Friday, May 20, 2011

HTRIP Highlights!

Dear Supporters,

The month of April allowed us all to catch our breaths after an exhausting March, as we finished the 2010-2011 cycle of education sessions, prepared for two large graduation ceremonies, and began to set our summer priorities with recommendations from the Yale School of Forestry.

At the same time that we were completing the final agro-forestry lessons in our 41 participating communities, we also distributed approximately 4,000 more kilograms of food to the families organizing the konbit work days to do essential soil improvement work. We leverage seasonal labour markets to our advantage (labor is cheaper when there is not planting work to be done) and try to ensure that this work is finished before the beginning of the rainy season.

Just as HTRIP participants were finishing up their academic year in April, so were the students at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies with whom HTRIP has been collaborating. Students taking a course offered jointly by the Schools of Forestry and of Public Health visited us in Deschapelles in early March and have since been writing a set of recommendations to help us expand and enrich HTRIP's program. At a preliminary presentation of their ideas on April 13th in New Haven, these students recommended developing a more complex agro-forestry model that would in turn cater to a more diverse set of farmers' needs (complete with alternative planting arrangements, contingency plans for transitioning current plots, and new tree species to be used for animal fodder). HTRIP is eagerly awaiting the final proposal, but in the meantime it has already implemented some of the recommendations: for instance, the class recommended that HTRIP place greater emphasis on high-nutrient trees like gliricidia (an excellent supplement for livestock) and moringa (a good addition to human diets). We already have 3,000 moringa seedlings sprouting in our nursery and hope to have the same quantity of gliricidia by the middle of next month. Members of this group will also help HTRIP to run an experiment this summer with shade-tolerant crops in its oldest tree parcels.

Most of our energy this month, however, was spent in the enormous logistical task of organizing two graduation ceremonies for 1,200 people total in a country where logistical resources are very limited. HTRIP's staff performed admirably, arranging the necessary food, transportation, tickets, gifts (coconut trees! see picture) and lists of graduates to ensure two smooth, orderly, and enjoyable graduation ceremonies. The first was held on May 1st, south of Verettes at a night club that HTRIP rented for the day, and the second one was on the 8th of May at the HAS dispensary at Bastien in the mountains. We look forward to sharing pictures and stories with you soon!

Thank you, as ever, for all of your support,

The HTRIP Staff, Including Dan Langfitt and Starry Sprenkle

About the Photo: Coconut trees sprout in HTRIP’s central nursery. We continue to search for fruit trees that will grow successfully in our communities’ arid conditions. This year, we are trying coconut trees; each of this year’s 846 graduates will receive a high-value coconut tree to plant on his or her land (photo (c) Dan Langfitt, 2011).

Friday, May 13, 2011

This Weekend with the Friends!

Come join us tomorrow night at Brigadoon Gallery for the opening of a special exhibition of new silk screen prints from Haiti! The event is from 7-11 PM on Saturday at 1033 S. Braddock Avenue in Regent Square / Edgewood. Silkscreen prints will be available on display and for sale, and light refreshments will be served. Hope to see you there!


Also, if you're in Pittsburgh, come this Sunday to cheer on our 2011 Marathon Team! Or, support our runners by contributing to their First Giving pages, by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

When the Teacher is Also the Student

This is a guest entry written by Denise English, the director of the Rehabilitation Technician Training Program (RTTP), one of the programs in HAS's Rehabilitation Services Integration Initiative (RSII).

We come to HAS eager to teach; eager to share what we know with the students of the Rehabilitation Technician Training Program (RTTP). We think and discuss and come up with ideas of how best to get the material across. We talk about how to organize labs and schedule observations of patients in the clinic. We make games, organize diagrams, practice review questions and create discussion questions. We plan and prepare and want to do the very best we can to share with these precious students as much information as we're able during the short time we spend with them. We want them to succeed, to learn the material and grow more confident in putting knowledge into practice in real time.

And then we enter the classroom -- and discover how much we have to learn. Over the month that we spend with these students, they will teach us more than we ever could have imagined. We will give them our knowledge and skills, and they will teach us about the culture here and how better to teach and treat patients in the culture that they know best. They bring us their unique insights into the struggles and the joys of living in Haiti. They lighten us with their humor, and see the bright side of a life that often has few spots of joy, but many moments of peace. They invite us into their lives, and inquire after our own, back wherever we came from. They patiently teach and practice Krèyol with us -- delighting at our successful attempts, dissolving into infectious laughter at the more ridiculous efforts to the same end. They ask the hard questions about who will survive, and for how long. Who will take care of them? What will become of them? They teach us about the strength and beauty of their people, their cultures, beliefs and traditions and encourage our curiosity to learn more.

Our time together always moves too quickly, and before we either know it or are ready, the days draw to a close. We realize at this moment that the tables have in fact been turned, that we have learned as much, if not more, than what we have taught. We leave behind bits of knowledge and tools for providing compassionate, family-centered physical rehabilitation. Yet, it seems that we take so much with us as well. We leave with a renewed appreciation for life and its simple joys, even in times of struggle. We are inspired by the stories, which we have been fortunate to be a part of. And when we return, we do so vowing to be more patient, more compassionate, stronger, more humble.

The grace of Haiti leaves a mark on each of us -- taught by those who know it best: its students.

About the Images in this post:
Top Left: The 2011 RTTP class
Bottom Right: Ronel, graduate of the 2010 RTTP class, doing a wonderful job of providing rehabilitation services to the community from the rural dispensary at Bastien.