I haven’t posted anything new since January, so I will begin with my students past work. When I first started teaching up in the mountains of Haiti the images students brought to class touched my heart so deeply that I laughed a lot just to keep from crying. And like any other photographers they find their niche, some like making portraits, some like group shots, some like events and social gatherings and there are a few who just want to make self portraits. One of the first lessons I explained to them was to shoot from the heart, and that’s what they do.
I will not be traveling to Haiti next week with the medical team and I have been trying to console myself by making photographs here in Key West where I live but it’s not working so I thought I’d post some images from my last fundraising exhibit.
We always arrive in Ridoré on a Friday and the team is ready to do whatever it takes in preparation for Monday when hundreds of people will be waiting to see the doctors. Volunteers bring large suitcases filled with supplies and medications. The first couple of days are about cleaning and getting organized, sorting out the medication making sure the surgeons and anesthesiologist are set up. The first images show doctors and med students working together installing a new state of the art light in the operating room. Monday morning is a bit overwhelming when we arrive at St. Josephs and see so many people waiting but everyone takes their places without complaining and the day begins.
Half way through the mission team 2 arrives and team 1 will leave. Arrangements are made for us at the Hotel Cap LaMondou for a nice dinner and socializing along with great music and dancing. The Hotel has air-conditioning and that can be very special in the heat of summer. The next day team 1 flies out and team 2 and the rest of us return to the hospital in LaVallée to finish the mission. Dr. Nicole Michael is our travel coordinator and she does an amazing job at keeping everything in line and making sure everyone goes to lunch and dinner. I have to say that everyone works very hard and to balance that out they play very hard too.
Team 1 chilling at the airport in Jacmel at the end their mission. Doctors and nurses came from different parts of the country including Canada to be part of AHDH on the 54th mission at the Hospital St. Joseph in Ridoré. The newbies fell in love with the Haitian people and their country as we all did on our first trip, and began planning the next trip before this one was over. We had medical students in both teams and I was impressed with their hard work and dedication. Most of these doctors and nurses go right back to work after they get home either at the hospital or private practice and continue doing what they do best. They are an amazing crew of people.
Doctors, Nurses and volunteers you may capture what you want but please credit me for the photography. Thanx
Over the years that I’ve been flying back and forth between Port Au Prince and Jacmel I’ve wondered about the people who live in those far-flung villages in the valleys and mountains below that make me think of Peru. There are no roads just trails leading to the houses that are clearly not accessible by vehicle. I’ve wondered about medical care and how they handle emergencies and education and food. I’ve wondered if the innocence I sense in Ridoré exists in these far-flung villages; I wonder what it will be like when I get there.
Heading toward Port Au Prince
Port Au Prince
I met Dr. Anika Michael on her first mission trip with AHDH in the summer of 2007; she was the very first Ophthalmologist at the Hospital St. Joseph in Ridoré. She brought with her a couple of large suitcases and several boxes of donated eyeglasses, which she handed out to her patients. Now a few years later Dr. Michael is doing eye surgery at St. Joseph’s; her specialty is in Cornea and Refractive surgery. She was able to equip an eye clinic, which is quit impressive, and an operating room at the Hospital and with the help of other volunteers they are able to not only give out glasses, but also prevent blindness by treating glaucoma and doing cataract surgery.
Dr. Reynold Monsanto who lives in Jacmel, is the only Ophthalmologist in the entire southeast department of the country. He assists with eye exams and the post-op care after we leave.
Dr. Michael and Dr. Monsanto work so well together if I didn’t know better I would think they had been doing so for a very long time. In February 2009 they performed their first cataract extraction with a Port-au-Prince ophthalmologist, Dr. Ritza Eugene.
In the summer of 2010, Dr. Michael and Dr. Monsanto were finally able to do the first Phacoemulsification cataract extraction at the Hospital St. Joseph’s allowing them to treat cataract patients much earlier and thus avoiding years of debilitating blindness waiting for the cataract to mature.
Our last mission trip was the most successful of all. Dr. Monsanto and Dr. Michael were able to do record number of eye surgeries – 19!! Nilam Patel, a hard-working Optometrist from Texas saw over 200 patients in the clinic and distributed over 200 much-needed glasses and diagnosed and treated countless cases of glaucoma.”
Last fall a friend in Haiti asked me to photograph his wedding in February, of course I said yes. I had no idea what to expect but I knew I was going to be a part of something very special. For the next few months I thought about the wedding, wondering what it was going to be like. I arrived in Ridoré the day before the wedding with my cameras ready. I’m not really sure what I expected but I didn’t expect to see the Bride and Groom dressed in formal wear, with bride’s maids, a ring bearer and flower girls but they were all there and it was beautiful. The groom and both families probably saved for a very long time for this day. The service was long with a lot of singing and dancing and honoring the couple with prayers for a long healthy, happy life together. Then we were off to the reception at the home of the groom’s parents, in an area called Boursiquot. I could say we walked but it was more of a hike, a very long hike. Along the way we passed a group of women doing their laundry at the water source and everyone stopped what they were doing to watched the young couple pass — it was a special time. The trail was rocky and narrow but everyone walked together talking and laughing, even the ladies in their high-heeled shoes; everyone was dressed in their best for this special occasion. I was the only one who seemed to notice how far it.
The 52nd Medical mission has come to an end, and both teams have gone back home. Being part of this medical mission is such an amazing experience that sometimes when it comes to writing for the blog I’m at a loss for words. Each mission is unique; nothing happens the same way twice.
I found myself very emotional at times around the Hospital St. Joseph. The first week Dr. Cliff Youngblood and Dr. René delivered a healthy baby girl by cesarean. The second week Dr. René delivered a beautiful healthy baby boy by cesarean, assisted by Dr. Susan Jeanfreau. I was in tears at the beauty of the life-saving events — watching the new life catch his first breath and trying to open his eyes for the very first time. If the doctors had not been there both mothers and babies would have died. Before Dr. René started the medical missions to our village, in 1986, the death rate during birth was extremely high. Now, after many years, the hospital is equipped to do this life-saving surgery.
If I live to be 100 years old there will never be anything that will compare to my working with this team of doctors and nurses at the Hospital St. Joseph’s in Ridoré.
As their photographer I am everywhere, the fly on the wall as they say, and I still feel as though I don’t cover enough of their work. Not only do I get to see life begin, I get to watch as people have their eye-sight restored — tumors removed — people of all ages given a new healthy start — if I didn’t believe in miracles before, I do now.
This was the first mission for both Drs. Youngblood and Jeanfreau, and it was great watching them doing what they do best.
Another first timer was Steve Sotile a Radiologist from Baton Rouge, La. He worked with Mike Beauford on ultrasound. Steve is the first Radiologist to join AHDH.
Doctors, Nurses and volunteers, you may capture all the images you want but please
credit me for the photography.
The following images are in no particular order.
These photographs were made by the young photographers of LaVallée during our winter mission, they are in no particular order. Not all of the students were able to attend the winter session and I look forward to seeing them in June.