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Little Voices, Big Dreams

- La Gonâve, Haiti -

Personal stories written from the field about For You Haiti’s incredible sponsored children and patients

UNHAS

United Nations Humanitarian Air Service

La Gonâve, (also known as the forgotten island) is now UNHAS’s new hub! 

We are so excited to announce For You Haiti’s newest partnership with the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS). The new helicopter service will fly our staff, board members and patients from la Gonâve to Port au Prince twice weekly. This incredible service is free of charge to For You Haiti and has already changed the lives of many. 

The ferry (boat service) between la Gonâve and the mainland (Port Au Prince) has been inoperable for 6 months making travel dangerous and at times impossible for patients to travel by speed boat in hurricane seas. So, we are truly thankful to UNHAS for putting la Gonâve on the map and to accommodate For You Haiti’s needs! The helicopter seats 21 passengers and is flown by an all Russian flight crew. 

We thank the amazing people behind the scenes at UNHAS that have worked tirelessly to make this service happen for the island. 

We send our special thanks to OIC CATO, Mr Gabriel Fumagalli and Miss Judy Phuong at World Food Programme.

Rosedaica

The For You Haiti team reunites beautiful patient Rosie with her Mom after 3 years apart!

Rosie and her Aunt Denis have been staying with us at La Manna House while Rosie goes through her medical journey with For You Haiti. Rosie had a bent left foot and her home is far away, with only a dirt floor and no access to a nurse or doctor. We encouraged Rosie and her Aunt to stay with us for 2 months to reduce any chance of infection post surgery. Rosie currently has a frame on her left leg to correct her foot. Nurse Ganette and Dr Emmanual regularly attend to her and make adjustments to her frame. 
 
During this precious time with Rosie, we learnt that her Mum (Rosemene) has been very ill for a number of years. She is need of a liver transplant (which is impossible to be done in Haiti). Her Mum has been living in a shack in a village 4 hours away by herself, with no one to care for her, no medical treatment and almost no food and no water. Because of Rosemene’s serious condition, Rosie has lived with her aunt for the past three years!
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We provided Rosemene with the opportunity to join her daughter in Anse A Galets and receive medical assistance through FYH. We knew that Rosemene’s pain would be instantly eased in a moment just to be in her daughter Rosie’s presence. Rosie is an extremely incredible child, full of joy ALL of the time! You cannot help but smile when you’re around her.
 
When Rosie was reunited with her Mum for the first time in years, there were a lot of happy tears! Her Mum has now started medical treatment for her liver condition with For You Haiti. Although there is no possibility for a liver transplant, it has made her days pain free and her smile so bright! It’s a joy for us to witness them together. We are thrilled to be a very small part of this reconnection and we hope to bring more families together through providing medical assistance to the most vulnerable of Haiti.
 
“There is nothing so rewarding as to make people realize they are worthwhile in this world.” 
- Bob Anderson

Berlande

Kind, Intelligent And So Brave.

For You Haiti staff responded to a call in September 2015 that our Medical Director had received about a young girl in a far village. We received reports of her being starved to death and that she had a terrible disease covering her skin. Her mother had tragically died and her father had remarried a woman with eight children who did not accept Berlande as part of the family. She was known as an outcast in her community. 

For You Haiti’s work primarily focuses on empowering families to stay together through medical assistance, small business and education, but in this case we knew Berlande needed urgent help and possibly needed to be removed from her current environment.  Without our intervention, she would likely die.

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Our team made a trip to Dub Saline to visit her. Following this, For You Haiti’s President, Child Sponsorship Manager and I had a meeting with Berlande and her father at our office about what the future looked like for Berlande. Her hair was bright orange from severe malnutrition and she was suffering from an intense eczema. We immediately offered medical assistance and educational opportunity. Her father explained to us that they thought Berlande was cursed and that she couldn’t live in their village anymore. After her mother’s death, they believed that the curse had been passed down to Berlande and no one wanted to go near her. It was the worst case of neglect we have ever seen. 

I had just moved into a house that had a spare bedroom and I offered to have Berlande stay there as part of a boarding program so she could attend school and receive urgent medical treatment. Berlande agreed to go with us that day. We sent a driver to collect all her things from Dub Saline and he returned with a plastic bag containing one broken flip-flop, which was all she owned. In shock, we went shopping that night to get what Berlande needed. She was enrolled in school the following week and her uniforms were made. 

Three years later: after a ton of love, regular meals, visits often from her sponsor in the U.S and continual medical treatment, our Project Manager, Berlande and I made a nerve-wracking trip back to Berlande’s village for the very first time. It was now August, 2019 and I wanted Berlande to reconnect with her father.  We also needed to collect some information from him, such as her age, birthdate, and full name.

We drove in the hot sun for hours to reach her village. Berlande was dressed beautifully and we had her hair braided that morning. Her skin was glowing. There was a lot of silence in the car on the way, as we all knew there was a huge chance we might not find her father. God blessed us on the way with a sighting of 40 pink flamingos and they gave us the energy we needed to keep going! We arrived at Berlande’s village and people started calling out her name as they began to recognise her. Berlande confidently got out of the UTV and walked straight towards her childhood home. She greeted her stepmom and brothers and sisters with hugs, and it was a moment we will never forget. They then lead Berlande to her father. They hugged and we stood back in awe of this reunion. 

No words could ever write how proud I felt of Berlande in that moment. I cannot even begin to imagine the courage it took for her to make this journey home. Her father took her on a village walk and then gifted her with a goat as a welcome home present. It was truly special. After a few hours, Berlande was ready to return ‘home’ to Anse a Galets. It was a successful trip. We learned that Berlande was soon turning 16!  She and her father exchanged phone numbers. We discussed lots on the return trip and I asked Berlande if she would like to move back to Dub Saline to be with her father. Berlande said that her education had become important to her and as there are no schools out there, she didn’t want to move back there. She said she was happy to visit every second weekend and help her brothers and sisters with their studies.

The last three years with Berlande hasn’t always been easy. She was a broken girl with a heavy past. We have loved her every step of the way. By far the most rewarding thing we have ever done in our work at For You Haiti is to see Berlande become confident enough to return to Dub Saline to face her past head on. This day was life-changing for us all. We believe our role at FYH is not to judge others, but to love others unconditionally. 

“Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life that want you in theirs. The ones that accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what”.

Reflection written by Alana Kaye.

Baby Po

Sooner I realized he doesn’t need to be big to be brave,
because bravery is the courage found in the heart.

In February 2019 For You Haiti received a tiny patient at our office by the name of Podolsky (baby Po). Po was severely malnourished. He was almost 2 years old and couldn’t crawl, walk or talk. He came with his mom, who is a single mother. She had never heard from the father since he received the news that she was pregnant. 

We could see baby Po’s heart beating outside of his tiny chest. He didn’t smile and if anyone tried to touch him, he cried. He was weak, starving and clearly in pain. We sent him to the hospital for tests and the results found him to have an unbalanced AV canal, a severe left AVV insufficiency and a muscular VSD. They told us Po was in urgent need of lifesaving heart surgery. The major concern was if Po’s pulmonary pressures continued to rise and if he did not have intervention soon, it would make him inoperable. We found out that this type of surgery cannot be done in Haiti, so our Medical Director, Ada did her best to find an international organization that would accept Po as their precious, little patient.

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As the days turned into weeks, we knew Po was suffering. He and his mom didn’t have a place to live or anything to eat. We didn’t have a surgery date yet or a hospital overseas that had confirmed they could take Po for heart surgery. Our President, Samuel offered baby Po and his mom, Sherline, a room in For You Haiti’s house to use while we pushed on with Po’s medical journey. Po got a sponsor that assisted with medical appointments, medicines, travel and food. With a place to live and food to eat, this depressed and starving little boy began to light up at every meal. He started smiling and taking his first assisted steps. We were amazed at the progress he was making. We learned that he loves music, playing with the neighbors and getting out and about on outings in the car or walking. He didn’t like to stay still and he didn’t like to lie down. We noticed Po would flourish with one on one attention and his mom learned to care and cook for him while she stayed with us. 

Po dealt with a lot of medical complications during this time and was put in hospital again on the 22nd December with a bad flu, fever and vomiting. We all made a Christmas wish that Po could be home for Christmas. On the 24th December Po got to come home. We were SO happy! Shortly after, we received the confirmation from our friends Owen and Kessy at Haiti Cardiac Alliance that Chain of Hope in the UK and Saint Joan de Déu Children’s Hospital in Barcelona, Spain had accepted Po as their patient and would book him for heart surgery! 

On February 23rd, we flew to Port au Prince with baby Podolsky and Sherline.  Jony Pierre, For You Haiti’s Medical Coordinator, accompanied Sherline and Po and served as an interpretor, supporter and friend. It was Podolsky and Sherline’s first time going on a plane and it was a huge journey for both of them! We made it to Barcelona on February 25 th, 2020 where the team from Saint Joan de Déu Hospital and Chain of Hope, UK were waiting for Po with open arms. 

After a day of rest, Podolsky’s medical tests began. There were a lot of new faces and Podolsky was overwhelmed. We did some outings to the zoo and aquarium and walked around the harbor when Po didn’t have anything on his schedule to get him out and about. Po then went in a week later for a cardiac catheterization. From the results, his surgeons would determine whether heart surgery was possible. 

We received the news that SJD Medical team had booked Po for his first open heart surgery on March 11th, 2020. Po was admitted to hospital the day before and slept well the night before his surgery. Sherline woke early to prepare her boy for the big day ahead. Nine hours later, Po was in recovery and we received the news that Doctor Caffarena, Doctor Toledo and their team had successfully repaired Po’s AV Canal. Po went to ICU for 4 days after his surgery and then was moved to a ward.  During these hours the world outside the hospital walls began to change before our eyes. China, Italy and Spain had gone into complete lockdown after thousands of people were suffering from COVID19, also known as coronavirus. Unfortunately, due to the lockdown in Barcelona, Jony was put into isolation for 14 days and unable to see Po or assist Sherline with anything. He was not able to leave the house during those days. 

Over the next 12 hours, Po struggled to breathe on his own and he had a huge amount of blood pumping into his lungs. To complicate matters, the residual from his open-heart surgery shunted across the muscular VSD and this placed him in decompensated heart failure due to pulmonary pressure. We had one very sick boy on our hands. Po went under for urgent lung surgery and then surgeons made the decision to try to close the VSD percutaneously via cardiac catherization. In the middle of these two surgeries, Po’s Mom Sherline got sick with a fever and was sent home for the weekend due to COVID19 concerns, leaving baby Po alone in the hospital all weekend. The results came back negative and Sherline was able to return to the hospital a few days later. Po went under for cardiac catherization that day, but because of the size of the defect made it impossible to deploy the device correctly. We received the news that Po needed further open heart surgery. 

Two days later, Po underwent further open-heart surgery. The surgeons and the medical team at SJD did a pulmonary banding in order to ameliorate his symptoms. Po stayed in ICU for 2 weeks following this on oxygen. He and Sherline facetimed with friends and family back home in la Gonave to keep their spirits high during this difficult time. 

We then received the news that Po will need to be brought back to Spain to close his VSD permanently once his heart is bigger. We hoped more than anything that everything could have been repaired during the first trip, but we know that God has a plan for Po and has his best interest at heart. We received the news from Doctor Caffarena and the Medical team that Po will be in average health until his next trip to Spain. Following the VSD closure surgery, Po will then be a normal boy! We then made a decision as a team to have Sherline and Po continue to live at our home until then. We feel it of utmost importance to have him living under the care and supervision of a Doctor, in a clean environment, with 3 meals a day. 

There are no words how proud we are of baby Po. This journey to the other side of the world for medical treatment has not been easy on him by any means, but we hope every step of this journey will be worth it once he is thriving! We are SO grateful to so many people that cared for Po during his time in Europe. We will never know all the names of the incredible staff in ICU and all the people that loved Po during his months there, but we are full of gratitude for each one of you. 

Reflection written by Alana Kaye.

Estè

You Are Our Miracle.

It was just a normal day in April for us. Jony and I had been on the road, visiting patients and traveling back and forth to the office between visits. Jony was learning to drive. He has one arm and driving had been a skill he had wanted to tackle for quite some years, so we were doing lessons as we visited patients. As the afternoon was coming to a close we drove back to Terre Rouche where our home is situated on la Gonave island. 

We have a big iron security gate at the front of the property that the kids like to open when they hear a car coming in the driveway. Kensley opened the gate on this particular day and we drove in the driveway. I saw all 7 kids in our sights. We parked the car and just as always, the kids ran to greet us. As I opened my door I saw where every child was and still to this day so vividly remember each child’s position in that exact moment. I grabbed my handbag and turned to greet Dada and Darli who were closest to me. As I pulled them close to hug them both at the same time, I saw our gigantic iron security gate had come off its hinge and was falling straight towards the kids and me. The gate takes 10 solid men to lift it and could crush someone to death on impact.

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In the moment that it collapsed, I could see Kensley was behind the gate and I could see it had missed Berlande by about a metre. She had seen it coming down on us. I could also see Kenicha and Barns, (the two little ones) running up the driveway and were a few metres back. But I could not see Esté. I could not see where Esté was at all. At the time, Este was 7 years old and severely malnourished. She was extremely thin. With growing horror, I realised that the gate had just completely crushed Este from head to toe, as she was in the middle of the gate on impact. She was now trapped underneath. 

I took one step towards the gate and lifted it in one movement off Estè. (In that moment, I knew that my strength was not my own and that God was with Estè through every moment.) Underneath I found precious Estè. To my amazement, she was alive. Her head was gushing more blood than I had ever seen in my life, but she jumped into my arms.  Her face reflected her fright but amazingly, she was conscious and breathing.

I ran to the car with Este in my arms and sat back in the car with her on my lap. Jony reversed out of the driveway as quickly as possible. Senance, Este’s sister (who is in her 30’s and cares for Este) jumped in the car to go with us. Jony got us to the hospital in record speed (and was driving with one arm). I held Este in my arms as tight as I could to stop the bleeding. She was conscious and cried and screamed the whole way. Senance was screaming also and I was screaming at Jony to keep driving as fast as he could and to keep his hand on the horn. It was like something out of a movie. As I held Este, I prayed there would be a doctor that could see us and help us. Often on la Gonâve there are long periods of time where we have NO Doctor on the island. 

I called Samuel on the way and told him we had an emergency and he needed to meet us at the hospital. Incredibly he was waiting for us with one of the ER doctors in the driveway of the hospital. Thank God. I jumped out of the car with Este and Doctor Michel, the ER doctor, took Este in his arms and took her straight into the emergency department. He stitched Este’s head and examined every inch of her tiny body. He let Jony, Samuel and I know that Este did not have any brain damage, nor did she have a broken nose, any smashed teeth, her back and neck were perfectly well and he believed that she did not have a single broken bone. We shook our heads in awe! 

After Este was fully stitched up and her head was bandaged, we were ready to head home. When we pulled into the driveway of the house, the gate had been moved by all the men in the neighbourhood and the kids and neighbours were all standing around. There were a lot of people. As we approached in the car, my window was down and the children all saw that Este was alive through the window. They started screaming her name and crying and began to dance, sing and clap. It was one of the most memorable moments of my entire life. We carefully got her out of the car and no one could believe she had survived the accident. The kids hugged her and I have never seen them so joyful. 

We moved inside and I set Este up for the night in my bed. We knew she would likely get worse through the night and she would likely be in extreme pain once the anaesthetic wore off. I stayed awake all night to check on her every 30 minutes. She continued to tell me “Matant, (Aunty) I don’t have pain, you should go to sleep now.” I told her I would not sleep and that my role was to check on here through the night and that she was my only priority during these days. In the morning, Este woke and said she wanted to go to school. I told her she would NOT be going to school and that she would be resting in bed all day and I was going to bring her food. She told me that I was not understanding her words….and that she felt NO pain. I just couldn’t seem to believe it. She refused to take any pain medicine over the next 48 hours and just smiled every time I offered it to her. 

Este is our walking miracle. We believe God saved her life that day in April and amazingly he did not let her feel any pain in the hours and days after her surgery. 10 days later Este returned to get her stitches removed and didn’t flinch during the procedure. Este is one in a billion. She is a beautiful soul inside and out. Our lives all would have never been the same again if she had lost her life that day. I am thankful every single morning when I wake that God saved her. 

Reflection written by Alana Kaye.

Chelda

Your Pain Is Our Pain, A Remarkable Journey.

Chelda is a beautiful girl from La Gonâve Island who our team has been working with for the last two years. Carmy, our Project Manager, received a call from a friend to pay a visit to Chelda in 2018. So, Carmy and I headed off in the car to find her. When we arrived, we found a sickly thin young girl sitting in the dirt, half naked and trying to eat a piece of bread from the dirt. There were mice around her and it appeared she was toileting and eating in the exact same spot. The area smelled terrible. As we approached Chelda we could see that she did not have any movement from her waist down. She was paralysed and her legs were the skinniest part of her. We greeted her, but she could only say a few words. Her brother came out to talk with us and explained that 7 years ago when Chelda was 9 years old she was completely normal. She attended school, was top of her class and lived with her loving family. She was a happy girl. 

Her brother explained that one afternoon Chelda was on her way home from school and she suddenly had a seizure and became paralyzed. Very soon after her accident their mother passed away. Chelda did see a doctor on la Gonâve that told the brother she had become paralyzed and would never be able to walk again. 

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For the next 7 years Chelda had lived her life in the dirt. She did not have a wheelchair or bed. She did not have diapers or any clothes. They had no food. Chelda was slowly starving to death. It broke our hearts to hear this story. We asked many questions over the next few hours. The brother showed us the inside of their dirt home and showed us how difficult it is to shower Chelda and move her inside and outside. They didn’t even have a chair for her to sit on. This was poverty at its absolute worst. Our team were determined to see Chelda live a better existence and raised money immediately to get her a wheelchair and change of clothes. Our medical team put Chelda on Plumpy’ Nut (a miracle paste for severely malnourished children). We dropped more supplies back after raising money for diapers, soap, shoes and a mattress. 

After I left Haiti, Carmy continued to visit Chelda daily. He made it his work to check in with her everyday to see if he could improve her life even by the smallest of means. To our amazement after just one month of Carmy’s daily visits he had Chelda walking around the neighbourhood. We were absolutely speechless. To see Chelda not only up off the dirt but walking down the street was absolutely the highlight of our year! A beautiful girl that had lost 7 years of her life by sitting in the dirt in filth. Chelda’s remarkable journey reminded us all that no good deed is too small and time spent helping another in even the slightest way is never wasted. 

“A little love goes a long way. Try it!” 

Reflection written by Alana Kaye.

Edmond

A High Seas Adventure!

It should have been just a normal trip to Port au Prince. Jony, Nurse Ganette and I planned to visit some patients. We were traveling by boat from the island of la Gonave to the mainland and then visiting some hospitals. A few days earlier, a hurricane had swept through the Caribbean, so we were going to take the ‘big’ boat (similar to a ferry), because the other option was a fly boat/ small speed boat.  We were concerned about the rough seas due to the hurricane. However, there is only one big boat per day, and unfortunately we pulled up at the wharf in the dark just as the big boat was leaving, so we had no other option but to climb reluctantly into a fly boat. 
 
We were not prepared at all. We didn’t have plastic bags to cover our phones or laptops. The Captain of the fly boat, Wikens, only loaded it half full (VERY unusual in la Gonave to load a fly boat half full, because normally they try to squeeze as many people as possible onto their boats to make as much money as they can)! There are no lifejackets on these type of boats either in order to make as much space as possible for more bottoms on seats.
 
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At first we thought Wikens might have been sensitive to the current ‘Covid-19' pandemic by allowing more space between passengers. How wrong were we! He pushed back from the wharf and off we went in the early morning dark on a terrifying and very wet journey! We almost capsized 4 times. At one point I thought my tail bone broke from slamming my rear end down so hard after we got massive air. Immediately following this, a wave completely slammed the boat and then the waves continued to pummel us for another 15 minutes. We finally made it to the other side, alive. When we reached the land, we could barely walk. Everyone’s legs were trembling. Anyway, it was time to ‘shake it off' and get on the road to visit our amazing patient, Edmond! 
 
Edmond was born with two feet turned the other way. He had been to Adventist Hospital numerous times and stayed with us in our home a number of times too. Anyone that meets Edmond never forgets him, because he is absolutely incredible. He is a joker, loves to play and is a wild dancer. If you put on some tunes, Edmond will dance non-stop for hours. The surgery he had a few days prior to our visit would hopefully be his last surgery. Both his feet were now facing forward! 
 
He was coming home with us wearing 2 casts. His lovely Mom would also travel home to la Gonave. We overnighted in a hotel in Port au Prince and the next morning we were ready early to return to the island. We got to the wharf on the mainland extra, extra early to ensure we didn’t miss the big boat this time! It would be impossible for Edmond to travel with 2 casts on in hurricane seas by fly boat, and we weren’t wishing for a repeat experience either.
 
Fortunately, we got to the ferry early and secured our seats on the ‘big’ boat. The heat was unbearable and the boat left a few hours later than scheduled. We were all sweating and covering our heads with anything we could find, including T-shirts, towels and bags of bread. Eventually we heard the motor roar and off we went!  Suddenly, after an hour into our journey, the boat came to a complete stop. We got word that they normally run the boat with 3 motors, but today they had decided to do the crossing just with one motor. Unfortunately, that motor had taken a turn for the worse and was now dead. At this point we were about halfway from our beloved la Gonâve island.
 
They started distributing the life jackets. There weren’t enough for everyone on board, but we got one for our sweet guy, Edmond. The crowd was starting to get rowdy at this point and people were yelling,  making phone calls, and starting to organize names and money for the rescue boats. We obviously couldn’t put our name down for any rescue boat because it would not be possible for Edmond to travel by fly boat, due to the seas and his casts. So, we waited it out, watching rescue boats come and go.  At one point 4 rescue boats pulled up on the same side at the same time. Approximately 300 passengers moved immediately to that side of the boat to fight over seats and it felt like we were going to capsize the ferry! 
 
After a few hours of waiting and hoping we wouldn’t have to sleep on the boat, I called the team in la Gonave to let them know. Our President at FYH, Samuel, sent a rescue boat for us immediately, and we saw them arriving about 30 minutes later. We decided that we would attempt to get Edmond into the rescue boat and get him home. Samuel and his cousin could hold Edmond tight in the big seas and ensure he wouldn’t be injured by the waves, but getting Edmond off the side of the big boat into a fly boat was not an easy task in big seas. There is no ladder to climb down and the drop from the bottom floor of the big boat to the fly boat is HUGE. 
 
Eventually Jony and Ganette wrapped Edmond’s legs in plastic bags and I passed Edmond off the top floor of the big boat down to a man between the bottom and top floor of the boat and he then passed Edmond down to a man on the bottom floor (it wasn’t possible to go down the stairs to the bottom floor, as the boat was packed with motorbikes, chickens and every off household item you can imagine). One of the men attempted to hand Edmond off the side of the big boat to a man in the fly boat, but it was impossible to be close enough. After numerous attempts to get the boats closer in hurricane seas, he had to throw Edmond to the man on the fly boat. As this happened, a wave hit the fly boat and they both fell backwards into the boat. It was like a movie. Edmond, being the amazing kid he is, gave us a thumbs up to let us nervous onlookers know he was “All good!” He is such an incredible little boy! He was not injured and he was still smiling. Our President, Samuel, was also on the rescue boat with Edmond (after just having surgery on his foot himself!) and he caught them both! We were just so happy for Edmond to be safe. The trip will for sure go down as one of the most memorable trips for us all. Edmond took it all in his stride. He will be ready to do it all again in 2 weeks when he has to go back to Port au Prince to change his casts!                                              
 
Reflection written by Alana Kaye.
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