Friday, February 14, 2014

From NA to TA

This semester, I am teaching 3 health classes. I had so many people sign up for my nursing assistant/community health agent course that I decided to expand in order to accommodate them. Over 40 of these applicants were high school and college students; I created a special course just for them and so far, it is my favorite.
We meet two afternoons a week and I teach a modified version of the classic community health curriculum. The students take exams and learn practical skills such as blood pressure checks, bandage changes, and bed baths, but we also play games and do competitions as fun alternative ways to learn the material. Although those things make the class entertaining, it is my teaching assistants that make it my favorite.
Teaching hands-on skills to 40 students is no joke, so as I was planning the high school course, I decided to take my 6 best graduates and use them as teaching assistants. Each is fully responsible for a group of 5-8 students, taking care of attendance, weekly fees and hands-on skill practice, and helping me administer tests and run activities. When I am done lecturing and the TAs take over with a game or a skill, I watch them with a big goofy grin on my face. Hearing them re-teach things that I once taught them and seeing them encourage students in the same way that I encourage them just makes me glow.


We don't always see the fruit of our labor here in Haiti, but I see it every week in my TAs and I love it. I am very proud of them and excited to watch them continue to grow as instructors. Perhaps one of them will eventually take over all my classes...

Monday, February 10, 2014

"Desert becomes a fertile field"

There's a verse in Isaiah that says "...when the Spirit is poured out on us and the desert becomes a fertile field and the fertile field becomes a forest."
Gonaives is not naturally a desert but thanks to deforestation, erosion and flooding, it has virtually become one. Jubilee in particular, because of the salinity of the soil due to its proximity to the ocean, is a barren place.

My friends and I have prayed that verse from Isaiah over the land in Jubilee and we have made many less-than-successful attempts to cultivate a garden by our clinic and school. But in the last 10 months, under the steadfast labor of our neighbor JB, the garden is finally becoming a reality.

It may not seem like much to you, but to see a dozen trees that are as tall as JB or taller is very exciting for me. These sturdy little plants have withstood being gnawed on by goats and they've proven that they are tough enough to grow in the salty dirt. In the last 8 months, it has only rained once in Gonaives, but with JB's unfailing care, the trees have continued to grow.

My American friends who oversee the garden project are not in Haiti, so I have accidentally become the person "responsible" for it. In reality, all JB needs from me is access to the garden funds and affirmation for what he is doing, and he will keep working. Today he showed me the sights he has prepared for 30 new baby trees. They won't all survive, but even if only 2 or 3 of them do, we'll be thrilled.

As JB and I walked out of the garden, I said, "Just think, JB. In a couple years, our school kids will be able to play under the trees during recess." His face exploded in a huge grin and with shining eyes, he nodded. "That will be a miracle, Miss Keziah!" And he's right. It will be a miracle and an answered prayer. When the desert becomes a fertile field...

Friday, February 7, 2014

My extra students

Ever heard of auditing a class? You know, you attend the class and listen to the lectures, but you don't take the exams and you don't get a grade. 
My classes are audited by pigs. Every single day.

This is Haiti.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bite size

I was teaching a community health class yesterday afternoon when a woman arrived. She was missing a chunk of her face! Apparently she and a business partner had gotten into a fight and the other lady had bit her, leaving her with a crevice the size of a quarter just below her mouth.  
So I did the best I could to stitch her up, but it's hard to fix a wound when a piece of flesh is missing. I was almost done when I heard a ruckus outside the clinic door. Guess who it was?
What do you know? It was the business partner, the one who had chewed a nugget out of my current patient's face, and she was there because she needed stitches too! When Lady #2 bit Lady #1, Lady #1 reacted by biting back, so as soon as I finished my first case, I started on the second. Hers wasn't as serious because there wasn't any missing tissue, but her lip was really mashed up and it took me a long time to put it back together.

I joked with my friends that in more than 6 years of work in Haiti, I have never sewn up a bite wound before, never mind two bite wounds in one day, both on the mouth. So you can imagine how hard we all laughed when this guy appeared at my door this afternoon. Yes, he'd also been bit on the mouth and he was missing a wad of lip. I sewed him up at my kitchen table.

Life is weird. Three bite wounds on the lips in 24 hours? Maybe it's a new fad in Gonaives, but if people would listen to the advice of the nurse, I would tell them to bite some other body part. Mouths are hard to stitch and you'll look really funny wearing a bandage on your lips!