Haiti – When something can go wrong, it will.


Over the course of the past 10 years visiting and working in Haiti, I have learned that even the most straight forward venture will have stumbling blocks. An hour long trip to the beach can be altered when the van breaks down and you bath in your own sweat, rather than the oceans waves, while waiting for the arrival of a new part.  When you ask a patient to get additional testing before surgery and she disappears for 2 days trying to find enough donated money to afford the cost of testing. Thus, when our recent planned trip to deliver 150 menstrual pad kits to Les Cayes, Haiti on the southern coast of the peninsula started to hit a few bumps in the implementation process, I didn’t worry too much. Haitian ingenuity seems to always overcome these minor obstructions, as it is how the country has functioned for so many years. But as the bumps in the road turned into large potholes, my confidence in our ability to pull off the venture waned.

Two of our seamstresses were to depart Cap Haitian for Port au Prince on Monday, a 6 hour bus ride that left at 3 am. They were to be met at the bus station in Port au Prince  by a representative of International Medical Corps and driven the additional 4 hours to Les Cayes. The seamstresses had the additional responsibility of transporting 150 menstrual pad kits and teaching materials that they would need for the 7 hour teaching session on Tuesday for community health workers and nurses working in the areas affected by Hurricane Matthew. Another 150 kits were to be delivered in March if the teaching went well and the health providers thought that the kits would be helpful to women and girls in remote areas. What could go wrong?

  1. The original chaperone for the women needed to back out 5 days before the trip and we scrambled to find a replacement who we trusted and with whom the women were comfortable traveling.
  2. As snaps were being put on the shield component of the kits, we realized that we didn’t have enough snaps to finish the order. Thank goodness for frequent mission trips from Minnesota, as we were able to send a supply with only a few days notice
  3. Despite counting and re-counting the kits, 39 kits (one large bag) were left behind at the sewing center and the loss not discovered until arrival in Les Cayes.
  4. The seamstresses and chaperone had assumed that lodging and food would be provided once they arrived at their destination. The representatives on the arrival end had not been informed of this and no accommodations were available.

The final outcome? 17 Haitian health providers showed up for the information session today and were highly impressed with the knowledge of Irose, the HHW seamstress. She spoke about puberty, reproduction and how the kits should be used to improve health. Some of the participants were interested in purchasing kits for themselves and family members, asking if they could promote the products beyond the distribution of free kits. Everyone agreed that local production of the product was something they wished to promote.

Once again I am reminded of the resilience of the Haitians. Many of us would have given up when only one of the above roadblocks stood in our way. But our seamstresses only saw it as a temporary detour until we were able to get them back on the road. And those missing 39 kits? They were sent on their own bus ride to Port Au Prince and will be waiting for the driver later today when he deposits the seamstresses back at the bus stop in Port.

Don’t forget about our upcoming fundraising event with the band Morpheus playing at the Hamel Community Center on March 4th from 7-9 pm. All proceeds will be used to support our sewing program and the microfinance loans. Ticket information available on our homepage.