Haitian Teaching Haitian: Empowering Local Medical Professionals & Improving Health Care

Yesterday was a really wonderful day for Hands up for Haiti. It was a day that saw dreams, vision and hard work bear fruit and become reality on the ground. Yesterday, our Haitian staff taught the life-saving skills of Helping Babies Breathe to 24 Haitian nurse practitioner students, who will in turn teach these skills to others, saving countless babies now and in the future. But yesterday was more.

Yesterday was a day when we accomplished this task by empowering our own staff to be leaders and instructors. Yesterday was a day we watched a medical professional we helped to train return to his country to train others. Yesterday was a day of collaboration with another organization also dedicated to improving health care in Haiti by training local providers. For HUFH, helping to build a sustainable health care system in Haiti means supporting programs that are led by our Haitian medical staff who know the best ways to deliver care to their communities. It also means collaboration, one of the many things that make HUFH special. Yesterday saw all of that happen.










I am a co-founder and past President of Hands Up for Haiti. A practicing pediatrician, I am also a master instructor in Helping Babies Breathe, a course which has been put together by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Laerdal Global Health to reduce infant mortality by teaching simple resuscitation techniques to traditional birth attendants and provide them with the necessary, reusable equipment. We teach the course to facilitators, typically nurses and doctors on the ground, who will in turn teach traditional birth attendants, and by doing so ensure that every delivery in Haiti will have someone present who knows the basics of neonatal resuscitation and how to prepare for a delivery and care for an infant. Haiti suffers from one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, 60 per 1000 babies born. There are 273000 infants born each year in Haiti, and with this program, it is estimated that newborn death and disabilities from lack of breathing will be cut dramatically by almost 90%.

I have taught the class several times in person while in Haiti. Promoting Health in Haiti, a US-based organization training the first nurse practitioners in Haiti, initially asked me to teach the class remotely from Westchester to a class of 24 nurse practitioner students to be held yesterday in Port au Prince.


As I contemplated the challenges of teaching resuscitation and simulation remotely, it occurred to me we have the equipment in Haiti; we needed to get it from Cap Haitien to the school in Port au Prince, but that was doable.

17240224_1923786821186773_6510516731923612410_o 17192260_1923787194520069_8340900414411353519_o

The next epiphany was that we indeed have trained facilitators in Haiti – professionals we have trained since 2011 as part of the over 200 individuals we have taught on the ground. What better team could there be to teach within country?


Five of our staff, Dr. Manol Isac, our in-country Executive Director, nurses Youseline Pierre-Louis and Rose-Lourdes Dorvil, nurse practitioner Wisly Lindor, and Sonel Eugene, our Head of Translators and Community Lectures, traveled a perilous road to Port au Prince to collaborate with Promoting Haiti Health to teach the nurse practitioner students the Helping Babies Breathe Course. That they were able to make it at all in the face of road closures is a testament to their commitment and belief in this program and its importance. That is what made this day possible.


Perhaps equally amazing: Wisly himself is a graduate of the Promoting Health in Haiti program. We met him when he was in New York to train as a nurse practitioner, and brought him into HUFH when he returned to Haiti. Wisly now helps run our hypertension screen and treat program and our malnutrition program, and works with the eye team. And now: he returns to teach more Haitian students as they become medical providers in their own country.


Pictures speak louder than words- the day was a success, the energy reverberated across the miles and the internet to all of us who are dedicated to improved birth outcomes for all children. Congratulations to this amazing team- Manol, Youseline, Rose-Lourdes, Sonel and Wisly: you are the heroes of this story.

17353259_1401941153196767_927924682508632321_n 17353243_1401941309863418_1044044924631468258_n 17353189_1401941386530077_7147991720942979345_n 17352528_1401941113196771_3819941711631205257_n 17352492_1401941279863421_5847497152463671016_n 17352473_1401941686530047_8280842238702547471_n 17308871_1401941173196765_271789646834652774_n 17309875_1401941629863386_3234061500314994922_n

The Transformative Power of Education

Andrea Feddes is a registered nurse from Canada, a HUFH volunteer and medical mission leader, who just returned from 9 weeks on the ground in Haiti with HUFH. Among her projects: a sexual health class for young women.

“What if we don’t learn about sexual health in school and our parents don’t teach us. How are we supposed to know how to protect ourselves against diseases if we don’t know about them?” One of my 14 year old students asked me this during our first class together.img_0633

Since my first trip to Haiti in 2012 I have wanted to help educate the youth of Haiti on sexual health. The fact is, in Haiti there is no curriculum on sexual health. Parents don’t teach it out of fear of their kids knowing too much or because of religious objections, and the schools don’t teach it either. The truth I’ve learned is there is no such thing as knowing too much: knowledge has such power around the world; knowledge confers power and the ability to take care of oneself.

Guided by this belief, and with enough time during my recent 9 weeks in Haiti, I planned and taught lessons in sexual health to Haitian girls aged 13-16. I held weekly lessons in two different communities – with a total of 20 girls in my program. I followed the program  “For My Daughters,”. The book, written specially for programs in developing countries and available in Kreyol, discussed general reproductive anatomy male and female, puberty, menstruation, infections, sex and forced sex.

I had all sorts of emotions on my way to the first lesson; I was really excited but also really nervous. I kept thinking “I hope they show up. I hope they are as excited about this education as I am. I hope they feel comfortable talking to me about these issues.” After about an hour and of waiting, 10 young girls showed up and we got started. These girls exceeded my expectations and the next class that week in a different community was just as amazing. I finished that week feeling so refreshed, on such a high from my experience. There is something about teaching and having your students so engaged, asking questions, and showing interest that is so fulfilling and exhilarating to me.

My lessons didn’t always go this smoothly or as I had planned. There was one week where we had to get out of the car and walk 15 minutes to our class because the community was holding a demonstration about their Presidential elections. Another time the road flooded after some heavy rains and most of northern Haiti was under water to some extent. With that being said, these were only hiccups in my experience and I learned valuable lessons from these hiccups.

I learned a lot from “my girls” as well. I learned about the power of education. I learned that when you’re teaching about STI’s, sex and rape in Haiti that likely one of the girls already knew about them because it’s happened to them before, even if they are only adolescents. I learned about the resilience that the people of this country go through each and every day. A lot of time “my girls” would show up late for class because it can take hours to get home from school, or they had to take care of younger siblings or neighbor kids, sometimes they had to cook meals for their family or go fetch water from the wells. No matter how late they were for class they always showed up. They showed up because they knew they had an opportunity to learn something different, an opportunity to in return help their families and friends to be educated. They showed up because they were interested, they had questions (really good ones) and they wanted to be there.

At end of the program we had a celebration. I bought the girls a cake and some candy, and I was able to give them a hygiene kit. These kits were made with help from a few special people back home. One of my favorite things in these kit was a handmade, washable sanitary pad or as they say in Haiti “Kotex”. Each kit had 5 or 6 Kotex inside that were fun colors and designs. Something so simple that we take for granted in North America had put huge smiles on their faces.



Sandra (my amazing friend and translator) had told me half way into our program that she was sitting on her porch one afternoon and she could hear one of the girls in our class talking to the neighbor kids about the program. She had her book out and was teaching them about puberty. Going into this project my hopes were that these girls will go out into their communities, their schools, their families and friends and share what they’ve learned. Knowing that one of them had already started doing this gave me such satisfaction and joy.

To “my girls” thank you for showing me the power of education, the power that us as girls can have in this world and thank you for coming week after week no matter the circumstance to class with the eagerness to learn. You are all beautiful, smart and amazing young woman who I have no doubt are going to do great things and have such impact on others in your life (just as you have had on mine during our time together.)img_0647

Mesi Mesi Anpil: Thank You for Making Possible What We Do

Heal – Teach – Support. These are the words that guide all that we do at Hands Up for Haiti. But how are we able to do what we do? Only with the generous support of our donors and volunteers. Your help truly makes a difference in the lives of the people that we help.  The health challenges are great in Haiti, but in 2016, with donor and volunteer help, HUFH was able to accomplish a great deal, highlighted below in this blog.

We are deeply grateful to all who donate time, money and energy to our efforts and we want to take this opportunity to say: Mesi mesi anpil” – “thank you very, very much.”

HEAL – TEACH – SUPPORT 2016: Thanks to the Hard Work of our Haitian Staff and Generous Donor Support, HUFH Programs Reach More People Who Lack Access to Care

For HUFH, sustainable health care means supporting programs that are led by our Haitian medical mariestaff who know the best ways to deliver care to their communities. It means that rain or shine, emergency or just another day, our clinics and our programs, including those addressing malnutrition and delivering prenatal care, are open and delivering care under the management of our in-country staff. Thank you to the donors whose generosity sustains these programs.


Our Emergency Appeal after Hurricane Matthew made it possible to help a sister organization directly img_5552-1affected by the destructive flooding in the south and also to make repairs in our own clinics when weeks of rains returned to the north. Thank you to all the donors who contributed to our special emergency appeal.



We are proud of our Haitian in-country team, currently numbering around 50 people, led by Dr. Manol Isac, in-country Executive Director. Thank you to the physicians, administrators, nurse practitioners, nurses, agent santes, lab technicians and lay staff who operate our clinics and programs and go out into the community to run our prenatal programs and identify malnourished children, all of whom as a team help us deliver quality care.

HEAL – TEACH – SUPPORT 2016: Thanks to Volunteer Efforts and Donor Support, HUFH Volunteers Support Established Programs and Deliver Direct Care

Thanks to their tireless energy and commitment to HUFH and the people of Haiti, HUFH volunteers donated countless hours of time working in Haiti and at home to help us achieve our mission. This year alone 15 teams with 126 volunteers traveled to Haiti with us. Working alongside their Haitian counterparts, doctors, nurses, dentists, dieticians, public health professionals and laymen ran outreach clinics, delivering care to people in remote communities who have little or no access to haitijan2016day6-0089medical care, and provided support to our established clinics in Shada and at Haiti Village Health  in Bas Limbe and to our medical professionals on the ground. Each team generally sees more than 500 patients during a mission.

This year’s specialty teams included a dental team and a podiatry and wound care team. The eye team continues its annual trips, screening for vision problems and bringing to the north their ophthalmologic services and supplies, much of which is donated by Alcon through the team’s vigorous efforts. Six of our teams were part of our global health education program, inspiring and training young physicians and nurses in the important work of global health.

Access to clean water would address a large number of the health issues that our patients face. girls-at-wellVigorously working to raise funds for water wells, our water team built four new wells this year, with two more scheduled for January, providing access to clean water to nearly 30,000 people for 35 years. Educating and empowering the community are major components of what each HUFH team does and the water team teaches the entire community, from children to elders, the importance of clean water in preventing disease and saving lives as well as how to maintain the wells.

 In Haiti, one out of every 5 children under age 5 is considered malnourished. Our malnutrition program identifies and treats these children. Thanks to donor support and a generous grant from Meds and Food for Kids, we reached our goal of doubling the number of children we treat annually to almost 600 children this year. Unfortunately, outreach is identifying more and more malnourished children from remote communities that suffer from severe food shortages and we hope to expand the number of sites, the number of children we treat, and the number of families we educate about nutrition, early in 2017.

HEAL  2016: Thanks to Volunteer Efforts and Donor Support, HUFH Launched Two New Programs This Year

                                                                     Cervical Cancer See & Treat
cervical-cancerCervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women in Haiti with an estimated 1,500 preventable deaths each year, the highest reported incidence of cervical cancer of any country in the world, 50 times higher than the rate in the United States. With our new program, we expect to screen 3000 women this year and treat 300 before it is too late – preventing their premature and unnecessary deaths. Special thanks to the Morristown Chapter of the Links Inc. and the Physicians in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Morristown Medical Center, whose donation of funds and equipment provided the seed money for this program.


Hypertension Screen & Treat
Severe and unrecognized hypertension in Haiti contributes to high levels of stroke, heart failure and premature death. Through HUFH’s hypertension initiative, we are training local nurses and other health care providers with a simple, easy-to-follow protocol and providing a ready supply of prepackaged, safe and inexpensive medications. Our pilot program is being supervised by a Haitian nurse practitioner: heal – teach – support in action.

TEACH 2016: Thanks to Volunteer Efforts and Donor Support, HUFH Helps Save Babies with its Helping Babies Survive Curriculum and Our Volunteer Nurses Forge Partnerships with Nursing Colleges in Haiti

Our goal: Whenever possible, teaching is Haitian to Haitian – effective and empowering.

img_0854HUFH volunteers and our in-country staff continue to teach Helping Babies Breathe and Essential Newborn Care, two programs highly effective in saving babies’ lives in the “golden minute” after birth and in their first days when most infant deaths occur. These Haitian nurses and doctors in turn train other Haitian medical professionals as well as traditional birth attendants in HBB/HBS and we offer refresher courses to make sure skills stay sharp. All of our sites are now following Helping Babies Survive protocols.

Collaborating and sharing knowledge with nursing programs in and around Cap Haitian, volunteer 13323308_1040039062731505_2918713887382312141_onurses teach substantive courses including HBB and HBS, hold adolescent workshops on topics including puberty and sexual health, participate in medical outreach clinics, and engage Haitian women in topics such as cervical cancer, domestic violence and preventing illness. Upon graduation, the new Haitian nurses go out into their communities and share their knowledge.

Thanks to Volunteer Efforts and Donor Support, HUFH Provides Necessary Infrastructure, Equipment and Supplies

The support that we provide to our programs, to medical professionals on the ground and to our partner hospitals is dependent upon the support we receive from generous donors, grantors and corporate sponsors.

IMG_5364Thanks to a generous grant from our partner and supporter, Positive Legacy Foundation, we were able to work on three infrastructure projects this year:

– improve the electrical system at the Shada clinic and get a new and improved generator;

– refurbish our office depot so that it can also be used as a functional clinic; and

– repair the water wells at Haiti Village Health, providing clean water to both the clinic and the community, in turn helping to prevent the spread of disease, including cholera.

Thank you to the Henry Schein Cares Foundation who awarded us the Henry Schein Cares Medal for Excellence in Expanding Access to Medical Careimg_0034. After the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew and the heavy rainstorms that inundated the north, our clinics and partner hospitals were in great need of supplies. In addition to a financial award, the Foundation supplied us much needed gloves, isolation gowns, and other basics, which we in turn use in our programs and shared with our partner organizations.


Thank you to SECA USA, manufacturer of medical measuring systems and scales, for providing us with accurate, high-quality portable scales and stadiometers that enable us to have quality measurement tools to assure appropriate care in our clinics and especially in our malnutrition programs.


Thank you to HUFH volunteers who organized and ran a holiday sale under the stewardship of volunteers Lynn Perton and Celeste Merzon-Theis to benefit both HUFH and the Women of Milot, an entrepreneurial network that creates meaningful and well paying work for Haitian women through a line of beautifully handcrafted goods. Funds went directly to improving the lives of women, children, and families in northern Haiti.


Thank you to Seton Hall University for generously providing us with fritznel12 laptop computers for use in Haiti, enabling our medical professionals on the ground to keep up-to-date and accessible records of our patients and our programs and collect and evaluate data, greatly enhancing the quality of care.


Thanks to the Support of our Board of Directors, Donor Funds Go Directly to Program Support

Thank you to our Board of Directors, whose members underwrite our administrative expenses. Because of their generosity, commitment and vision, Almost Every Cent of Every Dollar Donated Goes Directly to Helping Children, Mothers and Families through our medical programs.


“When you save the life of a woman in Haiti, you save her children, her family and her community.”
To help support our programs and professionals on the ground, DONATE HERE.

A Mother’s Pain; Her Baby’s Survival: From Anguish to Hope

A young mother brought her 5 month old infant to the Open Door clinic where our medical team was working that day. She told us that the baby was vomiting and having trouble eating. One look at the baby and we knew this was serious.

An average 5 month old weighs about 15 pounds. This baby weighed 4 lbs 6 ounces, less than many newborns.

In developing countries like Haiti, where food is scarce and nutrition frequently poor, breastfeeding is strongly encouraged, as this gives the baby a much better chance of survival, but many new mothers do not know this. And for those who do want to breastfeed, there is little education about how to do it properly and how to get a good milk flow right from the beginning. When breastfeeding fails, infant formula is not easy to get and babies often get poor substitutes causing severe malnutrition. In Haiti, 59 of every 1000 babies born die before their first birthday; one in five children under the age of 5 suffers from malnutrition.

This young mother was trying to do the best for her baby, but had not been able to successfully breastfeed her baby boy. She was feeding him whole cow’s milk and mashed bananas, a diet she believed appropriate because she had never been educated properly on the nutritional requirements for infants.

Lying on the exam table, the baby had a desperate stare and a weak cry. He had no baby fat and his ribs stuck out prominently from his chest. The baby looked hungry and the mother looked hopeless. The baby was dehydrated and malnourished and needed immediate medical and nutritional care.


Pediatrician, Dr. Elliot Barsh

Using funds in the HUFH Follow-up and Surgical Care fund, we transported him to Hopital Convention Baptiste d’Haiti, one of our partner hospitals, where he was admitted to the pediatric ward and started on NG (nasogastric) feedings with infant formula. The NG feedings let the baby absorb the calories and nutrients from the infant formula without having to do the work of sucking and swallowing, work he was too weak to do. They also placed an IV line for additional hydration.

Within 24 hours of hospitalization, the baby was rehydrated and looking stronger. The NG feedings will continue until he is strong enough to drink the formula on his own. We could see from the expression on his mother’s face that the worry that her baby would not survive another day was now replaced with relief that her baby was going to live, and with the hope she now has for a healthier tomorrow for herself and her baby.

HUFH has led an education effort to prevent malnutrition in infants by educating moms in prenatal clinics about the need to breastfeed their infants for at least a year and to learn the proper techniques for breastfeeding after the baby is born. Our Haitian staff has led this effort in Shada, where we see a tremendous number of malnourished children, and at our other prenatal and malnutrition sites.

As HUFH volunteers, we are given an incredible opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the people of an entire country, and we are given that opportunity to do so one life at a time, one future at a time. We help mothers and we heal babies.

We see a person suffering and show her that someone cares. Together, we are all part of a shared humanity.

To support the malnourished children of Haiti and their mothers, please donate here.


Replacing Despair With Hope: The Faces of the Mothers of Haiti



In Celebration of International Women’s Day

Women in Haiti are the backbone of the country, strong and resilient, but they face multiple health challenges and risks throughout their lives, especially in the child bearing years.  HUFH remains dedicated to the support of our programs that help to improve the health of women throughout their lives.  To celebrate International Women’s Day, a day of action with the theme “Be Bold for Change,” please consider active support of any of the following HUFH programs for women and help change their lives for the better.

When you save the life of a woman in Haiti, you save her children, her family and her community.

Dr. Mary Ann LoFrumento, President Hands Up for Haiti

SAFER BIRTHS – SAVING MOTHER AND BABY: More women and their babies die during childbirth in Haiti than in any other country in the Western Hemisphere. Our prenatal clinics and Helping Babies Survive programs ensure safe births for both mother and child. Please help.

Woman feeding newborn

FIGHTING MALNUTRITION – SAVING CHILDREN: No mother should watch her child suffer or die from hunger. Our Medika Mamba program treats 600 children each year who are severely malnourished as we reach out to more and  more children in remote communities. Please help.


CERVICAL CANCER SEE & TREAT – SAVING WOMEN: Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women in Haiti with an estimated 1500 preventable deaths each year. With our new program, we expect to screen 3000 women this year – and treat before it is too late. Please help.

HYPERTENSION SCREEN & TREATSAVING GRANDMOTHERS: Severe and unrecognized hypertension contributes to high levels of stroke, heart failure and premature death. Through HUFH’s hypertension initiative, we are training local health care providers in a simple, easy to follow protocol. Please help.


CLEAN WATER PROGRAM – SAVING COMMUNITIES: Our water safety program provides women with access to clean water for their families, helping to prevent disease and the spread of cholera. Please help.

VISION PROGRAM – SAVING VISION: Our Eye Program provides vision saving screening, treatment and surgery helping women to provide and care for their families. Please help.


Mesi anpil – Thank you very much for all of your support.


Women Helping Women: HUFH Volunteers Support the Women Of Milot

As volunteers with Hands Up for Haiti, Lynn Perton and I have made three trips to Haiti on pediatric missions. On each trip we visit the local tourist market in Cap Haitien, looking for things to buy to support the local economy. But beyond a few trinkets, we don’t usually find much.

Then in January 2016 we spotted some beautiful, colorful, handcrafted items at gift shops in Cap Haitien. Our HUFH team members bought up these lovely potholders, aprons, tote bags, and jewelry pouches. Each product had a tag indicating that it was made by the Women of Milot (WOM) Entrepreneurial Network and featured a photo and short bio of the Haitian woman who made the item. We were so excited. Not only could we buy some really nice gifts to take home, but we could also support this organization that was helping Haitian women achieve a livelihood and financial independence.

Lynn and Deb Couri in Croton

Lynn and Deb Couri in Croton

Once we got back to New York we googled WOM, and Lynn succeeded in contacting Deborah Couri, its founder and executive director. Lynn and I met with her in April to talk about her organization.

Women of Milot was started at about the same time as HUFH, shortly after the earthquake in 2010. Deborah went to Haiti to see how she could help. She ended up volunteering at Sacre Coeur Hospital in the village of Milot, where many people were being sent from Port Au Prince. The local women in Milot went out of their way to help those who had been displaced, injured, and hospitalized far from home. Knowing that these women needed a way to earn money to support their families, Deborah noticed that a number of these women had some sewing skills. She bought sewing machines, fabric, and other supplies and developed patterns to make a few simple projects: pot holders, oven mitts, aprons, etc. She continues to supply these women with the training and materials they need and pays them a fair wage when they return the finished products. A number of women have been very successful and have taken on apprentices. In this way, the organization has grown exponentially, with some women earning enough money to send their children to school and even buy a house.

Women of Milot at work

Women of Milot at work

Lynn and I were inspired by the WOM story. We decided to organize a holiday gift sale, featuring products made by WOM. The sale would benefit both HUFH and WOM by highlighting the work of both organizations and raising money for them. Sandra Rhodes even found a source to buy Haitian coffee and chocolate, which we also sold at the events.

Several of our fellow HUFH team members joined the effort, and in November and early December we had four separate sales at different venues and towns in Westchester County and upstate New York.  Lynn Perton and I at the Black Cow Coffee House in Croton on Hudson; Sandra Rhodes and Laura Shea at the Black Friday Fair Trade Market in Delmar;

Sandra, Laura and a Supporter in Delmar

Sandra, Laura and a Supporter in Delmar

Wendy Marx and Meg Sussman at the Saw Mill Club in Mt. Kisco;

Celeste, Meg and Lynn in Mount Kisco

Celeste, Meg and Lynn in Mount Kisco

Janet Krzemienski, Tracy Birkhahn, and Stephanie Korn at the PTSA Holiday Fair in Irvington.

We enlisted the help of friends and family who helped with sales, inventory, and accounting. Our good friend and fellow HUFH volunteer, Elise Lentz, organized a raffle for the Croton event with prizes that were generously donated by local artists and crafters. It was a terrific team effort.

The multiple fundraisers were very successful and raised money for both HUFH and the Women of Milot.

Will we make this an annual event? Stay tuned…

To bring this full circle: Deborah Couri informed us that some of the women in WOM are now making enough money to work their way out of poverty and to support themselves and their families. Our team, which includes many volunteers with expertise in nutrition, is returning to Haiti tomorrow and plans to meet many of the women and to hold an educational session for them and their children at the clinic and speak about the importance of good nutrition.

HUFH’s Launches New Hypertension Program: Healing, Teaching & Supporting

Dr. Marilyn Jacobowitz and I just returned from a trip to Haiti to launch our new hypertension screen and treat program. The lack of reliable follow-up and consistent access to medication makes it especially difficult to treat hypertension in Haiti and contributes to already high levels of stroke, heart failure and premature death. Through HUFH’s hypertension initiative, we intend to eliminate these barriers through in country training of local nurses and other paraprofessionals. We will equip these health care providers with a simple, easy-to-follow protocol and a ready supply of prepackaged, clearly labeled safe and inexpensive medications.

We launched the program at the clinic in Dondon, a remote village with very little access to medical care. Our nurse practitioner, Wisly Lindor, is from Dondon, so with his connection to the village we were able to get full participation in the program. Patients were pre-screened one week prior to clinic by Wisly and Andrea Feddes, a HUFH long-term volunteer on the ground. Forty-five patients were screened with the goal of forty patients participating in the program.

There was so much anticipation leading up to today. Our team worked so hard in the US, with countless meetings and emails back and forth to Wisly and our Haitian team to set up the Hypertension Program. Copies and files were made, identification cards were ready and we were all familiar with the protocol and flow of the clinic.

After a 90 minute van ride, we finally arrived at Dondon, a remote, mountainous villiage. While the town has 2 clinics, most of our patients receive very little medical care. The patients were awaiting our arrival.

The waiting room at Dondon

The waiting room at Dondon

After Marilyn gave an introduction about hypertension, I explained our expectations for the program, and we were ready to begin.

New Friendships and a Shy Smile

Each patient seemed appreciative of the program and genuinely excited to be part of it. One particular patient’s story, however, made a particular impact on me. As I was completing her intake forms and ID card, she explained to me that her husband had died, as well as all of her children, and she was all alone. She seemed sad and lost, and was looking for support. I explained to her that I am so glad she is part of our program. Now she will have Wisly, our NP, to look after her and check in with her once a month. She no longer has to feel so alone. I also asked her if I could take a photo with her to take back to the United States so that I could remember her and think about her. She smiled a quiet smile, ready for our photo.


With an average blood pressure of 180/100, this program is desperately needed. I truly believe that this program will be life-changing for many of our forty patients. They will receive medication necessary to lower their shockingly high blood pressures, as well as have monthly access to consistent care by an experienced NP. There are so many programs that focus solely on children, and this is an example of an important program to guarantee health in the adult population.

I hope that as the months go by we see a downward trend in blood pressures. I also hope that our patients realize they are partners in their health. As we continue to educate about lifestyle changes, such as using less bullion cubes, as well as taking medication consistently, our patients will be able to recognize ways they can improve their health. Most of all, I hope that our patients know that we care. We want them to stay healthy and feel confident in our program. I am looking forward to expanding the program and reaching more patients.

NP Wisely and Dr. Marilyn screening patients

NP Wisely and Dr. Marilyn screening patients

HUFH Clean Water Efforts –More than a Drop in the Bucket

Water equals life. And clean water equals health. It’s a simple concept but it has powerful meaning. Waterborne bacteria cause infectious diarrhea and life threatening cholera and are a direct result of people forced to drink unclean water to survive. So much of the disease that we treat in Haiti would be prevented by the availability of clean water. Recognizing this need, Hands Up for Haiti has made clean water one of our priorities in the communities we serve. Building wells and making certain that the water wells we have built remain in good working condition is a priority and educating the community on cholera prevention and the importance of clean water for health is part of our mission.

Franz and Patrick use illustrated posters to teach about clean water and health.

As part of this mission, the HUFH “water team,” headed by Frantz Toussaint, our Haitian community liaison and translator, and US volunteers Patrick Schelle and Keanna Nelson, was on the ground shortly after Hurricane Matthew, working with community members on maintenance and repair issues, and providing water safety and cholera prevention education. While this team focused on areas to the east of Cap Haitian, clean water efforts have also been carried out in the west in our clinics in Bod me Limbe.

Dr. Maklin watching water flowing from a working well

Dr. Maklin watching water flowing from a working well

HUFH has an ongoing program to raise funds to build community wells throughout northern Haiti in villages identified by our partners in Haiti, Dr. Eugene Maklin and Dr. Ernest Jasmin, the Director of the Ministry of Health in the north. Each water well, which costs approximately $3500 to build and maintain and employs many Haitians in doing so, provides more than 4000 people with access to fresh, clean water for more than 35 years. This is a guarantee not just that lives are made easier and safer, but of healthier children and families.

Pumping water - the gift of life

Pumping water – the gift of life

To date, thanks to the generosity of our donors, we have built 6 wells in Haiti and two more are in process.

Before the water team arrived in Haiti, they communicated with Dr. Maklin about repair issues and with Frantz about the communities’ needs. Several needed repairs, in part because the community was unsure how to care for the wells.


Keanna and Franz in the classroom.

Educating the community is a major component of what each HUFH team does. The need to teach about waterborne disease and water safety was made more urgent by the increased threat of cholera from Hurricane Matthew. Working with Frantz to determine the best way to approach the communities, the team arrived with visual learning materials including a video called ‘The Story of Cholera,” laminated cartoon-like images that displayed properly storing clean water, maintaining the environment in which the well is situated, when and how to wash hands, and how surface water trickles down through the soil to become clean naturally filtered ground water.

Community Education

Using an iPad and a speaker, teaching the community about cholera prevention.

Keanna explained: “We believed if we give these communities all of the possible information they would need to take care of the well, and actually know how it functions, they would also get confidence and take ownership of maintaining the wells in good condition.” At the same time it was an opportunity to educate the community on the connection between clean water and good health.

One thing that sets Hands Up for Haiti apart from other organizations that install water wells is that we work together with communities right from the start, including choosing the sites for the wells. “We always try to give the community members the information they need to know, answering all questions, and most importantly establishing a line of communication between the community and HUFH”, said Patrick. Although these wells are built with donated funds as a gift to the communities they serve, they will only be a success if the community embraces that gift as their own and works together to take care of and cherish it.

The communities have taken that ownership: Heal – Teach – Support in action. Patrick, in discussing the work of the water well, shares: “One of the greatest moments of our trip was on the last day. As we ensured to get these wells repaired and running before we departed we discovered what impact we have already made in one week! The community informed us that they in fact were already saving money together to repair and extend the concrete platform of the well. This was it! They got it!! When I think about this it makes me want to cry tears of joy. This is empowering people.

Some excited students show off what they learned.

There are now six Hands up for Haiti wells throughout the rural communities outside of Cap Haitien, Haiti. Moving forward we plan to build more wells, with a goal of at least 10 wells running by summer of 2017, with Frantz together with community members ensuring that all of the wells are properly maintained.

Team member Dr. Marilyn asked after her first trip to Haiti in October 2014: “With this one week trip to Haiti, did we really make an impact or is it just a drop in the bucket?”

Patrick’s answer: “The answer Doc is both, YES to both!!! We make a huge impact every time we go and we make a drop in that bucket every time! The best we can do is keep on fillin’ up that bucket as long as we are physically and mentally able.”

To support Hands Up for Haiti’s water wells program and help us build more wells, please donate here.

Hurricane Matthew Relief Efforts: Saving the Children

When disaster strikes a place like Haiti, the first impulse as a medical humanitarian organization is to rush a team to help out on the ground or send lots of supplies without knowing if they are really needed. But there are many ways to help in a disaster and one of the best ways for a nonprofit like HUFH is to find a partner on the ground already involved in the affected area. Thanks to the Cap Haitien Health Network, HUFH was connected to No Time for Poverty (NTP), the nonprofit organization that runs the Klinik Timoun Nou Yo (Kreyol for “Our Children’s Clinic”) in Port-Salut on the southern coast, an area devastated by the hurricane with over 85% of the homes either destroyed or damaged.

Damage in Port-Salut in the South

Damage in Port-Salut in the South

Destruction in Port-Salut in the South

Homes destroyed in Port-Salut








The clinic roof post-hurricane

The clinic roof post-hurricane

Klinik Timoun Nou Yo is the only pediatric center in a large area serving 60,000 people. NTP’s mission is very similar to that of HUFH: “to provide children living in poverty with accessible, affordable, high quality medical care.” Michele Boston, NTP’s Executive Director, who was in Haiti immediately after the hurricane, just returned and reports on the impact that this help – made possible by the generosity of our donors and volunteers –  has made on the clinic and the community that it serves. With the help that we sent, NTP has been treating acutely malnourished babies and children.

Michele reports:

We have been operating with a full staff despite the fact that so many lost their homes. We have been providing food and clean water to our staff to at least lessen that burden.

Klinik Timoun Nou Yo (KTNY) was the first beneficiary of aid from outside organizations because we were the only anything up, running, and attending to the hundreds of children needing immediate care. . .

The clinic back in operation.

The clinic back in operation.

Our greatest need is feeding young children who cannot benefit from the food relief programs which are mainly aimed at feeding adults. Childhood malnutrition is rampant, even in babies under 6 months. In light of this, we focused our efforts in securing Medika Mamba for older infants and toddlers and nutritional supplements for babies.”

As we all know, there is no substitute for breast feeding as mother’s milk contains the most nutrients for baby and is the perfect baby food. Like HUFH, KTNY adheres to and promotes this practice: breastfeeding counseling is paramount in its well baby clinic and, in support of this training, KTNY actually bans baby bottles at the clinic. Michele reports, however, that particularly as a result of the hurricane, there are a significant number of babies who have no access to mother’s milk. This can be due to a number of factors: a mother may not produce milk, or might have inadequate quantities of milk for various reasons. In Port-Salut, there are many infants who are living with a caretaker rather than a biological mother.  The trauma of the hurricane did not help. Michele told of one breastfeeding mother who was so terrified by the Hurricane that her milk dried up. These babies need baby formula for their very survival.

img_5669-1 img_5611-1 img_1207

Thanks to the amazing outpouring of help from the Hands Up for Haiti community of donors and volunteers, KTNY is now able to fill this critical gap, supplementing donations of medika mamba for children over one year and purchasing formula in country.  As Michele said:

“That’s a lot of baby food! That’s a lot of nourished babies! We are overwhelmed by HUFH’s willingness to share funds. We promise to use them wisely and well. We send hugs and appreciation to Hands Up For Haiti!”

We join Michele in thanking each and every one of you again!

To support our hurricane relief efforts and our malnutrition programs, please click here.

img_1211 img_1197

Liza and Nelly: A partnership (and friendship) to help save women’s lives.

Dr. Liza Lizaragga was in her last year of residency at Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey when she traveled to Haiti for the first time last November with HUFH. The focus of the mission was to donate two portable ultrasounds to our partner hospitals and hold workshops on prenatal ultrasound techniques. Dr. Nelly Osias, who was completing her OB-GYN training at Justinien Hospital in Cap Haitien at the time, was one of the residents who attended the workshop.  As soon as Dr. Liza began her presentation, it became clear that the translator was not up to the task of translating the technical medical material.  Dr. Nelly jumped right in to help. The two young women doctors worked together for the next two days; an immediate and important bond was formed between Liza and Nelly that would lead to an incredible effort to save the lives of women in Haiti who were dying unnecessarily from cervical cancer.

Nelly, on the right, jumps in to translate as Liza, left, lectures

Nelly, on the right, jumps in to translate as Liza, left, lectures

Sharing ultrasound skills and techniques: From left to right: Liza, Dr. Dieula Toussaint, HUFH physician, xxxxxxxxx, and Nelly (seated)

Sharing ultrasound skills and techniques: From left to right: Dr.Liza and Dr. Nelly (seated) demonstrate the ultrasound machine.









Liza and Nelly realized they had much in common. Liza explains, “We both grew up and trained in a developing country [Liza in Panama and Nelly in Haiti] and fully understood the struggles and health challenges that women, particularly those in developing countries, have to deal with on a daily basis.” After Liza returned to the US, the two continued to correspond, sewing the seeds for a collaborative cervical cancer project between Hands Up for Haiti and Haiti sans Cervical Cancer.

Cervical cancer is a deadly disease that if identified at an early stage can be prevented. Haitian women are at a disadvantage because their access to health care and basic screening modalities is limited. In the developed world, a PAP screening test and access to HPV vaccines have made this a rare cancer. In Haiti, it is the leading cause of death from cancer for women. Nelly and Liza realized this is an area in which together they could make a significant impact on the lives of many Haitian women and their families.

Nelly (left) and Liza

Nelly (left) and Liza

Nelly adds: “During my training and my days of practice on cervical cancer screening I have received a lot of patients with different problem and dramatic situation. Some of them have been diagnosed at an early stage. Some others unfortunately have been diagnosed in advanced stages due to lack of information about the problem. A woman, age 55, came to me with advanced cervical cancer.  All we could do was give her medicine for pain. She is mother to seven children.

Together with the help and support of Hands Up for Haiti and its benefactors they worked for nearly a year to establish a cervical cancer screen and treat program. In July, Liza returned to Haiti to work with Nelly and to continue the planning. They held a one day screening program and saw nearly 50 women.

Through collaboration and an ever-growing bond of professional respect and personal friendship, Liza and Nelly, under the auspices of HUFH and in partnership with Haiti Sans Cervical Cancer and GODOCGO, have just launched a small but very busy cervical cancer screening clinic in the town of Limbe in Cap Haitien. The plan is to screen 3000 women this year at this clinic site alone.

Dr. Nelly added:  “Our hope is to prevent those [advanced] cases by reaching out to all the women in this country in order to help them with necessary knowledge about gynecologic cancer and screen them on time to avoid such disaster. If we can set clinic for screening as well as reaching out through churches and other social group we can save our Haitian ladies. At first we will still have advanced cervical cancer stages because of the depth of the problem. However by working and teaching our ladies we know that will decrease considerably the severity of this problem. This will be possible by our willingness to help and with support of others since our country has limited resources.

Liza and Nelly in front of the new clinic in Limbe.

Liza and Nelly in front of the new clinic in Limbe.

Liza and Nelly: Support, Collaboration and Partnership to save women’s lives and develop a sustainable health care system in northern Haiti.

Follow our blog for more on the launch and implementation of the Cervical Cancer Screen and Treat Program and our partnership with GODOCGO to help make this happen.

About Liza and Nelly:
Dr. Liza Lizarraga graduated from the Universidad Latina de Panama in the Republic of Panama. She moved to Morristown, New Jersey to complete her residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Morristown Medical Center-Atlantic Health System. She also has a Masters Degree in Public Health from Columbia University in New York City and currently works with Hands Up for Haiti, running the cervical cancer screening program, which aims to see and treat early cervical changes that could lead to cervical cancer in under-served women in Cap Haitien, Haiti.

Dr. Nelly Osias graduated from Escuela Latino Americana de Medicina in the Republic of Cuba. She returned to Haiti where she immediately completed another one-year study in integral and general medicine with the Cuban physicians in mission in Cap Haitian. She then completed her residency training and is presently working in OBGYN at Justinien hospital. Willing to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer, she is now working with Hands Up for Haiti in screening and treating early cervical changes in women in the North of Haiti.