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The Story of Haiti Marycare
Bringing Health Care to Jacquesyl
Most of our work takes place in the rural village of Jacquesyl, located on the northeast coast, midway between Cap Haitien and the Dominican border. A fishing village, Jacquesyl was settled after the closing of sisal plantations at the end of World War II. Most of the 2,000 residents live in tiny cement-block, tin-roofed houses with dirt floors and no electricity or running water. Some people live in huts made of sticks and then covered with mud and grass roofs. Women cook the one daily meal of corn mush over charcoal fires outside their homes. Several times a day, girls and boys walk to a well for water.
When I first went to Jacquesyl in 1999, there was no medical facility, no nurse, and no doctor. To get treatment, people traveled by foot, mule, or bicycle to the nearest town, where they would have to wait hours to be seen by an overworked and underpaid doctor, if they were seen at all. Without basic health care, it was extremely difficult for adults to work and for children to learn.
Scenes from Jacquesyl
Diarrhea, respiratory infections, parasites, typhoid, malaria were huge problems, sickening and killing many. In was common for mothers to die in childbirth, usually from hemorrhaging, infection, or tetanus. I didn’t know if anyone was HIV-positive, because no one was ever tested for that, or for tuberculosis. When I asked what people died of, the usual answer was, “They got a fever, and then they died.” It was not easy to know where to begin.
In time, I realized that the best approach was to keep things basic. I am not a doctor. I don’t have a lot of money. I am a pediatric nurse practitioner, which means I have a master’s degree in nursing and I am certified to practice on my own, caring for children. A large part of my training as a nurse practitioner was in primary care and preventive medicine.
What makes us different from other medical teams that visit Haiti is the concept of primary care. We do not arrive with a lot of medical equipment. My stethoscope and otoscope are probably the only things that qualify as equipment. Teaching basic health-care concepts and trying to reinforce them in many settings is making a difference.
I also realized that it was vital to work with the community. Perhaps the most important thing I do is meet with the people of Jacquesyl to reflect with them on what they think the community needs, and then we try to develop a plan to accomplish it. Without their efforts, our work could never be accomplished.
Together, we developed a health committee and established a clinic, staffed by a local doctor, nurse, and health educator, for whom we provide support. We have also started programs to improve maternal-child health, provide immunizations, prevent diarrhea and dehydration, and dig wells for clean drinking water. In addition, using songs, skits, and music, we have worked with members of the community to present programs to educate residents about basic hygiene, dental hygiene, HIV/AIDS, and women’s health issues.
Thanks to another nongovernmental organization, Plan International, and to the hard work of the community, a new clinic was erected in September 2006, allowing the people of Jacquesyl and surrounding areas to receive basic health-care services and, when needed, referrals to larger clinics or hospitals.
More information on our efforts can be found on the following pages.
Next: Maternal-Child Health
Why We Work in Haiti
Grassroots Economic Development
Optimism and Hope