Since March of this year, I’ve been determined to serve in Belle Fontaine, Haiti; it all
started when USAID released an rfa on malnutrition, the WASH project and agriculture. I code named it the “David and Goliath” grant. I knew we did not have a chance but I felt led to try. So for a few weeks Birdy Reynolds and I researched and wrote the concept note that would transform us to two individuals wanting to save lives in
an area unknown to most in Haiti. In our research, we discovered that Belle Fontaine has an extremely high child malnutrition and mortality rate. Soon after we submitted our concept note we found out we were not among the finalists. As the months passed by we discussed about the best methods to introduce ourselves to the community. Before any plans could be finalized hurricane Matthew had devastated the area.
I chose, through Pennies for Haiti, to provide relief efforts in this community instead of the South like so many others. Though Belle Fontaine is in the West Department the hurricane was so large that Belle Fontaine was also impacted. With the help of so many of our supporters we reached out and started to work in this community by pulling all our efforts together to raise funds and collect much needed items for them. To date, we’ve organized two food distributions and have completed two mobile medical clinics in partnership with Societe Haitienne de Pediatrie.
Belle Fontaine is divided in four communal sections: Belle Fontaine #1 and #3 are accessible from Croix-des-Bouquets, Belle Fontaine #2 is accessible from Jacmel, and this section is in the commune of Croix-des-Bouquets as are 1 and 3. Whereas, Belle Fontaine #4 is accessible from, and is in the commune of, Kenscoff. All the communes of Belle Fontaine are located deep in Haiti’s mountains with barely any descent roads in some areas not even an ATV off road vehicle or two-wheeled motorcycle can make it there. As per the latest census numbers released by L’institut Haïtien de Statistique et d’ Informatique (IHSI) Belle Fontaine is a community of over forty thousand residents.
Belle Fontaine has had a heartbreaking medical history. In 2011, Belle Fontaine was so severely affected by cholera that Terres des Hommes, a Netherlands based non profit, built multiple rehydration and treatment centers in this area. Unfortunately, a few were damaged and one destroyed during hurricane Matthew.
Since the hurricane I’ve been in communication with community leaders in all four communal sections. I’ve created a committee that’s made of one community leader and one resident to ensure the voices and needs of the community are heard. They are responsible to do the same in each area that forms the four Belle Fontaine’s. It’s imperative to Pennies for Haiti that the community feels a partnership and not a dictatorship as we come alongside them for the betterment of the community.
Long before I even knew where Belle Fontaine was located; I knew I wanted to become part of this community and help save their children. On Sunday, October 23rd I thought I had the opportunity to do just that. We were running a mobile clinic in Belle Fontaine #1. The need was overwhelming. We could not have expected such a turn out. By the end of the clinic I realized we needed all of the following medications for all future clinics: cough medication, children antibiotics, pedialyte, children acetaminophen and ibuprofen, de worming medication, children vitamins, pre-natal vitamins, pregnancy exams and the list goes on and on!!!!
While there I wanted the pediatrician to examine any children suffering with malnutrition. We were introduced to a 1 year old baby boy named Julien. His Mom had just carried him for over 30 minutes to make it to the mobile clinic site. Even to the untrained eye it was clear the baby was suffering with severe acute malnutrition. Baby Julien’s hands, feet and stomach were swollen and poor baby was whimpering so ever softly. With the diagnosis of the pediatrician, what I had feared was confirmed. I immediately contacted the malnutrition center Pennies for Haiti works with and we headed back into town. During our very long ride of over three hours to the malnutrition center the parents were worried as they thought the baby had gotten. I hoped he had just fallen asleep in his Mama’s arms. Unfortunately, they were right, minutes after our arrival there Julien was pronounced dead; it was too late…there was nothing anyone could have done. I cried so hard I had an asthma attack that caused me to feel sharp pains in my arms, legs and chest. How and why was it possible I was feeling so much sadness, I had known Julien for such a short time yet I cried as if I had just loss a dear family member. I did not understand the sadness that consumed me, one thing I knew this could have been avoided had there been a malnutrition center closer to his home. In that painful moment I decided in memory of Julien, I would fight for others who are suffering just like he had been since August 5, 2016.
This story is sad not only because the baby passed away but the Sunday before we were distributing a donation of bread and peanut butter in that community. There are so many what ifs that has gone through my head since then. But I’m sure had there been regular mobile clinics servicing the area Julien would be alive today. Malnutrition has unnecessarily claimed one more life in Belle Fontaine. I want to spare another child and parent of Julien’s fate by starting a pediatric clinic in Belle Fontaine.
Bread, Sandals & Peanut Butter Distribution
This call to action is different from that of the last six years. The budget for this project includes salaries for doctors, nurses, lab technicians, medicine, awareness programs and building clinics such as this one “Clinic in a Can”. I need your support in a way I’ve never asked before. This project needs many committed prayer warriors, volunteers, corporate sponsors, medical partnerships, grant writers; I need your help to save lives in Belle Fontaine. Let’s take this road together, please consider joining me in this fight. I thank you in advance for your prayers and continuous support. Together we will make a difference in the fight against malnutrition in Belle Fontaine, Haiti!