The realities facing many Haitians today, five years after the earthquake, are still unimaginably dire. Haiti continues to feel the effects of the devastating earthquake with the public health system receiving a major blow. Haitians are still dealing with the aftermath of the event and are battling with the shortage of proper healthcare facilities and infrastructures. Many are living in impoverished situations and are finding non-medical alternatives to alleviate their pains while they struggle for basic life essentials such as safe drinking water and good sanitation. Their challenges remain beyond their abilities due to insufficient health care professionals on ground to treat the local population. This is the current state of being that the majority of Haitians are confronting today. The earthquake catastrophe left a great scar on this nation thus forming the beginning of the story of HEAL Haiti (Health Education Action League for Haiti), a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization.
Gretha Fievre, founder of HEAL Haiti and Adjunct Faculty at Pace University College of Health Professions and Adelphi University College of Nursing and Public Health, was compelled to establish the organization after witnessing firsthand the degree of destruction the earthquake caused her motherland. “I had no pictures or words that could describe what I saw when I landed.” Upon returning back to the States from her medical mission, she knew that the greater challenge was ahead of her people. She recalled the young boy from the slums who helped her with a patient and that moment convinced her that with proper training and support anyone can learn the skills needed to provide adequate care and alleviate suffering. She made the decision to go back a few months later to create HEAL Haiti.
HEAL Haiti, in collaboration with local partners and the resilience of the people, has been able to provide some relief for many Haitians living without adequate health care. The Department of Health, the local nursing school board and a number of foundations, have worked with HEAL Haiti to create educational seminars, health awareness programs and provide health care through mobile clinics. Through these initiatives, HEAL Haiti’s trainees are empowered to promote health maintenance throughout their communities.
“I believe the education of the youth is the core of a nation’s development and the best way I could contribute to Haiti was through health care education- Gretha Fievre”.
While HEAL Haiti has been serving Haitians since the crisis, Gretha says there are other notable public healthcare professionals who have also made tremendous impact in the lives of Haitians. This is the reason HEAL Haiti honored some healthcare professionals at their recently held annual fundraising gala which took place on October 24, 2015. One of the honorees, is pediatric surgeon Dr. Henri Ford, of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, who recently led a team of physicians to successfully perform surgery separating conjoined twins for the first time in the History of Haiti. Dr. Henri Ford and his brothers Jean and Billy Ford, both accomplished physicians in their own rights were also honored along with other physicians: Dr. Fritz Francois of NYU Langone Medical Center, Dr. Natasha Archer of Boston Children’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard Medical School, and Dr. Arcelin Andre of Montreal Canada. Haiti Director of Nursing, Irma D. Bois, Public Health Administrator and Registered Nurse, Dr. Nate Nickerson of Konbit Santé, Registered Nurse Marnelle Paul, and founder of Unspoken Smiles Foundation, Jean Paul Laurent are other health care professionals that were duly honored.
The gala held on October 24th was at the World’s Fair Marina Restaurant in Flushing, Queens. The keynote speaker on that day was Dr. Jeffrey Gardere, a Haitian Psychologist and media personality, who has lectured extensively about PTSD and the survivors of the earthquake.
According to Gretha, the gloomy situation in Haiti still exists. Our honorees and many others are doing quite a lot to support the people; however, the impact of the earthquake made it even more difficult to provide health care. “Looking at the environment, the needs are becoming greater, she continues, especially in undeserved communities like her hometown, Saint-Marc.” Because of St. Marc’s close proximity to Port-Au-Prince, the capital and epicenter of the earthquake, a significant number of people migrated to the town. The increase in population strained the already fragile health care infrastructure. There is only one hospital, the St Nicholas Hospital, in a town of over 200,000 people.
The story of HEAL Haiti is not solely about the work they are doing as a non-profit organization, but rather more about the lives they have impacted so far. HEAL Haiti through the concerted as well as the collaborative and dedicated efforts of its many devoted friends and members, has been compassionate in its mission to walk alongside those who choose to empower themselves and to make a difference, said Gretha. “When you are doing missionary work you often face many obstacles that you did not expect. It is mostly in the resilience of the people that we find inspiration to continue pushing forward.”
The call is to join forces with HEAL Haiti in its mission to educate the youths. Through sustainable programs such as nursing education and training, health and science programs, and mobile clinics, HEAL Haiti hopes to empower the youths to turn things around, to improve health conditions and the quality of life in their own communities.
SOCIAL IMPACT MINDED MILLENNIALS: If you are seeking for an opportunity for philanthropic work, Visit the Heal-Haiti.org website to learn more and find out how you can lend your support and impact more lives. Follow their mission activities on Twitter @HEALforHaiti.
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