March 11th, 2023 - I returned from the isle of Hispañola a few days ago after traversing from the eastern edge of the DR to our home base in southeast Haiti. I have been a fan of older architecture in Haiti for years, but it wasn't until I visited Elric Endersby's magnificent designs in Cabrera, DR (see left and visit https://www.playagrandebeachclub.com/design) that I realized the depth of what I'd been looking at. The tragaluz, or decorative vents at the tops of windows and doors, high ceilings and shutters help ventilate these old buildings, gracefully inviting the breeze inside. Fretwork inside imitates this lacey art form. "Gingerbread" houses built in the early 20th century were so well built that only 5% suffered damage from the huge earthquake in 2010. One quintessential sample of this style is the Hotel Oloffson in Port-au-Prince, a favorite of ours back in better days.
I'm partial to the funky ones in our region of Haiti that pop out like petunias from the dull norm of cinder block and cement. The tragaluz shown below imitates vodou designs, vèvè, that honor individual gods and are etched on the ground in cornmeal during religious ceremonies.
Pardon my digression, but I love a little break from the flying bullets and burning tires, cholera, malnutrition, and gang saturation of our failed state. The reality of living in a war zone has now settled deep in our fabric: we have learned to work around it and with it, at the same time join forces with other NGOs to find solutions to help release Haiti from its death grip. We in the Southeast are fortunate that gang violence does not hit us directly, however, the effect of the paralysis of Haiti's commerce and its people is widespread. Transporting goods to the clinic is now costing double - we have to send items purchased in Port-au-Prince nine hours overland instead of the usual four. And pay the gangs their "fee." And risk kidnapping. Our community can not visit family or continue with their studies outside of our zone without risking their lives.
The late Dr. Roberto Peigne, our former medical director and inspiration.
We have also experienced a terrible and ironic loss. On July 13, 2022, our dear friend and board member Dr. Roberto Peigne -- the original HHP medical director, and early visionary who helped me start on-the-ground operations in Haiti, a surgeon-dad and native of southeastern Haiti -- was senselessly murdered in Florida. After escaping the violence of Port-au-Prince to reunite with his family in the US, he was a victim of our own gun violence. Our strength prevails, thanks to Dr. Peigne's leadership and belief in improving the lives of his people.
Despite the sorrows, dangers, and chaos surrounding HHP and our partner clinic and birth center, our impact is greater than ever. Thanks to generous support from Americares and our private donors, our outreach programs that help the poorest of the poor, are thriving. A cholera prevention project, a traditional birth attendant program, cervical cancer screening and treatment for HIV-positive women, and mobile clinics all boost the delivery of quality health care to those most in need. Our clinic's lab, pharmacy, emergency room and birth center are seeing 50% more patients than last year.
Matwon Toussaint with baby she delivered.
I hope these words and images help you palpate the delight it has been to work in Haiti for over the past 10 years. As always, I wish I could bring every one of you here to savor a few seconds of this unplugged world that tweaks the senses. I am confident that better days await the Haitian people, who are tattered but tenacious. HHP will be by their side until that new dawn.
All my best and avek lanmou,
Please visit us and donate at: Hispañola Health Partners