Tomorrow 15 dedicated Americans and Canadians will arrive to travel the country with Sionfonds for Haiti staff, and provide medical and dental care to the schools and communities Sionfonds serves. Since our last medical trip six month ago all of us have been working to gather the supplies and funds necessary, to create mobile clinics that will serve over 2000 people in the next 5 days.
It is a challenge for each of us to find the time away from work and our families to participate in these trips. On top of paying our own way we also have to find the funds, medications and supplies to run the clinics. When so many people are facing their own economic challenges in the US, Canada and around the world it is not easy to ask everyone we know to support our work, but we do, because; Once you know how much you can do to make the lives of people living in poverty better, it is hard not to do it again.
None of the amazing people on our medical teams mention how much time and money or how of much of ourselves we put into these expeditions because we all know that we get far more than we give on these trips. Everyone who has been on one of our trips becomes committed to our cause, not because the trips are easy, (they are not) but because we are changing and often saving the lives of people who have no one else to help them. But not everyone can come to Haiti.
So our challenge is to convey to you how important these trips and all Sionfonds programs are (Link), how much we need your support and help to be able to continue our work and most importantly that everyone can help.
My Challenge to you is to ask you to read this blog for the next two weeks, learn more about our work and Haiti and allow yourself to know that you have the power to help us change lives in Haiti.
A story that turned out better than I ever could have imagined involving 35 teachers from three rural schools serving 750 students, 5 cooks, 4 translators, 2 drivers, 4 American volunteers, and 18 donors!
By Serena Clayton
We embarked on this endeavor with the conviction that teachers and their practices in the classroom are at the heart of a quality education. Sionfonds has built classrooms, provided materials, paid teachers and served school lunches. Now it was time to support the teachers and help them to be more effective in the classroom.
We also embarked on this work with some trepidation. Would the teachers understand and embrace the new ideas we were presenting? Would the workshop respond to their needs? Would the translation work? Would there be food and beds for everyone? It was a complicated project.
The teachers and staff in Kenscoff hosted the workshop and arranged for all of our food. The teachers from Cavaillon traveled six hours and spent five nights at the Kenscoff school transformed into guest house. The teachers from Masson walked down a steep mountain and across a rocky river bed for a five hour round trip journey each day of the workshop.
Based on the recognition that as Americans, we don’t know how to teach in Haiti, we taught a process for collaborative learning and problem solving. We asked each school to map out resources in their communities that could be used for education: animals, crops, the sea, tradespeople and “the 94 year old man who has a book in his head about the history of the region.” They practiced demonstrating lessons, observing and providing feedback through “collaborative mentoring.” We shared the “story of our names” and wrote poems about where we come from to demonstrate community building in the classroom. We made simple books from sheets of paper with no staples or glue (it’s easy!), and the teachers shared ideas about how books made by their students could be used to improve literacy. We brought math manipulatives (tiles, cubes, counting boards) and brainstormed ways to use them to teach math concepts. We gave every school a wordless book and demonstrated how to engage the students in building their own story from the pictures, reinforcing the idea that writing is critical to learning to read.
We were impressed by how the teachers embraced all of these very foreign activities with open minds, and we were moved by their enthusiasm. The “academic scavenger hunt” on the last day provoked intense competition between the three schools. And the last item in the hunt, ‘write a song about your school” brought the house down with three hilarious performances.
We were simultaneously humbled and proud when, in the closing celebration, several groups demonstrated “collaborative mentoring”; others wrote songs; and one of the quietest members of the groups surprised us all with a beautiful poem honoring the school that hosted the workshop.
We know that training does not immediately change practice. The reality of teaching in any classroom, and especially in Haiti, makes it hard to implement new methods. However I am confident that at least some of the teachers will have their students make a book, will use the math materials, will problem solve together, or will invite the 94 year old man to speak. I am confident that all of the schools have a more cohesive group of teachers who feel validated and supported in a way that few teachers ever do in Haiti. I am confident that in a small way, we made a contribution to improving education for 750 kids in Haiti.
Thank you to everyone who was part of this story.
Please watch the video too!
I will be heading back to Haiti in a couple weeks.
It has been 3 months since my last visit, the time in between has passed quickly; first recovery, getting my bearings back home where so much of what we think is a necessity is really a convenience, then back to work writing grants, updating files and sending our sponsors the information and photos we gathered on our last trip, then it is time to prepare to go back to Haiti, and finally time to go. It is bittersweet coming and going.
I have come to have tremendous faith in the creative partnership that I have embarked on with everyone who has contributed in anyway to Sionfonds. I am willing to dedicate myself to the work and I cannot do it alone. We are in this together we all contribute; every thought, every action, every donation, every child, every prayer makes a difference.
Right now Sionfonds needs funds to implement our programs.
We need your help, send money, raise money, pray, spread the word on facebook, what ever you can do to help will be worth the effort, because what we are doing is important. By contributing to Sionfonds you are directly affecting the lives of more than 1000 students and the families of our 50 employees plus another 50 part time workers in Haiti. That is not a small thing it is a miracle.
Sionfonds is all of us who care, with a handful of people volunteering to do the administrative and on the groundwork; so that your donations can go to the people they are intended Haitian children and their families.
This organization serves as a vehicle for those who wish to serve. We have consistently provided the framework in which those with a dream to create something important and needed in Haiti can do so. Every year we have had young people and adults bring school supplies and visit our schools. We bring medical teams and create mobile clinics where there is no other medical or dental care. In two and half weeks another dream will be realized, we will be conducting a teacher training for 40 Haitian teachers and young man will complete the requirements to become an Eagle Scout by gathering and bringing school supplies for 352 students up a mountain to the community school in Masson. Every one of these dreams is realized because of the hard work and dedication of those who dare to dream and the people like you who support them, and the work we do on your behalf in Haiti.
Sionfonds for Haiti is a true partnership in the best example of community and collaboration I know.
We believe and work together to realize our dream of making a better future for Haiti and the world.
With Respect and Gratitude,
Founder and Executive Director of Sionfonds for Haiti.
P.S. Please pass the letter below on to everyone you know,
Dear Friends of Sionfonds for Haiti,
I am very pleased to let you all know about our upcoming education trip in just a few weeks! It is an example of how Sionfonds is truly a community of caring volunteers and donors working together to make a difference in Haiti.
While serving as an interpreter on several Sionfonds medical trips, Serena Clayton was impressed with the promise of the schools we support. She also learned they badly needed teacher training and equipment. Serena raised money for computers and desks last spring and has now recruited two friends, Vanessa Bramlett and Kathy Schultz, who are teacher educators, to provide a three-day teacher training.
In addition, on this trip I will be joined by a young man completing his Eagle Scout requirements. His Eagle Scout project is to collect and deliver educational supplies to our school in Masson. We are proud to have young people making such great contributions to our work.
Finally, we are also holding summer camp at Masson beginning July 25th. Sionfonds will feed and educate over 350 students for a week to help them stay on track in school.
All of the volunteers on this trip are covering their own expenses and donating additional supplies. We still need to raise $5,000 for the teacher training to cover interpreters, as well as transportation, food and lodging for 40 teachers. The summer camp is a bargain at $6.50 per student. To serve 350 students, we need to raise $2,275.
On behalf of the teachers and students at Masson, Kenscoff, and Cavaillon, we ask for your support.
Please donate now on our website http://www.sionfondsforhaiti.org/donate-now/ or by mail at Sionfonds for Haiti, P.O. Box 79, Canyon Ca. 94516
Thank you for your past and continued support. Together we are making a difference in Haiti.
U.S. Director of Sionfonds for Haiti
p.s. If we can fully fund this trip, we hope to have many more in the future!
As the famous, at least to those of us who participate in Sionfonds for Haiti medical trips, Scott Bullock said last November “We work hard when we come to Haiti, but I always get more than I give.” I agree a thousand times over–as I leave Haiti today I feel incredibly blessed to have this place and the people here as a part of my life. I am going home to my family but leaving family here too and I will miss them.
Our medical trips are like family reunions every six months. We come together to work for Haiti providing medical and dental care and to laugh and travel and eat together. It is a sort of miracle that we transport 45 people all over the southern coast and into the mountains on foot, and set up 5 clinics and treat thousands of people in just 7 days. I am so grateful to everyone on our medical team, those who support us, those who come to Haiti and those who live here in Haiti.
Returning home I know people will ask how things are in Haiti. It is not easy to live here. The challenges are greater than I can ever know so I do not think I can judge if things are ‘ getting better’ despite having been coming here for many years now. Since the earthquake, most of the news that comes out of Haiti is not good. I do know that recovery is slow and seems insurmountable. When I am asked, I will say that yes there are still people living in tent cities and broken fallen down houses and piles of rubble throughout Port au Prince and the surrounding towns, and I will also say that I saw people and machines clearing rubble and construction going on everywhere we went. I saw more construction materials being transported as we drove the southern coast than ever before. I saw a garbage truck in downtown PaP with men shoveling garbage into it. The shacks that had been built on the meridian on the main Hwy out of PaP toward Leogane are gone, and that big garbage/rubble pile called Alpha One is half the size it used to be. They are repaving the road to Kenscoff. Before the earthquake I do not remember any road paving or garbage trucks. We visited a brand new hospital just built by the Haitian government in Port de Piment. It has only one doctor and three nurses and no electricity but it has the potential to be something vital to the surrounding communities.
There seems to be more resources and possibilities in the air throughout Haiti.
Now that a new president has been elected my hope is that more of the aid pledged to Haiti will begin flow into the country. Sionfonds for Haiti’s work remains the same–to provide educational opportunities and the foundations (healthcare, jobs and job training, nutrition) for Haitians to change their lives and country.
The challenge for Sionfonds in the US is to continue to inspire those who can to support our work and the Haitian people we serve. All of our work can only be done with the support of people like you. And you can help more than you think you can, just by talking about our work and the experiences shared here and sending in donations of any size it all helps. As the earthquake recedes in the memory of popular culture, Haiti continues on, as always, doing the most with what they have, the future is uncertain and today is immediate and real. Sionfonds shares the uncertain future of Haiti, we will do the most with what we have, and what we have depends on you.
Thanks for supporting us and your interest in Sionfonds work in Haiti.
Clinic at Sionfonds’ school in Cavaillon on March 31, 2011
Medical and dental Well Checks on all 256 students
*For Medical attention:
29 children from the surrounding community
*For Dental Care/extractions:
111 adults and children for extractions and sealants and flouride treatments
290 people total
At our clinic in Chardonier on April 1st, 2011
*For Medical attention:
*For Dental Care/extractions:
64 adults and children for extractions
We do not have the number of sealants applied for this day.
603 people total
At Day 2 of Chardonier Clinic April 2, 2011
*For Medical attention:
442 adults and children
*For Dental Care/extractions:
98 adults and children for extractions
( a whooping 282 teeth pulled by one dentist)
we do not have the number of sealants applied for this day.
540 people total
Clinic at Sionfonds’ School in Kenscoff April 4, 2011
Medical and dental Well Checks on all 62 students
*For Medical attention:
185 adults and children
*For Dental Care:
18 adults extractions
19 children extractions
305 people total
Clinic at Sionfonds’ school in Masson on April 5, 2011
Medical and dental Well Checks on all 362 students
*For medical attention we saw:
100 community members adults and children
28 adult extractions
20 child extractions
407 people total
In addition we employed over 45 Haitian staff members.
As the medical team departs this morning.
We at Sionfonds in Haiti and the US and I know every Haitian person whose lives you touched would like to thank you for your generous hearts and caring spirits that brought you here to change the lives of thousands of people.
It is takes two hours to get to Chardonier from Les Cayes not one. It is a beautiful ride along the southern coast of Haiti. The villages have a sweet old world look to them little houses on narrow streets. Some have churches near the town square with steeples, all set on Caribbean beaches. The dirty garbage and rubble filed streets of Port au Prince are a memory here. Being farther away from those street means being farther away from paying jobs and access to the big markets of Port au Prince–we see a lot more malnutrition here than closer to the cities.
We arrived to about a about 200 or so people in the street all pushing to get in side the yard of the building where the clinic was held and another 100 already inside. This being the first day we had all our bags, we had a chance to see all of what we had and organize our medications and supplies. The day went very well. Our 4 visiting and 5 Haitian docs did approximately 180 consultations. Our dentist saw about 47 people most having more than a couple teeth pulled. Dr Matt worked well past dark to finish everyone he had promised to see.
Karen, our social worker turned “Dental Hygiene Queen” worked with Junior Mardy, an old pro at this work, to apply sealants and fluoride treatments to 75 students at a near by school.
Everyone worked hard from the time we arrived until the sun went down. Then our host a family here in Chardonier generously shared their home on the beach with us. We had a lovely meal of goat, rice, green beans, beets and mac and cheese. Most of us elected to sleep under the stars on the roof of a church next door to the house. When we arrived the church was singing full force, which continued on until after most of us were ready to go to bed. Serena, who speaks kreyol, went next door to listen in. The woman speaking to the congregation was saying “Thank you Jesus, for protecting our mothers, for protecting our fathers and our children. We should be thankful because so many people do not have what we have.” She wondered just who those people might be but marveled at how even the poorest people find something to be grateful for. Amen
The second day of clinic, getting through the crush of people trying to get in outside the clinic gate made us feel like rock stars. And made us know again how desperately people need health care in this region.
The day went well. We started about 9 am and the docs finished about 4 because we ran out of medications. We saw a total of 542 people. Super Dentist Matt Valentine continue on until after dark seeing 82 people and pulling 282 teeth. Wow.
We served over 1000 people in two days.
We had another delicious meal cooked for us by Sionfonds staff ( there are about 45 of us all together, cooks, security, Haitian doctors nurses and interpreters), then set off for Le Cayes for the night.
We are back in Port au Prince now. We have a fresh supply of medications and are heading up to Kenscoff this morning for a clinic at our school there.
This Medical trip consists of 3 doctors from the SF bay area, a PA from Canada, a dentist and dental assistant from St George Utah, 3 nurses from Canada and SF, 2 interpretters form the UK and SF bay area, a socail worker from Sf Bay area, and two children 11 and 15. We have Haitian team members doctors, nurses, interpreters numbering 28.
About half the team have been on multiple trips with Sionfonds medical expeditions and most of the Haitian staff have been on all of them so I believe we are as fine tuned a Mobile Clinic Machine as we can be . Meaning; we prepare, we collect things, we arrive and then we roll with what ever comes our way. I do not know how we attract such outstanding agreeable, easygoing, Magivering people, to these trips but they make our medical trips fun and effective to our ultimate goals of helping Haitians in remote areas where there is no other medical or dental care available and maintaining the health of the children at our schools.
This trip is no exception, on arrival despite 13 of our bags – the ones with most our meds – not arriving with us, we hit the road for La Cayes. Thursday we held clinic at our school in Cavaillon. We had a lot to accomplish at Cavaillon; the medical clinic, seeing all the 250 children for assessments and community members in need of medical attention, this trip we have ‘ only’ one dentists who checked the sealants on every child, and then pulled approx. 140 teeth out of 80 mouths, we had a team applying sealants to children who were knew to the school or who need re-application. In addition to clinc, Sionfonds students were weighed and measured for assesment purposes for a grant we are applying for. Sponsored students wrote letters to their sponsors , had their photos taken. It was a busy chaotic and enjoyable day.
In addition it was exciting for me to be in Cavaillon, and look at the site of the school that we are going to build this year. Sionfonds receieved a grant to replace the current school which is a pole and tarp structure.
Today we head farther out the southern leg of Haiti to Chardonier a spectacularly beautiful little village on the sea shore.
We will be out there until Sunday sleeping under the stars ( and our mosquito netting ) listening to the Caribbean sea by night and working our selves to exhaastion everyday! What could be better??
Twice a year, Sionfonds takes a team of medical volunteers to Haiti to work with Haitian staff and volunteers. The medical trips are a critical part of our efforts to support school children, their families and the surrounding communities. Our first priority on these trips is to provide care in the four communities where we have schools: Cavaillon, Laveneau, Masson, and Kenscoff. These schools are in remote areas where medical care is difficult to obtain. On the positive side, we are going to areas where our services are much needed and few other agencies go. The down side is it can take some time to get there! Reaching the school in Masson requires an hour hike up a mountain, but all our past volunteers say it is the best part of the trip.
One of the most rewarding experiences for many volunteers is the chance to work closely with our Haitian staff and students. Sionfonds employs program coordinators, drivers, cooks and assistants. We also have medical and nursing students who come to gain experience and learn from our volunteer medical providers. During the course of the week, we spend a great deal of time traveling, working and eating together which provides a great opportunity to share stories, perspectives and have fun. While our primary purpose is to provide medical care, if the opportunity arises, we will make a stop at the beach to picnic or swim.
Our clinics are “mobile” clinics which means we hold them in schools, churches or other locations that are not designed to be a medical facility. There is always a high demand for our services resulting in large crowds. This requires a great deal of on-the-spot organization. Traffic and road conditions in Haiti are unpredictable, so we need people who are flexible, team players.
When you join Sionfonds medical team, all of your transportation, lodging, and meals (see below for more details on food) will be provided. All volunteers will meet in the morning in the Miami airport to be on the same flight into Haiti where we are met by Sionfonds Haitian staff. Our exact itinerary varies, but usually we drive for three hours or so to our first site. On each of the following days, you can expect to spend approximately 6 hours holding clinic and a few hours driving to or from one location to another. We generally do not hold clinic on Sunday and spend that day resting and traveling. There is not a great deal of free time or any time devoted to “sight seeing,” but usually by the time we leave Haiti, our volunteers have seen more of the country than most foreigners ever see.
Sionfonds will arrange for breakfast and dinner throughout the trip. Haitian food is similar to other Caribbean cuisine and sometimes mildly spicy but generally enjoyable for most Americans. We will be eating in hotels and restaurants as well as having food prepared by Sionfonds Haitian staff. We always have plenty of bottled water on hand. Generally we eat breakfast at our lodging and dinner back at our hotel or in a restaurant. During the day when we are holding clinics, we provide a simple lunch of peanut butter sandwiches and ask that volunteers bring their own bars, nuts etc. to have on hand for snacks.
Because Sionfonds is a small and all volunteer organization, we rely on our volunteers to be an integral part of making each trip happen. When you are accepted for a medical trip, you will be responsible for your airfare to and from Haiti as well as raising $1,500 to cover the cost of medication, school supplies, Haitian staff salaries and food and lodging for the group. Sionfonds will set up an account for you on Network for Good that you can use to raise funds and track your donations (like people do for walk-a-thons or marathons). We will also assist you with sample emails and fundraiser ideas.
Some people like to raise funds to cover these costs; others prefer to simply make a donation themselves. Either way, you can be confident that all of these funds will go directly to schools and medical programs in Haiti.
During the past 20 years, Haiti has experienced a great deal of social and political upheaval. There have been periods of violence and unrest followed by relative calm. Foreigners are rarely targeted but some incidents have occurred over the years. When our medical team is in Haiti, it is Sionfonds top priority to ensure the safety of the team. For this reason, we always travel as a group and do not allow volunteers to go out on their own. We pay close attention to the advice of our Haitian staff and avoid any areas they feel are less safe. It is essential that all volunteers follow Sionfonds security rules, even if they seem unnecessary.
We are careful about the food we eat and always have lots of hand sanitizer available. We drink only bottled water which is readily available in Haiti. We advise all volunteers to take malaria medication and obtain all immunizations recommended by the CDC for Haiti. The most common health problems volunteers encounter is travelers’ diarrhea that is easily treated with Cipro or anti-diarrheals.
Be sure and check out our medical trip page on this website for more information and plenty of photos from past trips.