Often times, navigating the 1,500 or more NGOs and other organizations in Haiti is a bit of a labyrinth, to put it lightly. Maybe you start by calling one organization, and are directed to another, then find yourself emailing a third and tweeting a fourth, all to get answers about the first one. This is not intentional. It’s simply part and partial to the patchwork nature of NGOs within Haiti, where unless you know someone in that organization personally, it can be very difficult to figure out just who does what and where the resources lay. Still, sometimes you get lucky and find a group of friends and colleagues with resources who are eager to dive into a situation and help. Today, I just came back from an impromptu health clinic at the Rose Mina Orphanage, hosted by volunteers from the U.S. Embassy’s Center for Disease Control (CDC) office. As someone who can’t differentiate Advil from Tylenol, I spent my time handing out paper and crayons to children to keep them preoccupied until it was their time for a check-up, or, as I like to call it, I served as “Le Directeur de l’Art.” In between admiring the children’s creative masterpieces, I wandered around to observe the CDC doctors and other volunteers.
This makeshift health clinic was, for many of the children, their first time receiving an actual check-up. Something as simple as checking heartbeats, blood pressure, and asking a few questions helped the doctors to identify cases of anemia, iron deficiency, and, in the case of one child, a hole in the heart. The doctors prescribed, and provided, medication for each child. They also created files for each child, making it easier for the orphanage to know each child’s condition and what medication that child should be taking.
Although the clinic, by anyone’s standards, can be labeled a success, everyone there had the same question on their mind: what next? The volunteers agreed that once a month follow-up clinics would be possible, but what about children that needed more detailed medical assistance? For the boy with the heart condition, what would be his options? Is there a cardiologist in Haiti that can perform the needed procedure? If so, who would pay for it? If not, would he have to go to the United States? What about the Dominican Republic?
Or even on a more simple, day to day note, how does one ensure that the children are eating enough vegetables to prevent anemia and iron deficiency? Certainly the children are receiving enough calories on a day to day basis, but keeping them healthy was another issue entirely.
And so we return to the issue of navigating the ocean of NGOs within Haiti. The resources are out there to help the children at Rose Mina orphanage, and one does not need to look outside of Haiti for a sustainable solution. Yet, one has to be proficient in the art of communicating with multiple organizations at once for very specific requests. Getting vegetables from this one, baby clothes from that one, free surgery from another one. It’s an exhausting discussion. Still, the success stories are there and they make the red tape worthwhile. After enough time and wading through the possibilities, I hope the entirety of the Rose Mina orphanage can be a success story.