Friday, August 19, 2011

HTRIP Highlights!

Dear Supporters,

We kicked off our 2011-2012 cycle of HTRIP activities on the 1st of July with a gathering of all fifty-five HTRIP community leaders. We will be working closely with forty-three communities that may graduate as many as 1,300 people this year, and we are already projecting to produce and plant as many as 380,000 trees. At the same time that we began education sessions and planned for the coming year with community leaders, we finished other summer activities to close out our 2010-2011 cycle—our final demonstration tree-planting in Barbe (on the 11th), routine experimental plot data collection (completed last Tuesday), continued sponsorship of strategic road repairs, and collection of nursery production data and tree distribution (still in progress).

HTRIP team itself does not plant very many trees—our philosophy is based on the premise that communities should be able to plant and maintain tree plots on their own—and when we finished our tenth and final demonstration plot of this year in Barbe (a remote and particularly impoverished village in Verrette’s 6th section), we reached our total of 1,863 trees for the year.

But the other shoe is coming. The trees that HTRIP technicians were involved in planting personally represent less than one hundredth of the total we expect our most recent group of program graduates to plant on their own land this summer. Thanks to the leverage that our model affords us, we can expect as many as 250,000 trees to be planted under HTRIP’s aegis this year alone. It will take months to compute the nursery production totals and survey over eight hundred new filial plots, but when the final numbers come in, we expect 2010-2011 to have been our most productive year so far. And we will do even better in 2011-2012.

While participating communities were busily planting trees this month and last, the HTRIP staff accomplished a remarkably efficient round of data collection in a spatial tree-planting experiment that was installed by Starry Sprenkle and several interns in the summer of 2009. After only two years, we already remark at the unexpectedly strong performance of the mahogany trees we planted (they continue to grow during the dry season, unlike the cedar and flame trees, and the “slow-growing” mahogany actually grew more than the other two “faster-growing” species during the first year—though in the second year they were outstripped by the flame trees). Preliminary data suggest that trees have higher growth rates and more photosynthetic activity when mixed evenly with other species, rather than planted in monocultural clumps. It is great news that preliminary conclusions like this can be available so quickly to help HTRIP better advise its participants about planting strategies, but those of us measuring the sometimes gargantuan two-year-old trees (see picture), it does not come as much of a surprise.

This month began the 2010-2011 education cycle, and the first lesson is always devoted to enpòtans pyebwa yo—the importance of trees—and an orientation to the HTRIP program. Community members learn about the causes and consequences of deforestation (for instance, charcoal use leading to soil degradation), the utility of trees (for everything from building furniture to moderating temperature), threats to tree survival (like free pasturing of livestock), and how to protect trees from those threats (tie up your goats). The lesson for August covers general care of trees.

While the tried and true HTRIP cycle of education, nurseries, terrain improvement, plantation, and follow-up is in full swing in forty-three communities this year, nine older communities that started working with us in 2006 and 2007 are piloting a more independent phase of their relationship with HTRIP. In communities like Salasse and Cayhuit, HTRIP has already been able to offer its education program to most people who are interested in planting trees (123 people in Cayhuit between 2007 and 2011!), and some community members are already planting third and fourth tree plots on their own initiative.

HTRIP is committed to developing its program in response to community needs, and as we no longer need to hold the hands of older communities as they install micro-terracing and tree plots (at which they have become quite proficient), we can focus on finding ways to make their young agro-forestry parcels more productive. Last month we installed a small pilot experiment in Source du Pont to test the viability of several shade-tolerant crops that could be ideal for planting in other young tree plots where canopy cover is significant enough to rule out traditional corn and sorghum. Paul Tompkins joined us this month from California, where he recently received his Master’s degree in Marine Science. Paul specialises in restoration ecology, and during his two-month internship he will help HTRIP plan an expansion of these shade-crop trials to ten or fifteen communities next summer.

Furthermore, we recently launched a comprehensive programme evaluation to generate a detailed plan for HTRIP over the next four, five, ten and fifteen years, through crop diversification to timber harvesting. Since 2006, we have developed a successful model for introducing basic reforestation and agro-forestry in the mountains around HAS, but as we continue to sustain that model—taking on new communities each year and progressively “graduating” old ones—it is time to look to the emerging needs of our communities, needs like shade-tolerant crops and (eventually) timber harvesting and marketing methods. This level of programme planning requires much discussion, reflection and (yes) sifting through data, but we hope to have a full report ready during the month of September. In the meantime, we welcome your questions and suggestions.

Thank you for your continuing support,

The HTRIP Staff, including Starry Sprenkle, Dan Langfitt, and Paul Tompkins.

Honoree Profile: Ralph Greco, MD

Each year, the Friends of Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti salutes a member of its community of friends who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to our cause.

This year, we are thrilled to honor Dr. Ralph Greco for his constant support and philanthropy, and thank him for his many years of friendship and service on behalf of HAS.

For almost four decades, Dr. Ralph Greco has been providing volunteer medical care and material support to the underserved Haitian community of the Artibonite at Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti. Dr. Greco first encountered HAS Haiti in 1970 as a third-year surgical resident at Yale. He admits, "It was initially a bit intimidating, but surgical residents in that era never admitted such things. I did fall in love with the children and liked Haitian art." To his surprise, Yale again sent him back to HAS in 1971, where this time, "it was an exhilarating experience." He operated on "great cases" and felt "a tremendous sense of accomplishment." From then on, he was "hooked -- infected with the 'Haiti virus.'"

After completing his training at Yale, he continued to visit Haiti and HAS. In the 1990's, as Director of the Surgical Residency Program at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, he began a rotation at HAS for his own surgical residents. In 2000, he left for Stanford and again implemented a residency program for medical residents there. In each environment he was thrilled by the results, as was HAS. He says, "To my great satisfaction, they loved it for the same reasons I had many years before ... For young surgeons, being able to make a diagnosis with just your eyes and hands, and cure someone with an operation, without which, the patient would likely die, is the greatest possible accomplishment."

In 2000, Dr. Greco was recruited to the Stanford University School of Medicine as the Johnson and Johnson Distinguished Professor, Chief of the Division of General Surgery and Director of the Stanford General Surgery Residency Program.

Several years ago, Dr. Greco helped to organize the Haiti week at Stanford, which attracted a number of luminaries from the worlds of medicine and liberal arts for a week-long seminar in Haitian Culture, art, and medical practice, and included a Friends' art auction in his home. More recently, the Palo Alto Art Center displayed his personal Haitian art collection, which once again drew attention to Haiti and HAS.

After the January 2010 earthquake, Dr. Greco was instrumental in raising over $350,000 from the Stanford University community for Hôpital Albert Schweitzer for medical care and disaster relief. Since then, he continues to be involved with HAS in his role as advisor to medical students and residents on opportunities and goals in international healthcare. Greco writes of this time, "Being able to mobilize the Stanford community to help HAS in the aftermath of the earthquake was my way of giving back for the so many things HAS has given me."

A leader in many disciplines, including the arts as well as medicine, Ralph has inspired several generations of surgeons to pursue excellence in clinical care and to consider the needs of the less fortunate of this world. "Haiti," he says, "is a part of my life and always will be." Indeed, Haiti, and Hôpital Albert Schweitzer is by far richer in spirit because of Dr. Ralph Greco’s dedication and service.

Dr. Greco and his wife, Dr. Irene Wapnir, live on the Stanford campus with their daughter Ilana, 17 and are frequently visited by their sons, Eric, 19 and Justin, 22, both college students. Irene is a Breast Cancer Surgeon and visited Hôpital Albert Schweitzer with Ralph in 1996. A native of Argentina, Irene loves hiking and tango. Ralph continues to sculpt in stone and wood and has recently taken up ceramics.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New Sounds from Haiti

Sound engineer Aaron Hachen setting up equipment for the Prestige album recording in Deschapelles, Haiti

Part of our mission at the Friends of Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti is not only to raise awareness for the great need in Haiti, but also bring the more beautiful parts of Haiti into the spotlight. We bring Haitian artwork to the US, and showcase the visionary creativity of the Haitian people. We also send photographers to Haiti, so that they might capture another aspect of this beautiful country. So preoccupied with the staggering visual beauty of Haiti, we sometimes forget the vibrant creative culture in other realms -- music, for instance, and dance. Music is so a part of Haitian everyday life, especially in the more rural areas which we serve in the Artibonite Valley.

We are thrilled to be able to share with you some new recordings from two up-and-coming musical groups in our very own Deschapelles, Haiti: Prestige Band and AMBASSADEUR. Nicolas Atkins, the director of our newest project, the Philip Craig Arts Program, together with sound engineer Aaron Hachen co-produced two albums, and the results are nothing short of fabulous. Learn more about the recording process on PCAP Haiti's Blog.

You can listen to the recordings from AMBASSADEUR here. Prestige's full debut album, titled Ansam N'ap Avanse, can also be heard here.

The 20-part vocal harmonic group, AMBASSADEUR practices before their recording session.