Dr Toni Bark; MD and Helen Gracie, CEO of Scenar Health, have volunteered on a medical mission in Haiti during April 2010.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Sunday in Port Au Prince

Early Sunday morning we awoke to the souns of Haitian singing, barking dogs, crowing roosters and the slow sounds of the only day of the week that the team rests. A lazy morning with delicious breakfast of sweet grapefruit and freshly baked bread was a lovely way to start my stay here after such a long journey. There are no children at the school today, and SUnday is the only day where the medical team does not go out to conduct clinics so the Monks invited us to attend a prayer meeting/ Kirtan at the nuns or Didi's place. 8 of us in a the Toyota Prado ( this was a light load apparently!) negotiated the streets of Port Au Prince, avoiding streets that are stil blocked by rubble of by US Army soldiers conducting road clearing and demolition removal exercises.

Once we arrived at the Didi's we were welcomed by the nuns and met some of the orphans they look after. ONe little girl; Malika captured my heart. She is almost 3 years old, appears to be only 18 months and she was being walked around with one of the volunteers supporting her arms so she could practice walking. Malika had been found, close to death by an amazing Haitian woman called Jane who had brought her to the Didi's.THrough careful nurturing and daily attention and nutrition, Malika is now recovering well and regaining her ability to move her body. When she was found she could not even lift her head.  I ahve some footage of Malika to post when I get to somewhere I can upload it - you will see what wonderful work the women have done for her. 

AMURT and AMURTEL run Child Friendly Space programs throughout the city. These centers are tented areas where children can come to participate in dance, art and music and the program is designed to facilitate a transition from trauma to readiness to learn. They plan to reopen the schools in August. At the moment - there is no point in reinstating an educational program - the kids need to feel secure and accept routine again before academic programs are introduced. I am very impressed with their work and believe that the 10 emergency spaces they have set up which provide services for 4000 children 6 days a week will be an important part of rebuilding this community.

After we left the Nuns, we were given a car tour of th devastated downtown area. The footage we have of this is unbelievable. The town is starting to come back to life, however it is hard to see how the chaos of the rubble and precariously warped half collapsed buildings can be rectified any time soon.

The National palace is a monument to the disaster. A stately beautiful buidling - ruined. All around it appears like a war zone after heavy artillery fire.  Through all this though - we see people starting to do business on the streets, selling food and clothing and we see a glimpse of the recovery process.

So much more help is going to be needed. When a country loses this much infrastructure - it is difficult to make headway quickly.

When we arrived back at the school we were pleased to see that Jane and Georgina had arrived to start training in the refelx biofeedback device; SCENAR. After seeing Toni use it at the clinic earlier in the week, they are keen to be trained so that they can continue the work after we leave. Both are Haitian and speak excellent English and have computer and internet access so we are confident that the training will go well.

We started the training by treating both Jane and Georgina themselves and they both immediatley responded with a change in their pain. This was a great start to the first training session.  At the conclusion; Jane ( the lady who had found Malika) hugged me and told me she loved me. The love in her embrace was so profound that I immediately felt love for her too and pledged to help her to look after her community. Jane is situated in Kenscoff; in the mountains about 2 hours from Port Au Prince. The medical team report that the people in Jane's community are the poorest they have seen, they have also had an influx of refugees from Port Au Prince so the strain on local services which were almost non existent to begin with cannot possibly cope with the medical problems locally.

Supporting Jane to implement a longer term solution is something I am very motivated to do.

This morning we are heading out to a camp to conduct a medical clinic.......more later.

Helen

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