Tuesday, June 12th, 2012...12:59 pm

The Heart to Heart Clinic in Bel Air

Developing our lesson plan on the roof of the Bel Air clinic

After our first day of getting a little taste of Hatain culture and history, we began our second day a little differently. We started off our day in Bel Air, which is downtown Port-au-Prince. As we drove through the area, our tour guide informed us that Bel Air is one of the poorest and most dangerous areas in Port-au Prince. The real work started when we arrived at the Heart to Heart Clinic in Bel Air. We were taken to the rooftop to assess the city from up high and to see some of the damage that the earthquake did to the area.

Heart to Heart is an organization that has set up a clinic in Bel Air that serves about 20,000 people who live in that area. JDC has been a partner of Heart to Heart since the earthquake, providing necessary medical equipment, care, and education. We were taken a back when we saw the one dentist that only sees five to ten patients per week. This is the only dentist in the entire area that is able to serve the thousands of Hatians who seek medical help. In addition to seeing patients, the clinic also has a pharmacy and a lab in the same building. When we took a tour, we saw many patients waiting to be seen by the pharmacist.

Heart to Heart has also established a school downstairs. We were told that classes are composed of children of all ages and that attendance is not necessarily consistent, but they are trying to encourage a culture of education.

We had the amazing opportunity to teach the Haitian children that attend this school, and we will also do this tomorrow and Wednesday. In preparation for our trip, we had decided that we wanted to do an “About Me” project with the children. We really wanted to be able to come away with a better sense of the children and their culture, as well as share something about ourselves. The students were split into three groups. Each student decorated a paper with what they thought represented themselves. They were told to include their dreams, hobbies, and favorite things. We went around and took Polaroid pictures of each of them, and they attached the pictures to their decorated paper. The children were fascinated by the Polaroid picture and how instantaneous the picture was printed. The art projects were really beautiful and served as a self-reflection for each of them.

We were overwhelmed with a classroom full of students, as other students started to join our group. We were embraced by children of all ages. It was truly amazing to see how we could all connect with the children, even though we could not verbally communicate. The only phrases we could say were, “what’s your name” and “how are you,” and we had to rely on translators for anything else. However, the language barrier did not stop us from forming a connection with the children. It was really a moving experience to see their happiness from the session. We ended the session by singing and dancing to popular songs that both we and the children knew.

After we parted from the children and told them we would see them tomorrow, we had lunch on the bus while we saw more of downtown Bel Air. The group then headed back to the Heart to Heart clinic to work upstairs on the actual clinic.

Today we focused on painting a wall of the clinic that was covered in grime and fading paint. We first sanded the wall and then began to paint it. We followed the instruction of other workers in the clinic. The walls of the clinic were chipped and dirty, and it made a huge impact to be able to brighten this area for the patients. When someone is ill and has to go to the clinic, it gives the patient more dignity to be able to go to an area that doesn’t look like it is covered in a layer of dust and dirt. The changes that we are making to the clinic are going to enable the patients to feel more comfortable in coming to seek medical attention. That was just the beginning. Over the next two days, we will be building an office for the clinic so that the patients can be consulted by a doctor in privacy, rather than out in the open, as is done now. One of the other workers in the clinic, Jimmy, expressed how excited he was for us to finish this project. We are truly honored to be working on this project, as we have already seen the impact it has on the spirit of the Haitians around us.

– Ruth

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