Friday, December 18, 2009


Since 1956, Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti (HAS) has provided vital health and economic recovery resources to the inhabitants of Haiti’s Artibonite Valley. HAS has always been more than a hospital—it works with Haitians to revitalize and improve the health and well-being of the over 300,000 inhabitants of that region. As a hospital program, the HAS Haiti Timber Re-Introduction Project (HTRIP) is unique amongst reforestation efforts. The project intends to have a range of positive impacts on people’s lives in this region: improved economic stability, and the basis for combating the environmental problems that lead to malnutrition and other serious health conditions. We haven't talked much about HTRIP on this blog, but that's just because we're so busy with this exciting project. Since its inception in 2005, HTRIP has become increasingly effective, despite its relatively small budget. This past summer, HTRIP added 5 new communities to the program, including over 1,050 graduates of its education programs. Now, there is a total of 35 participating communities involved in HTRIP, who have grown over 80,000 seedlings!

To boot, a pair of young filmmakers recently travelled to Haiti, and made a short film about the project, which we hope will be ready to show you in early 2010!

We recently received some seasonal updates from our collaborators in Deschapelles. Here's what they have to say!

Since October, our reforestation project has spent a good deal of time collecting data on the project's progress to date, throughout all the 35 participating communities. At present, we're really analyzing where we ought to focus our efforts for the coming year and beyond. Though this is a tedious effort, it still is not as exhausting as carving out terraces in the hills or building rock retaining walls as we do at the beginning of each year.

Most days, our team of about a dozen technicians splits into smaller groups, and we ride up to the more remote communities on motorcycles or ATV's, or occasionally (as distance and road quality dictate) our Landcruiser. Having arrived, we meet with the local community leader and walk with them to the plots. IT's normal to find only two or three plots on the side of one steep mountain, and often these plots have a great deal of distance between them.

After reaching each plot, we verify the owner of that plot, as well as the number, quality and length of the walls or canals within it, and the number of trees. Later in the spring, we'll start to measure the growth of each tree in relation to their distance from taller surrounding trees, neighboring canals and retaining walls, and tree mortality.

At this time of year (the dry season) our reforestation plots don't always look as one might normally imagine. The trees are planted earlier in the year, with the other crops the landowner has decided to grow. Young cedars, flamboyants, mahogonies and frenns are planted at one-yard distances from each other, and are interlaced with crops such as squash, peas, corn and millet. Now, in December, the millet is just about ready to harvest, towering with ten-foot stalks, and our seedlings seem lost in the mix. Fortunately, our trees are shaded from the brutal sun by other crops, and many of them will survive this hard season as a result.

In addition to data collection, HTRIP has been continuing regular instruction courses in new and old communities on some of the best strategies for soil conservation and sustainable farming strategies in the face of such harsh climate changes, and such tumultuous landscapes.

Stay tuned for more HTRIP updates in the new year!

See an HTRIP Slideshow here.

More info about HTRIP and other Friends projects here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Stanley is ten years old and lives in scenic Petite Riviere with his mothers and sisters in a small, but attractive painted house. Late this summer he was rushed to the hospital after an oil lamp toppled over by his bedside, and burning oil poured onto his legs. His legs and thighs were very badly burnt. 

After extensive skin grafts and surgery, Stanley was able to be moved and begin his rehabilitation. Not only did his muscles have to be excercised back into use, but special attention had to be paid to control scarring, which might have detrimental impacts on his everyday mobility and physical functionality. 

He left HAS and rehab being able to walk, and his mother was taught what daily excercises he needed to practice in order to continue proper healing. 

A few weeks ago, a team of RTTP and HAS staff members went to Petite Riviere to check up on Stanley. He hadn't checked in at HAS or any other clinics in the area for a long time, and some people were growing increasingly anxious to know how he was. 

Stanley wasn't very easy to find, since he hadn't checked in or scheduled any appointments. Although the hospital had records of him living in Petite Riviere, and some physical therapists recalled the neighborhood he lived in, there was still no clear notion of where to find him. 

After dozens of phone calls, a small team from HAS hopped from clinic to clinic, to local community leaders, trying to follow every lead as to where he might be. Eventually they found Stanley and his family. Much to the team's excitement, Stanley's mother had been very diligent with is daily exercises, and Stanley showed visible improvement. Although he is still mostly confined to his house and can't wear pants due to the irritation they cause for his wounds, Stanley was doing remarkably well.  After David Charles, one of the leading physical therapists at HAS sat down to test his range of motion and examine his overall flexibility, it was clear that he was indeed healing quite well. Stanley could even run, and demonstrated an impressive range of comfort in different movements. Some of his wounds were infected and needed cleaning, but Stanley denied that he was in any pain at all--what a trooper! 

We are all very confident that Stanley's family is taking his healing very seriously, and is being careful to make sure that he continues his daily exercises every day, and actively recovers through the rehabilitation techniques they learned at HAS, in the Physio-therapi department. 

Above: Stanley and his mother at home in Petite Riviere, after months of at-home rehabilitation and recovery.

To learn more about RTTP and other Friends of HAS projects, click here. 

Monday, November 9, 2009

A note from Ian Rawson, HAS Board President, in Deschapelles

After one year, RTTP has seen its first class through a successful graduation. Hired in July of this year, David Charles is HAS's first Haitian physical therapist, and Dr. Ian Rawson, president of HAS's Board of Directors, sent us some updates from a recent meeting at the hospital.

Ian writes,

"David Charles made a lovely presentation today to the medical staff about the rehabilitation services.

He explained that in the first month of services, over 110 patients were seen by himself and the graduating students. These patients were referred by hospital doctors from among inpatients, mostly surgery and trauma. They also saw a number of patients who had been discharged and who returned for regular sessions as outpatients.

He has recently spent days at the dispensaries in Plassac, Bastien and Verettes, where he saw a number of new cases, mostly stroke, who will need active follow-up.

He explained that at HAS the philosophy for rehabilitation goes beyond mere physical therapy, but to needs which the patient encounters in his immediate environment and home, or Lakou. All of the factors of the social environment, both supportive or otherwise, are considered in developing a treatment plan.

Dr. Maibach [HAS Medical Director] closed by saying that HAS is unique in Haiti for having sch a well-developed program, and for having a philosophy of care which is drawn from the dominant philosophy of the hospital, Reverence for Life.

Love and congratulations,


The Rehab clinic at HAS.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Happy Belated Birthday, RTTP!

September 5th was the one-year anniversary of our Rehabilitation Technician Training Program (RTTP), which is perhaps the only program of its kind in Haiti. Ok, are you ready for all these acronyms? Let's see: RTTP was designed by the Friends of HAS Haiti (FHASH) as a way to professionalize Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti's (HAS) rehabilitation service with its limited resources. Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO) came on board as a partner, as HVO affiliated teachers had been seeking a site in Haiti to operate. This collaboration between FHASH, HAS, and HVO set a platform in place to allow each of the partners to achieve their goals.

That said, we'd like to introduce you to the individuals that have made this program into the fledgling success story that it is today!

Meet Shaun Cleaver –
Coordinator of Rehabilitation Services Development

Shaun Cleaver is a Canadian physical therapist who has spent more than a year in Haiti. Shaun moved back to the country in April 2008 to work as the Coordinator of Rehabilitation Services Development for the RTTP. In this role he was responsible for establishing the framework of the training program and the system for providing rehabilitation services.

Shaun fulfilled numerous roles for the RTTP. When the training program started in January, Shaun was first and foremost the onsite contact for the training program, orienting teachers to life in Deschapelles and being a consistent face for students amid the constant changes seen with the teacher rotation. This role also makes him the interface with the RTTP and other political and independent social institutions in Haiti, including HAS of course, but also the Haitian government and local Disabled Persons’ Organizations. Shaun also works with the HAS staff to improve the current provision of rehabilitation services and facilitates the expansion of services and hiring of new employees. This included traveling to outlying areas where he stays at and works out of small health centers, seeing patients and collaborating with local employees to integrate rehabilitation. Besides this field work, he also spent a good deal of time with his hands on the keyboard and eyes on the screen, communicating with RTTP stakeholders, drafting documents to help the program raise funds and planning budgets and schedules.

Focusing on immediate needs, though, Shaun’s biggest job at RTTP's inception was to select the students and the local translator. The RTTP searched for the best candidates in these roles and engaged in a rigorous process to identify these people. For Shaun, this was a new and interesting challenge that at the time required better knowledge of the Haitian education and labor systems.

Outside of work, Shaun is known locally for his morning 3 mile runs and Kreyol fluency, allowing for animated banter and joking with the area’s residents. He is also fluent in French and often fulfills ad-hoc translation duties in HAS. He enjoys gardening, hiking and the wide variety of personalities, both visitors and local, that frequent Deschapelles.

Shaun has stayed in Deschapelles for over a year at this point. While he is currently facilitating his own transition away from his position in Haiti, he has already put systems in place which have allowed this to happen on its own. Despite the challenges, RTTP is a success after one year, and you will be sure to hear of some of the trials & triumphs of this project both in real-time and retrospectively. Shaun plans to complete his PhD in order to seek an academic appointment integrating teaching, research and service. More generally, Shaun’s career focus is integrating rehabilitation therapy in resource-poor environments and across cultures. It is likely that he will return to South America or Sub-Saharan Africa where he has traveled, worked and lived previously. Nonetheless, with a record that includes substantial, and repetitive, time living in Haiti, it is likely he will stop by here again too…

Meet Denise English – Program Director

Haiti has been an important part of Denise’s life for over 12 years. She has fulfilled a variety of commitments in Port-au-Prince, Lacroix (near Gonaives), St-Louis du Nord and now Deschapelles. In her role as Program Director, Denise is responsible for all of the educational aspects of the RTTP. It was really through Denise's efforts that RTTP was founded as an official program of the Friends of HAS. Denise established the vision for the training program, led the curriculum development, recruited teachers and oriented them to the program and providing guidance for important decisions regarding student selection, evaluation and discipline.

Denise’s affiliation in the RTTP partnership is with Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO). HVO is based in Washington, DC, and its mission is to create opportunities for health professionals from high-income countries to build health and human resources in low-income countries. (Whoa – that’s a mouthful.) Now, what does this all really mean? At the most basic level, HVO programs are rooted in teaching. Professional volunteers from the United States and Canada travel to international sites to collaborate with locals to train health care workers. In this way, HVO’s work should serve to strengthen health care systems at their local program sites. All RTTP teachers are HVO volunteers with previous experience in Haiti.

HVO has a strong physical therapy component, currently with programs in Bhutan, India, Nicaragua, Peru, St. Lucia, Suriname and Vietnam. According to Denise, “Working with HVO provides us with a wealth of international expertise and important contacts.” Denise is in regular contact with the Program Directors from the other sites, enabling exchanges regarding experiences and lessons learned.

HVO is sponsored by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and has a reputation among physical therapists as offering a very organized volunteer experiences. The RTTP is proud to have HVO as part of our team and excited about the opportunities this provides.

We are also lucky to have friends like Denise and Shaun on our side.

Read an Article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about Denise English and her work with the RTTP.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Join Us

Dear Friends,

We've created this page so that we can tell you about all of the wonderful things we do in Haiti and beyond. We are the Friends of H
ôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti. We are a non-profit 501(c)3 organization based in Pittsburgh, which designs and implements projects in collaboration with HAS' mission of improving the health and well-being of the people in Haiti's Artibonite Valley. We sponsor a rehabilitation training program to help Haitians heal better. We reforest mountains so that farms and their crops can grow. We support Haitian artists to celebrate the vibrance of this culture we have come to love.

We hope that, in time, we can build up direct, meaningful and dynamic relations between what we do in our little offices in Pittsburgh, and the big, beautiful world of Haiti and our own H
ôpital Albert Schweitzer. This is the first step: talking to you, straight from Haiti.

Thank you for joining us on this great adventure, the fulfillment of a vision that dawned over half a century ago in a remote valley in Haiti. Read, learn, and communicate with the people whose daily efforts are what make us who we are.