most at-risk kids, getting enormous influence with them right away and creating opportunities to provide them with tools and new ideas.
Meanwhile, I can’t help trying to fill their heads with all kinds of random knowledge (being a teacher dies hard, and when I have them fishing out in the skiff I have a captive audience for the concepts of biology and ecology I’m constantly spouting to them). Sometimes stuff makes it through their burgeoning hormones and days later I overhear one of them telling another to throw a small fish back so it can grow bigger and have babies so when they catch it later it will be bigger, and there will be more of them. For me, those are great moments.
Friday, when we painted the school, was a great moment for me for another reason. As the chipped and faded
colors were covered by smooth new paint, I looked at the group that had assembled on a small peninsula on an island off the north coast of Honduras…a cruising couple, kids from a neighboring community, an expat, the local teacher, and us. So many people that might never have all been drawn together, all working together to do something for some kids they will probably never meet.
That is one of my favorite aspects of our project…the connections created between people, and so many people doing what they can. The school got emptied and cleaned out by the students, and we repainted the whole school, inside and out in less than 5 hours with some touching up a few days later (ran out of paint and a few folks went back with new paint to finish up the last spots).
I love that the same way our whole project was accomplished was the way the school got painted; the school was like a microcosm for our whole project: a lot of people from all walks of life all did a little (some did a LOT more than a little) and got it done.
And continue to do so…thanks to everyone who helped us from day one to painting the school last Friday!
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All patient photos and cases used with patients’ consent
June 7, 2010
Time for a quick status check, and to update everyone about our plans for the next phase of our mission in Central America. So far, in seven weeks in Haiti we have:
• Treated over 1200 patients and over 250 dental patients in the DesGranges clinic with our current skeleton crew.
• We have had three more volunteers (a medical student, osteopathic physician, and EMT) and my dad join us in working here in Haiti.
• We have finished one schoolhouse, roof and all, and are nearly done putting the roof on the second building.
• We have worked in the DesGranges clinic for more than 30 days, and put in more than 25 days’ labor on the school.
• Hand-unloaded and transported in UN trucks: 20,000 pounds of material.
• We have treated over 300 people in our own mobile clinics in the underserved communities near our anchorage.
• We have provided health and dental education to patients.
• We have moved the clinic from tents outside back into the inspected and cleared building, reorganized the pharmacy and pharmacy stockroom, set up an infirmary and triage room, and restocked the minor ops room.
• We have distributed several hundreds of pounds of clothes.
• We have conducted our activities here for one tank of diesel and a total of less than $250 a week for all food, gas for the skiff, laundry soap, transport, etc. for a crew ranging in size between 7 and 11 people onboard. That’s just over the cost of three night’s stay in the hotel here for one person (no food, transport, etc), where many other aid workers have no choice but to stay.
• We have made many friends in the community—we play pick-up basketball at 5:00AM some days, our Haitian friends visit us and often stay on board, we chat with the town baker, Madame Fievre, about methods of making Haitian bread, people bring us small gifts by way of thank you (a few mangos, some plaintains or coconuts), we go swimming, eat, and work with many folks here who ask us for nothing (some do, but many do not) but have no work and would rather work with us than sit around doing nothing.
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