Sionfonds for Haiti Blog

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Pulling Teeth

Pulling Teeth

This was not my first medical trip in Haiti, but it was the first time I went with Sionfonds.  One of the things that impressed me the most was that Sionfonds is providing not only medical, but also dental care.  While there are many groups sending medical teams to Haiti these days, there are very few that offer dental services.  Just as in the U.S., in Haiti, dental care is much harder to come by than medical care, to the extent that outside of the cities, it is virtually non-existent.  Because of this, it was a huge pleasure to see Sionfonds volunteer dentists, Scott Bullock, Matt Valentine and Allen Hilton, arrive with boxes of fluoride, sealants, anesthetic,  a vast array of dental instruments and all of the supplies to keep everything sterile even in the most challenging of situations!

Honestly, although I have spent quite a bit of time in Haiti, I had never really paid close attention to anyone’s teeth.  It was heartbreaking to see the level of decay, especially in kids.  It was satisfying to see painful teeth being removed and even more satisfying to see sealants and fluoride being applied to kids’ teeth.

Enjoy the photos and many thanks to the dentists who made all this possible!

Serena Clayton



Robenson, who is the director of Kenscoff school  said to me yesterday, that the reason he believes in education so deeply is because, as he tapped his head “this is all  I have, and with it I can change my life and help others. If I can educate  200 children  and they each help even 10 children themsleves that will still make a difference and something like  that, can change Haiti”.

This morning Kingsley one of the medical students who participates in our medical trips and works at the General Hospital was talking  to me about Haiti and how the reason I come here  and work so hard, must be that  I want everyone to be healthy. We began to talk about  what Haiti would be like if everyone was healthy and had enough to eat and clean water to drink. It was a wonderful vision.

Yesterday we met with a boy who lost his foot during the  earthquake, his mother gave birth to his sister as they lay  in the yard of the hospital waiting for help, in the days after  the earthquake. Yesterday, I was there, to check on the family for my friend Shellie, who found them there in the hospital yard, last January and has been helping them since.

We met on the street in Petionville. He is a shy young man, I asked a few questions about his family and his health but got quickly to  point, money. How much does it cost him to go to school? How much for his English lessons? How about his sisters tuition? How does his mother support him? He looked away from us as he answered. It is hard for me to be a stranger asking so many personal questions of someone I have never met before.

Sionfonds programs are administered by Haitians so people receiving services from us do not have to be questioned by someone like me who has never  lived a life like theirs, who does not know what it is to live  in a tiny shelter without any income, praying that  someone will think of them and send them some money so they can eat.

Even though we were all uncomfortable, I keep asking questions, nonchalantly acting like I have a right to know his situation and maybe I do have at least a good reason, because if I don’t find out what his family’s needs are  I won’t be able to report them to Shellie.

I came to check on his education but have found something  else, the family is not eating except  when the someone sends money or gives them food.  Shellie has paid for the two older  children go to school  and sent packages down to them, the shoes and shirt he is wearing are from Shellie.

As we talk and I ask the same question in a variety of ways, it becomes clear that they are not eating  everyday.

The thing is that is hard, is that  in Haiti many people do not eat every day. When a family in the neighborhood does have food they share  with their neighbors because who knows who will be hungry next and be in need of the generosity of others.

Trying to wrap this post up in a neat little package is escaping me, but I know the pieces are  here.

What is clear is that really, all any of us  has, is what we carry in our heads and hearts and what we do with that.


Haiti gets into your heart

Haiti gets into your heart

Haiti gets into the hearts of  people who come here in a way that is, I believe, unique. I know it did for me, and many of my friends and even after many years of leading groups here I am still inspired and in love with this place. It is rewarding for me  to see a love for Haiti take root  and grow in the medical teams we bring to Haiti.

It is particularly remarkable because of the challenging nature of our expeditions.

Traveling on bad roads in cramped vehicles, setting up clinics in  buildings that are  not designed to hold 6 doctors, 3 dentists, a pharmacy and dental hygiene team, plus all the interpreters and staff required to manage 100’s of sick and impatient people.

It happens in spite of all the  challenges, or maybe because of all the hardship, the rewards are greater, I don’t know but I witness Haiti taking root and  growing in their hearts of each person who participates in our medical trips. By the end of the week each person is making plans to return on another trip or to help in some way.  And many are planning to bring their friends and family.

We do amazing things our medical providers, many of them having served in other developing countries become committed to our cause so we know that what we are doing is medically valid, as well as helping the desperately needed by the people we serve who do not have access to medical or dental care.

It can be heart breaking for practitioners of modern medicine to have no recourse but to offer less than the very best that modern medicine can offer. But  when it becomes clear that  referring a patient to the hospital or a specialist is not an option, somehow, we are able to save lives anyway. Or on occasion when there is a hospital near by taking a dying infant there in our vehicles and paying for treatment can save a life.

In  Marigot we had two such cases, a tiny sick baby less than 6 weeks old  had not drank or eaten in 3 days, she would still respond but just barely.  She would certainly have died later that day if we had not been able to quickly send her off to Jacmel where there was a hospital. These cases always leave me thinking about other babies and mothers in Haiti who are not as lucky as to have   a mobile clinic show up that day in their village.

Another was an old woman carried in mostly unconscious, soiled with diarrhea and vomiting. We  came ready to treat cholera and at first suspected that was what we were seeing. Whatever her ultimate diagnoses would be, treatment, to start was the same.  All the docs and nurses worked together discussing treatment and  our NP from Canada  Alicia, got an IV started with the one appropriate needle we had for the vein, less medical folks got the IV bag rigged up above her as she lay on the ground  on the terrace, the only space available. Then our ER nurse from Berkeley, Lois, took on the job of getting some medication in to her mashing up the medication in a cup (we did not have medicated fluid that could go into the IV) and mixing it with something that would help her get it down. To start with she threw it all back up but Lois kept on mashing and spoon feeding, and coaxing her to eat with the help of Thamara her interpreter.  All of our Haitian staff becomes involved with any person that comes to us really ill. Bringing them to our attention, making a path through the crowd and everyone immediately begins to help. As it turned out the woman was brought in by her neighbors.  She had no family, she was just being taken care of by the community.

At one point when we asked if it was possible for someone to go to the hospital with her, there was no one to go so we continued to do what we could at the clinic.

Eventually after two bags of IV fluid and medications she began to get a “little Fiesty” as Lois said. An hour later she was recovering well enough to sit up and the stand and even smile because of her response to the treatment our staff determined that it was not cholera.


Maybe that is how Haiti grows in our hearts when we see how we can make a difference, some with our medical or dental skills, all of us by just being here in someone’s hour of need.

Kenscoff school clinic day

Kenscoff school clinic day

Kenscoff is above Port au Prince past Petionville and yesterday was cold and rainy. This has been a trip full of unexpected events and it being cold and rainy fit right in.  The school was toward the top of a mountain which was shrouded in rain fog when I arrived.

On the way we had had a flat and then the land cruiser could not make it up the hill so I walked up the mountain and thru red clay mud to catch up with the rest of the team that had gotten there a bit before me- because of the flat.

The school was full to the brim with the families and students of the school the rain had gotten everyone inside but our staff and the teachers had the lines moving efficiently and the medical team was setting into seeing people as I arrived.

Each student at the school received medical and dental check ups and we began o a new sponsorship program at this school while we were there.  Everyone did a great job which was what we have come to expect by our last day on the trip.

After the clinic we all went out to dinner together and had a fabulous time. The best part was when many of the team members Haitian and northern American stood and made speeches about what on amazing experience  the last week has been.

Dr Scott Bullock summed it up for me saying that no matter how hard we work on these trips we always get back more than we give on these trips

We were all over flowing with love and gratitude for the chance to know and work with such wonderful people in such an amazing and challenging place

more soon


Day Three Clinic in Auban

Day Three Clinic in Auban

The hurricane and the rain had subsided this morning as we left Marigot the sun sun was shining. There are many people we will remember in Marigot. One beautiful young woman had 5 teeth pulled and kept asking the dentist about whether it was okay that she had not eaten  and if she didn’t eat tomorrow? As it turned out she had not eaten and had no hopes of having anything to eat.  She  is 26 years old  and had 5 children. Our medical team pooled it resources and bought her the essentials, rice beans and cooking oil at a nearby market. This is not something we do regularly but we were moved by this women’s circumstance to act.

We packed up all our medications and luggage and headed for Auban a small community just outside of  Jacmel. We found a welcoming crowd waiting for us. We set up our dentists and oral surgeons in a small room behind the main medical clinic. Dental cleanings were in the main hall with our 6 American, Haitian, and Canadian doctors and nurses . They are averaging 165 medical treatments a day.

Driving back to Port au Prince there were many reminders of the hurricanes effects as we drove past mud slides and debris left behind.

Tomorrow we will go to Le Cayes and see more of Haiti setting up a clinic and hour south of there on Monday morning.

Successful Clinic despite Hurricane Weather

Successful Clinic despite Hurricane Weather

We held a very successful clinic in a small village on the southern coast of haiti yesterday. It was a “hurricaine day” so school was called off and we were not able to bring in entire classes of kids for dental sealants and fluoride. However lots of parents brought their kids anyway. The dentists pulled a lot of teeth and we treated about 200 people for various infections, worms, diarrhea. We also had several people with severe hypertension.

Friday we set up clinic in the midst to the hurricane. It is pouring rain and the clinic is being surrounded by a growing lake. We didn’t think many patients would show up but we were wrong. And we had a number of very sick people including a woman with possible cholera who is receiving an IV on the porch at this moment.

We Have Arrived

We Have Arrived

Port au Prince looks better than on our last trip in April. There is less rubble, fewer tents in the streets, more cleared lots.  But the tents are looking worn and no match for even a small hurricaine.  We have spent the afternoon at the foyer de sion orphanage and the medical team has had kids climbing on them, playing with toy cars and taking great delight in playing with their cameras.  Everyone is tired from the long flight but in good spirits.  We are leaving for Marigot soon and will post again when we can get online.