After the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, medi launched the aid project medi for help. In close cooperation with the Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, the aim was to help the victims of the quake unbureaucratically on site and to provide those in need with leg prostheses. The special set up workshop quickly developed into the largest orthopedic contact point in the Caribbean. Today (after 12 years) the range of care mainly includes traumatological and orthopedic cases. So far, over 7000 patient visits have been taken care of. Fabiola Jean Pierre, orthopedic technician at medi for help since 2016 and our workshop manager in Deschapelles since 2017, reports in an interview about her experiences and life in Haiti.
Fabiola, you have been employed at the medi for help OT supply center in Deschapelles for 5 years. What do you think is special about this project?
I want to thank God and medi for help for this great opportunity that they have given the Haitian people to my team and me. This is something very special because orthopedic care costs a lot of money. Here in Haiti, people don’t have the money to get a prosthesis or an orthosis, but with the help of the mfh care center and the Albert Schweitzer Hôpital in Deschapelles, they have a chance.
Violent uprisings by the political opposition have dominated Haiti for several years. Even now roads are blocked again and again; Transporting food, fuel and even drinking water is often impossible. What challenges did you face during this time? And how were they resolved?
The biggest challenge I have faced has been when we have had to spend time without supplies to care for the patients. They don’t stop explaining their problems. They need repairs and adjustments or new supplies after a while. Many children who have outgrown their aid. When we did not have the necessary material to help them at times, they waited patiently. They have no money and nowhere to go. I usually solve these problems by calling my colleagues from other workshops to borrow or swap materials and return them when I have supplies again.
How do you feel about working with the team?
I enjoy working with the team because it’s the best way to make everything run smoother and we can be more successful together. I feel very connected to the current team because we know what we are doing, and we are always ready to definitely join forces as a unit to help everyone. We are motivated to provide good work for our Haitian brothers and sisters. Everyone knows his job, he does it with passion and joy. We live like family and respect one another. I am very excited to work with this team.
Can you describe how a typical working day goes for you?
I get up at 7 a.m., have breakfast and go to the clinic. We open at 8 a.m. When I come to the workshop, I check my email. Then I talk to my technicians about new physiotherapy patients, we evaluate them together and take plaster casts. I support my team in their following work. In the late afternoon I do some administrative work like checking inventory at Roseline to see what we are missing and what we can find in the hospital depot. Then we put together the request for the next day before we close at 5:00 p.m.
What is the general and medical reality of care in Haiti?
There are not enough hospitals with qualified doctors or nurses available to care for sick people. Therefore, most of them suffer for a very long time until they die early because of a lack of medical care. The worst thing is that where there is a functioning hospital where people can find help for their health, they don’t get it because it is too expensive. We are grateful to God that the Albert Schweitzer Hôpital exists, here we also help people who cannot afford it.
What are the differences between rural areas like Deschapelles and the cities?
People in rural areas stick together more and know each other. Some eat together, when they have a problem, they solve it together. It’s safer in the country and the temperatures are lower. It’s not that hot. The heat is brooding in the cities and everyone cares only about themselves. Cities are too unsafe.
Which moment in the last 5 years has been the most emotional for you and will you particularly remember?
I was looking after a little boy. His name is Ronel, he has a shattered thigh, he was very motivated and told me that he would go back to work, he wanted to go back to school, that made me very happy. He started to work on the first day after the supply. He worked without help for three days, I was very happy and proud of what I am doing.
The corona pandemic has hit the whole world. How did you experience that time?
In my country, Haiti, there was and still is insufficient medical care to protect us from this virus and the disease that goes with it. First of all, I thanked God for his protection. When the pandemic hit, I just had a two-month-old girl. I had to protect her and myself from this danger and stayed home for a month and a half. It was very difficult for me when I was called to go back to work where many people from different places come together for care. That time was so uncertain, it was a moment of stress and fear. Fortunately, and I thank God for that, everything was done and followed that was advised by the Ministry of Health in order to be protected from the pandemic. I grew up very much from that moment.
Has the Covid19 pandemic affected the medi for help supply center?
The orthopedic care center wasn’t too badly affected as it was closed as a preventive measure and none of us had the virus.
What results are you particularly proud of when you look back on your time as an orthopedic technician in Haiti?
Since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to be useful wherever I am by helping others. Now I’m proud to be an orthopedic technician, even if it’s new to many Haitians. Which is very interesting, I’ve grown up, which made me prouder! When people with disabilities come to treatment with tears and sadness, they can go home with a smile on their faces and go back to what they used to do.
What do you like most about Haiti, the people and the life in your country?
What I like best is our temperature and people’s hearts.
What would you wish for Haiti?
At the moment I only want one thing: “Security”. Because I work in Deschapelles about five hours (sometimes more) away from my family. I would love to see her every weekend, but I’m scared of traveling alone. Fear of kidnapping, burning tires, firearms. I have to wait for the hospital car to get a ride, it’s not fair!
Dear Fabiola, thank you for the interview!