MORE MOUNTAINS TO REACH, MORE LIVES TO TOUCH
In 2016, Haiti Healthcare Partners celebrated 10 years of medical outreach to the remote mountains of Haiti. The story began when a group from Westlake Village, California, decided to take a trip to Haiti. It was then, in 1997, that the seeds for our medical clinic were planted when they met a charismatic Haitian priest, Pere Jean-Wilfrid Albert. He was the priest of St. Matthias Parish in Cherident, a rural, mountainous region which is home to more than 50,000 impoverished peasant families. Pere Albert worked tirelessly to improve the lives of his people. He inspired Francis Landers to form Haiti Education Foundation and Plant with Purpose, which teaches farmers how to coax more from their land. He also inspired other teams to install solar power and water purification systems. Still, there was something else which was needed. A few years later, the team traveled a second time to Haiti in 2005. Only months prior to his death, Pere Albert showed them an empty clinic and spoke the words, “you can do more”. Three months later, Pere Albert passed away tragically of pancreatic cancer at age 56.
After his passing, the team founded Haiti Healthcare Partners in 2006 with the desire to support basic medical care within the Grand Colline region of Haiti. HHP hired Haitian medical professionals, stocked a pharmacy, procured supplies, and painted and restored the clinic. The mission of Haiti Healthcare Partners always has been helping Haitians help Haiti through healthcare. As a 501(c) 3, we seek to empower Haitians to lead their communities and create the change they hope to see in Haiti.
It is the only medical facility in the area serving those who can make the journey to the clinic. Serving on average 4500 patients annually, about half of our patients are either mothers or young children. Dr. Martha Catolin is our presiding physician at the clinic. Her passion for improving pre and post-natal maternal care has led to several significant initiatives which are making a positive impact in the quality of healthcare we provide.
In 2015, Dr. Catolin began building a strong association with area matwons (traditional Haitian midwives). Soon after, the Women’s Health Society was formed. Meeting monthly, they exchange data on pregnancies and simply bond as women with a common calling.
At the same time the society was gaining traction, a generous benefactor came forward to fund the hiring of a trained midwife and mobile clinic. We believed if we could combine the collective wisdom of the matwons with current medical practices, we would be able to substantially improve the safety of home deliveries. The power of this pairing was demonstrated as recently as the spring of 2016, when a matwon was attending a mother who experienced difficulty while in labor. Sensing the need for assistance, the matwon called for the mobile clinic to come and bring the mother to the clinic to see Marie. After a prolonged childbirth, a healthy baby girl was born.
We are called to a great task. The people of this region are often forgotten by their own government and by other international organizations. Many of the families our Haitian medical staff visit have never seen a doctor. The care of the medical staff is not limited to the walls of the clinic alone. As with the mission of the church, the staff believes their calling is to go beyond the clinic and reach those living yet untouched by the care and assistance of medical services.
We have made great strides in our efforts to not only provide basic medical care but provide quality care as well. Through the years we have increased the region’s access to healthcare through:
- the addition of mobile clinic outreach to 8 surrounding communities
- reduced child malnutrition in 150 families, and counting
- significantly improved the level of obstetric care through providing the first birth center (with overnight services)
- increased health education for all ages
Eleven years ago, as Pere Albert spoke the vision to us ” you can do more” and challenged us to open a clinic to serve the deep and vast needs of the people of the Grand Colline; seldom did we realize the countless lives which would be saved or the places in faith this calling would take us as team. The vision before us is exciting.
We are not finished; there are more mountains to reach, more lives to touch.