October 8, 2015
In the rugged, rural region of northern Haiti, the healthcare system ranges from fragile to nonexistent. A 9-10 hour walk separates the communities of rural Haiti from the nearest hospital, making access to care difficult at best.
But thanks to the Haiti Outreach Pwoje Espwa (H.O.P.E), a WomenStrong International Consortium member, the outlook for the future is improving.
In 2006, H.O.P.E worked closely with the Ministry of Health and other partners to establish the Borgne Health Alliance (ASB), which has grown into the sole health system for the town of Borgne. With mobile clinics designed to reach remote mountain communities, healthcare is moving closer to the people who need it.
H.O.P.E. also runs women’s groups, youth groups and education programs that reach women, youth and students on a different level—one that might inspire the next generation to further improve the state of healthcare in Haiti.
Last summer, H.O.P.E. and ASB invited four students to participate in an internship program in Fond La Grange. The students worked at a hospital for five weeks, rotating among the various healthcare activities of ASB and trying their hands at everything from administering vaccines and cleaning wounds to organizing records and filling prescriptions.
One of the interns, 15-year-old Islourde, a student at the Collège Evangeliste Baptiste Ebenezer in Borgne, enjoyed working in the pharmacy and now dreams of becoming a doctor. Islourde says that education helps students, “do something that is good for them and good for their community, too.” Education, she knows, can lead to a career that supports family and community.
Another intern, 17-year-old Gania, currently finishing middle school at l’Ecole Nationale Font Milot, now hopes to become a community health worker, thanks to the time she spent in the Archives working with patient files. She pointed to H.O.P.E. Medical Director, Dr. Thony Voltaire as a great example of how education allows students to help their communities. Born to an extremely poor family on the side of a treacherous mountain road, Dr. Thony’s education, in Gania’s view, allowed him to recognize and fill his community’s healthcare needs by expanding the medical services available both at the Borgne hospital and out in the lakous, or small mountain hamlets.
As role models for their peers and younger classmates, Gania’s and Islourde’s beliefs in the importance of education for themselves and their communities is a critical piece of improving the healthcare system in Haiti. These two students, already at the top of their classes, plan to share what they learned and encourage their classmates to take advantage of opportunities like this one. Their hope is that more students can have a similar experience—one that combines education, healthcare, capacity-building and support for young women, whose role is so critical to building a better future for Haiti.
This article was contributed by Matthew McClure, an undergraduate at SUNY Geneseo. Fluent in Haitian kreyol, he is spending his fall semester as an intern in Borgne to help identify community groups and projects with which Geneseo students might work, as part of the University’s Service Learning Program. Matt got to know Islourde and Gania when they, too, were working at the H.O.P.E./ASB Hospital in Borgne, as part of their own internships.
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