One of the things that is very important to the success and long-term sustainability of this project is community involvement. Those of you who have spent time in Haiti know how difficult it is to get Haitian communities to organize themselves to accomplish a task. They don’t trust one another and don’t often like to share what they’ve learned with others. And, in many areas, they have become dependent on outside assistance to do things for them. So, one of the first things we will be doing is to meet with the communities and their leaders and begin a dialogue with them, learning what they feel their greatest health needs are, what they do now when they have health problems or emergencies, what they would like to see in terms of medical care in their area and how they think we can help them to improve the health and well-being of the community. This dialogue will also give us a chance to emphasize the fact that our work in the Gatineau area is dependent on their input and contributions as well. We’re not there to put a hospital in their midst. We are there to cooperatively design, build and operate a health care system which has the potential to improve the health of thousands of people in that area of Haiti, and to change the hearts of people as we minister to them in the name of our Lord. We want the local communities to take ownership of that idea and that vision and work with us in achieving it.
I mentioned in my last newsletter that we will be work-ing closely with Haitian Health Foundation (HHF), an organization that is based in Jeremie and has a very extensive community health program in the Grand Anse area. They have trained community health agents in most of the small villages in the mountains outside Jeremie, and these agents do health teaching in the communities, organize immunization programs, run Mother’s Clubs and Father’s Clubs, give antibiotics for childhood pneumonia, and act as the first line of referral to more advanced care for people who are ill. HHF recently received a 5-year grant from USAID to conduct a birth preparedness program in the communities, teaching them how to recognize problems in labor and delivery, and to have a plan in place for transportation of women who are having complications of pregnancy. Mater-nal and neonatal mortality rates are very high in Haiti, largely due to the fact that, when a woman has a problem at the time of delivery, she is unable to get to a hospital for emergency obstetric care in time to save her and/or her infant. In the whole Grand Anse area, there is only one hospital that provides these types of services, and that is a government hospital located in Jeremie itself. So, one of the areas of service that we want to emphasize from the outset is maternity care, both prenatal consultation and the provision of emergency obstetric care in the form of C-sections and assisted deliveries in our outpatient clinic. We will, in essence, be a clinic with maternity services, so that we can rapidly begin to make an impact on the significant problems of maternal and neonatal mortality.