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Here’s an article my hometown newspaper wrote about our work in Haiti. http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2011/jun/22/student-from-fort-pierce-studying-cholera-in/

 

I believe there’s an article floating around the South Bend Tribune too. It’s great to see so many people interested in our work and covering the story. Before the Master’s in Global Health has officially started, we’re already making an impact in the field of Global Health. This is great to see!

 

After the whirlwind of last week, I went back to work in the Lodge Lab today. Tomorrow we have a sampling trip scheduled up in Michigan, so I spent the day prepping for that. It’s interesting to think about how in just 19 hours I went from an economically poor country with so much need, to the world in which I spend most of my time, filled with so many blessings. I think about this when I brush my teeth with water from my own sink or open my pantry to find a myriad of different things to eat. Just think, I get to pick what I want to eat. Now I don’t live with a short-order cook, and I do have to prepare my food and fend for myself, but there is food in the pantry, and I can pick from several different things when I want a snack. The people in Haiti don’t have that option–most probably don’t know what a snack is. We met a family in which 21 people lived in a house. Right now, with my roommate gone, I’m the only one in my apartment. So many of the Haitian people live without the things I take for granted. Even the unemployed in our country make more than many Haitian people who make $1 a day. The two worlds are completely different, and when transplanted from one world to the other, I must believe that I am called to at least examine the differences between the two worlds, what causes them, and then give thanks for everything I have.

Seeing yet another country so different from my own is eyeopening, and just like the many mission trips I went on growing up, this trip broadened my horizons. When asked about the trip, I’d say it was good, definitely challenging, but good. I believe that any experience of this sort has the opportunity to make an impact on one’s life either positively or negatively. I’m constantly looking for things that I like, things I don’t like, things I’d like to do, and things I can’t live without doing. Like other experiences, this trip helped me figure out what makes me tick, and what makes me more of myself.

I did enjoy this trip, but several things were really difficult for me. First, being in a country where there is so much need when I am living within the walls of a hotel’s compound and driven by a driver from the hotel to the office everyday, driving past people who stare, seeing the destruction and the need, as if an outsider, yet being in the thick of it, and then not being able to do anything. This was when I felt the most helpless. I hate feeling helpless. I like to believe that there is always something more to be done. This was a feeling I experienced when our Notre Dame Athletic Family lost a member when Declan Sullivan was killed. There was nothing I could do, really nothing I could do to make people feel better, but as I said in a conversation last October, me personally, I can’t help but try. Don’t tell me I can’t save the world, because I believe the world will be a better place as long as I am trying.

So that’s the first thing I experienced on this trip, being helpless and not being able to get my hands dirty, jump out of the car and do something. In a similar way I experienced this when we were at the St. Esprit Clinic preparing for the pilot test. I saw a room full of physical therapy equipment–to me this is like a candy store. Ok, call me a nerd (the whole ND sports medicine staff already does), but this stuff excites me. I love medicine and everything about sports medicine–battling through injuries, working hard, making progress, getting stronger, and returning to the playing field. To see this in Haiti for people who had been through amputations and surgeries was really exciting for me. I begged Juan Carlos to let me stay, but well… that wasn’t so successful (but I still tried). He seemed shocked at my interest; I had been struggling with the drudgery of spending the 3 previous days in the conference room. Then I explained how to me Clinic St. Esprit was like “Sports Medicine: Haiti Style”. I really and truly hope that I can return to Clinic St. Esprit with a grant through Notre Dame or as a part of my field experience next summer. I’m one of those people who thinks and plans years in advance, so let’s just say this is a possibility.

Another thing I learned was how much I love people. After working in the office for so many days, when we got out into the field, I felt so much more, well me–in my element. We saw kids, and they gravitated toward me. We couldn’t communicate through spoken language, but we played peek-a-boo, and I really think I made a friend in the kid with the green Pokemon shirt. He was alone watching in the beginning, but kept running away smiling and laughing, and by the end of the 15 minute interview, there were about ten kids standing around staring and smiling. I learned that a smile is the same in every language, so when people would stare (I guess I am somewhat alien to them with my light brown hair and blue eyes) I would just smile back. After being involved in science research, and really enjoying it, and enjoying aspects about academia–the writing and presenting research–this experience again showed me that working with people through medicine is where my primary focus must lie.

Annette and Dr. Guzman worked well in the office. Personally I think I did ok, but I wasn’t loving what I was doing. I found the work very interesting, and I look forward to analyzing the data and working on the report. But when it comes to decisions about what I find fulfilling in life, for me it has to involve people. I realized that I’m very different from Annette and Juan Carlos. Annette wants to be a graduate student in biology. Juan Carlos is an economist and social scientist. I’m different, and I’m ok with that. I want to work with people–I NEED to work with people. I can’t sit still in an office talking all day long. I need to be able to listen and to help people. I need to be able to smile, to laugh, to meet new people, to never give up caring, and to start each day with a list a mile long. Ok, maybe I’m rambling on now, but despite this trip being a challenge and not being 100% perfect in my eyes, it was great because I was able to put what I’ve learned in the classroom to use and to discover more about myself.

Home!

After 19 hours of traveling we are finally home. We got in about 2:30 this morning to campus. After reading at the 10 AM Basilica Mass, I’m exhausted. Now it’s time for some food and a nap, and then I’ll work on a blog post to wrap up the last few days.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the Fathers out there!

Here’s another picture from yesterday that I thought you would enjoy. Today has been spent in the conference room again going through things and preparing to leave tomorrow.

Kids

Several of the children whose families were interviewed during our pilot test

Good morning! It seems that the ND news story has traveled pretty fast. In addition to my research lab, ND Science, the Eck Institute and University of Notre Dame have all posted the story on their facebook pages. It’s fun to keep up with the likes and to receive comments from friends, family, former professors, and just those who happen to stumble upon the story. Thank you for your interest in our project and the work being done in Haiti. It is inspirational to see all of the NGOs, service groups, and countries who are down here working.

Right now I’m inputting some data from our pilot test yesterday. It’s interesting trying to read Creole and input data (I honestly have no clue what it says). Juan Carlos, Carl, the field supervisors, and Renee are speaking French, so I’m just in my own little world over here typing in numbers and phrases from the survey sheets.

In other news, Rory McIlroy is currently winning the US Open. I’m a big golf, and even bigger Rory McIlroy fan, so Go Rory! Also read this story about Rory’s work in Haiti last week (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/columns/story?columnist=wojciechowski_gene&page=wojciechowski/110614&sportCat=golf). You can follow him on twitter @McIlroyRory.

I hope everyone has a great day! I really like reading your comments and seeing who has visited my blog, so please say hi if you get a chance. Ok, back to inputting data 🙂

Juan Carlos plans with field supervisors and CRS staff before starting the pilot test

A woman carries water on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince

Mom and daughter cross the street during a busy morning in Port-au-Prince

 

 

 

 

 

 

Water: A Precious Resource

A man carefully pours water on the side of the road

 

Today was interesting. It was really nice to get out of the conference room and see some people. Quite frankly, I really don’t like being driven around and going from hotel to office to hotel once again. This trip has taught me several different things, and I like to enter each experience with an open mind to learning about myself–what I like, what I don’t like, and what things I would like to incorporate into my future vocation. This trip I have learned how much I like working with people. Don’t get me wrong, I like research, and believe that research is an important part of improving the world. For me, I need to work with people. I can relate to people, I like meeting people, and people is where I want to devote my life’s work.

Today I finally got to be around some of the Haitian people. We went to Croix des Bouquets and the Clinic St. Esprit, which is operated by Haiti Medical Missions of Memphis (http://www.cbu.edu/~aross/biology/Haiti/). They will be partnering with CRS in the future, and with the location about an hour outside of Port-au-Prince, it was the perfect place for a pilot test of our survey. We met up with some health workers from the clinic who took us to a neighborhood, where we divided into groups and randomly interviewed several households.

I enjoyed making friends with the children. Despite not being able to speak to them, I saw once again how a smile transverses language barriers. A couple of young girls peaked out from around the entrance to their house, and immediately ducked in again. After doing this a couple of times, I decided to play with them rather than pay attention to the directions Juan Carlos was giving in French. Since I couldn’t understand French this was a great decision. We proceeded to play peek-a-boo for the next several minutes, which resulted in laughs from both sides. At several of the houses where we interviewed people, I befriended the children. I would just smile and look their way, and I usually got a big smile in return.

It was very interesting to see where these people lived. In one household twenty-one people shared a dirt-covered floored lean-to. This was eye-opening and sad–seeing people live like this makes me question the society in which they live and also appreciate the things I have and the life I have been able to live. The smile of one little boy with a green Pokemon t-shirt and a University of North Carolina zip up jacket summed up the philosophy vibe I got from these families–despite their living conditions, these people were basically happy. I could tell that family and community were very important.

I’d say the highlight of my day came when we first arrived at the clinic to meet the heath workers who were going to take us to the neighborhood. We entered a courtyard and saw several patients of the clinic who were amputees or had prostheses. There was a room for therapy, and while we didn’t get to spend any time at the clinic, I could tell it was a place I would love to work. Juan Carlos laughed because I asked if I could stay. When he asked why, I responded, “because it’s like ND sports medicine–Haiti style.” We learned that the volunteers were from Memphis, TN, which was great because I interned in Memphis at St. Jude and absolutely loved my home of the past two summers. We’ll see, but maybe someday I will get the opportunity to work in a clinic similar to St. Esprit.

After the pilot test of the surveys we returned to the CRS offices, and decided to call it a day. In the morning we’ll discuss and modify the surveys and crunch some numbers before wrapping things up. Then we leave on Saturday. I’ll work on posting some photos later tonight.

Thanks for reading, and if you haven’t seen it yet, please check out the story on us via Notre Dame news http://newsinfo.nd.edu/news/22325/

 

At this point, and with the publicity or future publicity we will be getting, I feel that it is appropriate to thank the people who made this adventure possible. Many go unnoticed, and without several individuals and offices, international internships and travel abroad would not happen to the extent that they do at Notre Dame.

So, I would like to thank everyone at the Eck Institute, especially Dr. Joe Bock and Jenny Miller. Dr. Bock found the opportunity for us to assist Dr. Guzman. Jenny has been absolutely unbelievable in terms of arranging logistical things and working with us. Also to those who support the Eck Institute, especially Dean Crawford and all of the members of the Eck Institute, thank you!

At the health center, Mrs. Hughes has been wonderful. Thanks for helping with immunizations and medications for travel.

At Anthony Travel, Jen arranged our trip, and while I was not super excited about getting up at 3:30 AM to catch a flight, we got here nonetheless, so thank you.

To Michelle, Matt, Matt, Cameron, Jill, Andy, Chrysta, and all of the Lodge lab crew, thanks for allowing me to escape for a week for this opportunity. I do miss y’all, and I’m excited to get back to work on the Asian Carp DNA project on Monday!

To all of my professors, especially those in my methods and stats courses, I really am using the things I learned in your courses. Thank you for helping me choose majors (Science Preprofessional and Sociology) and minor (Catholic Social Tradition) that fit my interests and enable me to work on a project like this.

Finally, to all of those who are reading this and interested in our work. Thank you! Your interest allows Notre Dame to be what it is–an institution committed to helping others and improving the world.

 

We’re currently in a training session for the field supervisors who will be directing our survey. Juan Carlos is speaking French (or trying to speak French) and two field supervisors, Carl, and Renee, an assistant on the cholera project, are walking through our questionnaire. We have three computers up making changes in three languages—French, Creole, and English. I’m in charge of the changes in English, but since they’re speaking French and Creole, I’m sitting here blogging, looking at my pictures, and waiting for Juan Carlos to switch to English saying, “Change this,” or “Change that.” This morning we got stuck in traffic trying to get from La Reserve, our hotel, to the CRS offices. Our driver tried to take a short cut up and over a mountain rather than around it. This seemed like a good idea until we came across a truck stuck in a hole on a one-way road. So we turned around, almost backing up off a cliff (I was terrified, but the Haitian drivers are really skilled, so I somewhat trusted that it would all work out). We found another way around the traffic jam and managed to get to the office. We’ll see what the rest of the day has in store. Tomorrow we are supposed to visit a community outside Port-au-Prince, which will enable us to test our survey methodology. I’m excited to be around some of the Haitian people and to see how our survey works in the field. It’s too early to get results, but I’ll be very excited to make the transition from the office to the field and to see some of the fruits of our labor.

 

CRS offices

One of the CRS offices where we worked

Earthquake Damage

This collapsed building sits around the corner from the CRS offices.

An internet outage in the hotel last night and an extremely long day means I am not writing about my experiences yesterday until this morning. The sun rises sometime between 4 and 5 AM, which means we are up very early. We are expected at the CRS office at 8AM, and it is about a 45 minute drive up and around mountains and through dilapidated city streets. Yesterday we worked on finalizing the questionnaire and sampling. It seems like every time we think we finish something we run into another logistical factor to consider. Thus time, travel, road conditions, and our ability to preplan using Google Earth, are playing a large part in the planning of this project. We were able to interview several CRS workers to test the questionnaire, and I was very grateful that my respondent spoke English. Languages are great, but even better when we can conduct business in a language I can speak or at least understand. We went to a local sandwich shop for lunch. They bake all of their bread fresh, which reminds me of the Bahamian bread we used to love when in Treasure Cay for Youth on a Mission trips.

After lunch we met the CRS country representative from Haiti, which was really neat both because he is an American and because he has lived and worked in several developing countries. During the afternoon we spent time tying up loose ends, making maps of the hospitals served by CRS and trying to arrange how many samples to take from each area based on the population. Once the mosquitoes found their way to our conference room and it began to get dark, we headed to dinner with the Director of Health in Haiti and Carl, who has been our direct contact for this project. Our Thai dinner was a surprise for being in Haiti, and I had never experienced a Thai meal. It was very interesting to hear about Carl and Raymond’s experiences working with CRS and other NGOs in different countries. It was clear that working in the global health field and dealing with AIDs, Cholera, and other infectious diseases was very hard work and affected their families in addition to themselves.

I found this very inspiring, and was almost in awe to be sitting around the table with individuals who have devoted their lives to serving those in need in developing countries. The project we are working on is very different from anything I have done before. I’ve been involved in service work in developing countries as well as survey design as a part of my sociology courses at Notre Dame, but to combine the two really has been an experience for me. Some parts of this I like and others I wish I could change just a bit. Each day we drive past Internally Displaced Persons Camps, and I wish I could just jump out of the car and get started doing something—picking up trash, playing with children, cleaning, anything. At times sitting in a conference room and discussing the wording of an item on a questionnaire makes me crazy. I’ve realized, however, that the questionnaire and survey methods we are developing will help CRS better understand how effective outreach efforts have been, which will better enable others to get their hands dirty making a greater improvement in the lives of those in need. This experience represents exactly that transition for me—a transition from hard work, care, concern, curiosity, and education existing separately to using these characteristics together to help guide improvement efforts. I don’t think I would have the insight into this experience that I have without my experiences growing up with service as a primary focus. But now with the blessings of education that I have been given, I feel obligated to use both my education and experiences to make a larger impact than would have been possible with experience and education working separately.

 

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