Just published in Irish Times Abroad
Hope you enjoy this article I had published recently in The Irish Times Abroad
Hope you enjoy this article I had published recently in The Irish Times Abroad
In this part of NW Haiti I often come across people who have lost limbs. For many it happened during the earthquake of 2010, if people were in areas that were badly impacted at that time. Jean Rabel felt little of the tremors but many fled north in the aftermath of the earthquake as they may have had families here and their homes were totally destroyed.
Of those who chose to move north many returned again once things settled down, but some have remained here and now call this region home.
The Religious of Jesus and Mary funded a prosthesis clinic in Port-au-Prince to help the large numbers of people who needed new limbs and supports following the earthquake but in this remote area people who lose limbs due to accidents or other events have no such facility and the cost of getting to Port-au-Prince makes the prospect impossible and they simply live out their lives coping as best they can with the hand they have been dealt.
I see many people limping or struggling with deformed feet, legs, arms or hands who have not had the chance to seek medical intervention. Having broken my ankle very badly two years ago, I am very aware of how incapacitated I would now be had I not been fortunate enough to receive excellent medical care and support both in Bosnia-Hertzegovina where the accident happened and also in Tallaght hospital in Dublin when I returned from my holiday.
I was so lucky to be able to pay for the treatment I received in Bosnia-Hertzegovina; the free assistance I received from the Malteser volunteers and the treatment I received in the public health system in Ireland.
People here in Jean Rabel have no recourse to such vital services. If they need medical treatment they must pay for it; if they don’t have the money, they simply must do without. It’s so sad to see so many people limping along when what we in the West consider a ‘simple operation’ or ‘intervention’ would fix their problem within hours.
15 March 2017
This is an area of Haiti that could badly do with volunteers just to help out with all sorts of daily life. The needs are so great and the opportunities for people so dismal that you can’t come here and not feel an urge to do something, anything that will help in some way.
There are 10 million people living in Haiti, the vast majority of them under 25 and they simply need opportunities the rest of the world take for granted. They need robust homes, decent buildings for schools and daily food to eat. In order to have these simple necessities of life they need to be able to pay for them as there is no such thing as social welfare or social security. If you haven’t the money to buy food, you simply starve and for many children the only food they have to eat is what they get in school.
Thank God in the area of Jean Rabel most people have a small garden where they grow crops for their family or to trade at the market. This is great when there’s a good harvest, but when there isn’t, when crops fail and rains and hurricanes come, devastation is widespread, nobody has money and many people go hungry.
As you walk about the town you are stopped and asked for money, help or food on a daily basis as one after the other tells you they are hungry and asks for a dollar – men, women and children. And how can you help everyone? You are probably already ‘helping’ in whatever capacity you came here to help. I wonder do they realise that or where do they think we get money and more money and more money from.
Perhaps they believe what the Bible says, “ask and you will receive.” Do they believe that if they just keep on asking eventually they will receive what they ask for? But really, they shouldn’t have to ask and ask and ask. The basics of life should be available to them, the same as they are to the rest of us and I think it’s time for the rest of the world to wake up to that fact and realise we are all one family after all and what is available to us should be available to all and shared fairly among us.
Will we ever see that day?
As I mentioned yesterday we had sad news of the death of a relatively young employee of one of the RJM schools here in the Jean Rabel area on Monday. His funeral will take place later today and its been heartening to see how the whole community has rallied round the children who have lost their father.
The school community has been particularly helpful along with neighbours helping out where they can.
But this is nothing new in Jean Rabel; the community is well known for looking out for people when misfortune occurs, as it does regularly. Despite lack of services in so many areas of life, people survive the most awful circumstances with the help of their friends, neighbours and communities.
This I believe is what keeps life ticking by for so many when tragedy strikes in Jean Rabel; nobody lives alone, there are huge families living in the smallest of houses, and extended family and friends are all around the area. Its like ‘olden’ times in Ireland in that sense, and its good to know that people care for others, despite their own difficulties and daily struggles.
In Jean Rabel, I have seen that people don’t have to suffer alone, there are people nearby who will lend a hand of support when necessary, which is just as well as official support in any form is so very lacking.
8th February 2017
I hadn’t heard of this saint until yesterday either. But I saw a film of her life last night which tells the story of a young girl, born in the Darfur area of Sudan, and sold into slavery at the age of 9 years.
St. Bakhita is the patron saint of Sudan but also the patron saint of victims of slavery and trafficked persons and today is her feast day.
Today, 8th February has been designated as a Day of Prayer for and Awareness of victims of modern day slavery – human trafficking, which is happening in all parts of our world; it is in fact one of the most lucrative illegal activities the world over, generating 32 billion dollars a year for those pimps and traffickers engaged in its ‘business’ and is now the 2nd most profitable such ‘business’ coming up short only of the illegal drugs trade.
Here are some facts about human trafficking and slavery:
If we are to tackle this problem each and everyone of us must take action and act against this crime. What do you think?
Statistics taken from the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus website
8th February 2017
Jovenel Moise was sworn in as the new President of Haiti yesteday at an inauguration ceremony in the grounds of the former national palace in Port-au-Prince.
His inaugural address promised to bring about “real improvements” for the country saying, “We can change Haiti if we work together.”
Coming from the north of the country, many Haitians are hopeful his tenure will bring improvements for areas long-neglected by Haitian authorities such as here in the northwest of the country where Jean Rabel is situated.
As a businessman himself it is also hoped that he will be able to bring more investment and jobs to Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world. But there are also many people for whom his tenure means little or nothing in a country already devastated by corruption and injustice.
President Jovenel Moise is himself the subject of an investigation into alleged money laundering and obtaining special treatment when seeking loans while running his business.
Like all those in public office the world over, Mr. Moise of course, has denied the allegations that were leaked during the presidential election campaign, saying all his business dealings have been carried out legally.
This judicial investigation is ongoing with no resolution imminent while President Moise’s government is now looking at a 5-year term in office.
His election campaign and inauguration here in Haiti caused little disturbance or commotion compared to that of President Donald Trump in their neighbouring US but after a full year of having a care-taker government in place it is time for Haiti to move on and if the new President, Jovenel Moise, makes even some small progress, his administration could become the one that signalled change for Haiti and hope for the future for its people.
7th February 2017
We received sad news yesterday that an employee of one of the 6 schools under Sr. Rose’s authority in Jean Rabel had died in the local hospital.
He was only 52 years of age, but since he was admitted only 2 weeks ago everyone knew he wouldn’t last very long. He was severely ill and death for him must be a release and a relief, he could not have hung on any longer. This man’s wife is already a number of years dead, so she must have been very young when she died. They had a large family (as many do here in Jean Rabel) who are mostly grown up or at least in their teenage years, but what a loss to be left orphaned while still in school.
The average life expectancy in Haiti is a mere 63.8 years (61.2 for men and 66.4 for women). Some of us would describe a person of such an age as being ‘young’ or ‘in their prime’ but for the majority of people in Haiti they might never see their 65th birthday. Only 9% of the total population is over 55 years of age. Over 50% are under 24 years of age and 33% are under 14 years.
Within one week during the middle of January up to 30 people lost their lives and many others were injured close to the Jean Rabel area when 2 buses lost control and upturned on their route from Saint Louis de Nord to Port-au-Prince.
During that time consistent rain had left the route badly damaged making driving very dangerous and difficult. This route is one of the National highways in the country but I doubt it has ever been surfaced properly. Its like driving on a dirt track, full of pot-holes, craters, and mounds of mud that wheels simply sink into.
7th February 2017
Since my last post I have heard that within the last 2 weeks another baby born at the hospital here in Jean Rabel (Hopital Notre Dame de la Paix) also died as did its mother, during child-birth. This is very sad and serves to illuminate the truth of the situation here in Haiti regarding mothers and babies mortality rates during pregnancy and child-birth which are estimated to be one in every eighty mothers and 59 out of every 1000 babies.
Life is certainly difficult here in Haiti, women suffer terribly but much is simply pushed under the carpet – pardon the pun here as there are no carpets in Haiti for most people – never to be spoken about again!
5th February 2017
Usually the birth of a child is wonderful news. It signifies hope for the future, a new life, potential, looking forward! But for one of the ladies who works at Sr. Nazareth’s Workshop this was not the case recently when her baby boy died the day after being born.
How sad I felt on hearing the news! I could not comprehend how the mother must be feeling. There was a huge sense of helplessness that no matter what you try to do you cannot bring the baby back.
And in Haiti too many mothers have similar experiences.
The infant mortality rate is high – 59 in every 1000 births – the highest in the Western Hemisphere according to Haiti’s most recent Demographic and Health Survey and maternal mortality during pregnancy and child-birth is estimated to be as high as one in 80 according to the United Nations Population Fund and partner UN agencies.
These statistics give no consolation to this Jean Rabel woman or other expectant or new mothers who must endure such pain of loss. For some it just becomes another addition to all the other difficulties women in Haiti must bear day in and day out.
So why in the 21st century are mortality rates here so high?
Poverty of course plays the major part leading on to poor healthcare infrastructure and lack of access to healthcare. In fact, recent reports suggest that half of the 10 million + population has no access to healthcare at all. And most babies are born without the assistance of trained health personnel.
The major causes of maternal death during pregnancy and child-birth include severe bleeding, sepsis, eclampsia, obstructed labour and unsafe abortion, but in Haiti not enough woman are able to access life-saving interventions such as emergency obstetrics and neo-natal care that are available in some places.
However, in the case of this Jean Rabel Workshop Lady it is difficult to pin-point what went wrong. She managed to get to the local hospital and its midwifery personnel on time. But her baby boy still died the day after birth. He was born pre-maturely and as is common practice with such babies he was placed under a lamp to keep him warm, much like that shown in the photo above. If the hospital had had an incubator for this little boy, I question whether he would still have died.
Obviously, I don’t have the answer to that question, but for me coming from Ireland I feel having an incubator is simply one of the most basic and necessary neo-natal medical items every maternity unit should have in the 21st century. I would like to see the situation here in Jean Rabel’s hospital changed for the better and before too long so other mothers and babies won’t have to suffer such loss of life. So any money I might raise for the rest of my time here, I will put towards getting an incubator for the local hospital.
If you agree this needs to be done please comment and share this post!
See my fundraising efforts on
The photo above was taken from http://bit.ly/1zKx6U1 with credit to Jared Chambers
A newborn is warmed under a lamp at a uNFPA-supported maternity centre in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. © Jared Chambers
25th January 2017
Today is like a glorious summers day in Ireland. Lovely blue skies and sunshine but not too hot.
I’m back now about 10 days and knuckling down to work again – although after such a long break and a new dose of a cold last week, I’m easing into it slowly enough!
I was able to hand over donations to the Religious Sisters of Jesus and Mary here in Jean Rabel last week which totalled $2,700 being the online donations received through https://www.gofundme.com/24z2nrck and the monies raised during my Christmas holidays in Ireland.
We held a lovely Mulled Wine event and sale of Haitian made craft items at home and also had a Sale in the National Library of Ireland. The Library also held a Bake Off for the Jean Rabel fund, and in all we raised €1118 over Christmas. Sisters Rose and Nazareth were delighted to accept this money on behalf of the people in the area who will benefit from the kindness of all you Irish people who came along and /or supported my fund-raising efforts.
$1,350 has gone to the Ladies Workshop and $1,350 towards schools, livelihoods (purchase of seeds and animals to replace those lost during Hurricane Matthew) and to plant trees to counteract the effects of deforestation.
Thank you all once again for everything.
Don’t forget to leave a comment or ask a question here on my blog.
9th December 2016
This is just a quick reminder about the mulled wine and craft afternoon we are having in Chris’s house on Sunday 11th in Clondalkin. Hope to see some of you here as we raise a glass to friends old and new and perhaps raise a few funds for people in Haiti!
Some children walk for up to an hour to get to school here in the outlying areas around Jean Rabel where the RJM Sisters have established 6 pre-schools and 2 primary schools.
School begins at 8.00 a.m. and continues till 12.00 for the pre-schoolers and 1.00 p.m. for the primary school children.
They come to pre-school from the age of 3 doing a three-year cycle before moving onto ‘fundamental’ or primary school. [Read more…]
On Tuesday Sr. Rose got a call from the director of one of the schools to say he had just brought one of the cooks in his school into the hospital as she had been sick that morning. She was suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea.
Sr. Rose immediately headed for the hospital here in Jean Rabel as she felt the woman’s condition must be fairly serious if she needed to be hospitalised, because for most people, the hospital is the last port of call, when ill.
The reasons for this are many and range from the high cost of treatment for everyone regardless of means or lack of means and you won’t be treated without paying up front for whatever medication is prescribed.
We’ve had a lot of rain here in Jean Rabel over the past week and our only hope is that the people who have gotten new corn and bean seeds will have had the chance to plant them and that the rain will have helped their growth. If they haven’t yet planted them they will likely do so over the coming days now that the rainy spell seems to have passed.
These seeds are their life line to survival over the coming months as their crops and animals were destroyed during hurricane Matthew.
Recent donations have gone towards buying new seeds for the people of the greater Jean Rabel area who lost their crops to hurricane Matthew. (Thank you all for your kindness).
It was decided that bean and corn seeds were the best options as it is now the planting season. Hopefully, they won’t have been ruined already by the latest bout of rainfall but will thrive and give a good harvest in due season.
I’ve been told there has been a prison breakout in one of the prisons in Haiti today – quite a frequent occurrence by all accounts! And over 200 inmates are now at large!
I think I’d need a degree in law to understand how the justice system works here in Haiti.
By all accounts it appears all the rain we had here in Jean Rabel last week was in fact due to hurricane Nicole we just didn’t have any wind along with it so the damage it caused was much less than that of hurricane Matthew. However having cleared up over the weekend, here we are again this morning unable to go to school as the river is once more too high to cross.
In fact we were pleasantly surprised to be able to make it there yesterday and get back on track, but one day does not a huge change make as this morning dawned bright but with very heavy rain. It’s difficult to make educational progress under these circumstances. But tomorrow is another day and we become more like the Haitian’s every day – they tend to go with the flow of the weather, do what they can and never give up hope of a better tomorrow.
Today it was back to school having had a day off on Monday due to it being a national holiday in Haiti.
At long last we had agreed the time-table for computer instruction and the pre-school teachers were beginning their lessons once their classes were finished at 12.00 and they would stay till 1.00 when the rest of the school would finish.
Well there I was ready and waiting having finished with the previous class, checking the computers were ready to go and we could all begin together when they arrived.