Saturday, March 12, 2016

January 2016 ~ Ten Years of Service

Dear friends,

Maybe you’ve started your day, week or month by remembering a special anniversary such as a birthday, wedding day, graduation, loss of a precious friend or family member. All are unique markers of time, accomplishment and love. The beginning of 2016 represented the 10th anniversary of our first medical mission trip and our 30th Little by Little team to serve in Gramothe, Haiti together with Mountain Top Ministries (MTM). In 2006, the departure of our first team to Haiti, consisting of 12 volunteers, was postponed several times from the beginning of January until mid-February because of political instability surrounding the presidential elections. During 2015, Little by Little brought together more than 140 medical professionals and various essential volunteers enabling 5 dynamic medical teams to serve with each other in Gramothe, Haiti.

January 12, 2016 was also the 6th anniversary of the devastating earthquake our team experienced together in Haiti. Renewal and rebuilding have brought new life and expectancy back into Haiti. Vibrant paint splashes the finished buildings. Memorial parks have been carefully designed and created as tents and their shadows were replaced with tropical color and hope. Even though no one is yet used to the new traffic signals on the new roads, evidenced by drivers who continue to honk their way through the newly erected stop lights, I definitely sense Haiti’s rebirth.

Life in Haiti also seems to be falling back into routine. Of course people will always remember the tragic time of the earthquake, however, traumatic memories seem to be fading, just as the fresh pink, yellow and turquoise paint is becoming dusty and blotched with political graffiti. Garbage is starting to accumulate where rubble used to haunt the walkways. It is again an election cycle and the president who has been in office since before the earthquake has served his extended term.  

Returning to Haiti at the beginning of this year made me examine the way I am responding to the normalcy of my life here at home. I don’t want dust, garbage and political uncertainty to dim or damper my shine, empathy and respect for those around me.  Instead I want to remember, observe and strive to stay bright in my daily walk. We continue to serve in Haiti where our volunteers and resources will be of the most benefit. We maintain our core values of partnership, reciprocity, sustainability, transparency and universal healthcare for all. Thank you for joining us in 10 years of service together!  J sue

Saturday, February 7, 2015

January 2015 ~ 5th anniversary of the devastating earthquake

We just returned from our January team’s medical mission to Haiti, where we provided much needed care to more than 1200 at the clinic at Mountain Top Ministries. January 12, 2015, was the fifth anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti—so I would like to take this opportunity to share a few poignant facts. The earthquake was the first to strike this island nation in over 200 years. Haiti is approximately the size of Maryland with a population of about 10 million people. As the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti had been considered a failed state for many years prior to the earthquake due to its lack of infrastructure, a stable government, or a viable economy. In addition to the destruction of personal homes, the international airport, seaport, roads, hospitals, schools and universities, municipalities, a prison, and the presidential palace all collapsed during the earthquake. It took more than 2 years for only half of the rubble from the earthquake to be removed. According to Haitian government officials the earthquake disaster killed more than 250,000 people and displaced 1.5 million, who lived in tent cities without clean water, sanitation, food sources, or jobs and were ravaged by crime. According to the International Organization for Migration an estimated 103,565 people still currently live in 172 temporary settlement camps scattered throughout Port-au-Prince today. After an absence of more than 200 years, the cholera outbreak that began at the end of summer in 2010 has killed almost 9,000 and sickened over 700,000 people (UN statistics). The disease surfaced in Haiti months after the powerful earthquake, spreading rapidly during the rainy season due to the lack of adequate sanitation and clean water sources. Now most cholera treatment centers have dissipated, an immunization campaign has started and I did not hear of any recent cases.

As we traveled from the newly rebuilt airport to the guest house and clinic we see new roads with drainage curbs, street and stop lights, new buildings including homes, churches, businesses and hotels, gas stations, truck yards, street vendors, beautiful Haitian art, refurbished parks and many people going from here to there. What we don’t see is rubble or garbage. What we still see are the remaining “temporary” camps, people in need of health care and jobs, the valiant struggle of the Haitian people, somber reflection but a resilient countenance on most, and a lump in my throat with hope in my heart.

Sue Walsh

May Team 2014

“We cannot truly be who we are until we recognize others for who they are.”

     Greetings from Little by Little Team 23. We’ve arrived safely back in the states after a bountiful mission. Our group of 19 began a journey of service in the mountain village of Gramothe Haiti just 8 days ago. We are a unique and multidisciplinary team. Many of us strangers to one another when first we met, each of us ‘called’ for his or her own reason. Unbeknownst to us as we bid our farewells; strangers no more, we would share an extraordinary bond forever.
     That bond began with daily prayer. We stood in a circle, hands joined, one hand giving, and the other receiving. Through our hands and the grace of God came strength and camaraderie that grew stronger as each day passed until the team of 19 worked as one. We traveled each day to the clinic. The land of Haiti lush and green surrounded by its mother mountain. We arrived to hundreds of people in need of care. They had come from near and far dressed in clothing of many colors. The people, places and faces a photo could never capture. A smile of gratitude after just receiving a new pair of reading glasses, a mother’s relief her young daughter would get well just mere examples. In the evenings we joined together to reflect on the days behind us and looked forward to the days ahead of us. Emotions were raw but we found strength in one another and through the enduring support of our team leader Sue Walsh. We contemplated abundance, resilience and reciprocity.
     By day 5 we began to tire. There was more work to do, more patients to see. We were blessed with sunny days during rainy season so the Haitian people they came and they came. The very old, the very young, big and small could we see them all?
     Sunday, May 25th the Haitians celebrated Mother’s Day. Bònn Fèt dè Mè. For me the strength to persevere would come this day. We joined the village people as they worshiped. Although the service was entirely in Creole the faith was palpable. You needn’t speak Creole to understand the devotion. What the Haitians may lack in material goods there is abundance in their faith.

They sing, they sing
The Haitian man, so tall, so tall. He stands at the pulpit. He closes his eyes.
Head in his hands he prays to God.
They shout, they shout
It is loud but the sound is joy, the sound is hope.
They lift their hands to God
Such faith!

Little by Little Team 23 grew accomplishing BIG work this week providing care to over 700 deserving souls.                        

Mary Ulery

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Final Update from Team 22

Bonjour on this beautiful morning in Haiti As we always say, it is not about numbers, but we were able to care for almost 900 people. On our last day, the Good Lord brought us a smaller number, allowing us to calmly finish patient procedures, gather our thoughts regarding needs in the clinic for our next team trip, and even get our group photos...CHEESE!!!!

I want to turn this over to Team 22 to share with you thoughts, feelings or experiences from our week together...

Sharon Feehan, Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
This is my 6th trip with Little by Little. We all come here hoping to give a little bit of comfort and hope to the wonderful people of Gramothe. I am forever amazed that I come away feeling like I received SO much more than I gave. All of our hearts our very full as we conclude an amazing week!

Jessica Ittner, FNP student at UIC
It's been an incredible week.  I'll miss waking up to roosters crowing and walking through town on the way to clinic, seeing smiling faces.  I'll miss our patients in clinic, hopefully we brought them comfort and healing this week.  I've learned so much, thank you to Little by Little for organizing this life changing trip.  Go Team 22, such a compassionate talented group of people! 

Maggie Schumm, FNP Student at CUW
This was my first trip with LBL. I am so grateful for this opportunity to learn from such compassionate providers. The patients seemed very thankful. It was a nice end to the clinic that no patients were turned away. I hope to return some day as a provider.

Jeanna Carlson, FNP Student at UIC
I feel so lucky to have come on this trip for the first time with LBL! It has been an incredible experience. The Haitian people have captured my heart with their smiles. I am grateful to have been working alongside a great team to bring much needed care to them. I will miss my time here and can't wait to return! 

Jacqueline Rincon, FNP Student at UIC
This was my first trip to Haiti. The week has been an emotional roller coaster, but I am grateful for every minute of it. Not only have I learned so much clinically, I have also learned so much about myself as well as the Haitian culture. I cannot wait to go home and share my experiences with my family and friends. We have touched so many lives. The Haitian people have however, touched us in a way that will change our lives forever. Thank you to our wonderful team!

Heather Overmyer, ER RN
What an amazing experience!! I am so thankful I got to travel with team 22 to Haiti and work with such a great team! I will never forget this experience as it and the Haitian people have changed my heart forever!  I look forward to returning to Haiti in the future. Thank you Haiti and team 22! 

Renee Landa, FNP Student at UIC
This is a trip I will never forget. Just seeing how appreciative, lively, and kind the Haitian people are gives a new perspective on life. My favorite was seeing the elderly patients give a huge smile, usually exposing a toothless, gummy smile, but still beautiful nonetheless. I am also so grateful for making new friends who are so compassionate, kind, and FUN!

Debbie Barnes, Pediatric RN
Another amazing trip with a fabulous group of people!!  My sixth trip has been nothing short of incredible - love, laughter, healing, sharing, compassion, and beauty.  We were blessed as a group by the unique talents each team member brought to the table.  As I prepare to go home, I find it interesting that I come to help "heal", but going home feeling "healed" myself.  Love you all and will never foget you. 

Joanne McCluskey
Team 22 has been a great experience! This is my fourth trip to Haiti and the gracious people that participate on these trips never ceases to amaze me! There has been so much laughter, love and compassion this week, it has been incredible. As for the people of Haiti and the country itself I continue to see great improvements! I have seen much healthier people this year, and signs of rebuilding everywhere! It is so exciting to see what a difference we can make in one short week!

Kim Hogan, APN
This is my sixth trip to Gramothe with Little By Little. I fell in love with Haiti on my first trip, and it only grows each time I’m here. I never cease to be impressed by the dignity and grace of the Haitian people, and I’m happy to have an opportunity to serve them. I’m also pleased to see improvements in the health of the local people, and the signs of rebuilding in Port au Prince. Team 22 is a great group, flexible, hard working, smart and fun!  I’ve loved meeting up with my old friends and making new ones.

Bernie, RN
This has been the best experience of my life. I loved the people and the place. I have learned so much and I will be forever grateful for this opportunity. I am really impressed about how well coordinated the clinic was and how every person on the team helped out. I hope to come back! J 

Robin Afeld, FNP student
This was my first trip to Haiti and wow what a week! As an FNP student, I went into clinic every day with energy, inquisitiveness, and motivation to do as much as I could in just one short week. My experiences with the patients will stick with me the rest of my life. I learned many things, not only about caring for people of all ages, but I learned things about myself and my capabilities as a future provider. Although, I may have returned home each night exhausted, it was a rewarding and fulfilling exhausted. I truly felt like Team 22 touched the lives of many Haitian people and in the process, the Haitian people have left an everlasting impression on ours.

Pat Kalensky
This is my fourth trip to Haiti with the Little by Little team. Each team has been a unique group of individuals but our strengths have blended beautifully to enrich each other as we serve the people of the Gramothe clinic under Mountain Top Ministries. I am grateful for the support and aid we have been able to provide to the people who walk from near and far to trust this team with their health; 900 in all this week.  The improvements and changes I have seen here in Haiti over the past 3 years have been remarkable. I am very encouraged by these people’s resiliency. God bless.

Charlie Yingling, FNP
It is a joy to return to Gramothe and see the changes that have occurred in the community since my last trip here.  New crop fields are planted.  New, permanent structures are erected and there is far less malnutrition than on previous trips.  I am so appreciative that the people of this community continue to invite us back to work with them to improve their health.  The team of professionals with whom I have shared this week are selfless, humble and truly a pleasure to work with. Good humor and flexibility have made joyful a week of hard work.

And thus we end this week of care to our Haitian friends. As always we leave with mixed feelings of excitement to reunite with our families but with a heavy heart to leave this hardworking village of Gramothe. We finished our day today with a very loud crazy game of "garbage", sang Happy Birthday to Team 22 members Taylor and Joanne and enjoyed a pizza party. We are now packing to come home to you.

Thank you for being with us in spirit this week and for your thoughts and prayers.

God bless, Vanda Marsh and Team 22

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Anniversary Mourn (by sue walsh) The early dawn, as the sweet strum of the crickets quiet, The dogs and night frogs rest, As the rosters finally lose their voice, My eyes are reflexively pulled upward To pink and purple puffy clouds ~ a fresh sunrise in my repertoire. Slowly drawing back from the soft, slumbering mountain they Wisp and dissipate; rugged rocks not yet visible. Morning light is ever energizing and reassuring! Monday is here. The first day after the last day of the 4th year Since the ground broke and took up so many to You too soon! Blanket Haiti with your precious nature of hope and joy this New Year. Thank you for this fresh morning. Lovingly wake those who need care and walk with them to our clinic. Wrap your arms of this new day around Haiti.
Bonjour! Thank you everyone for praying our way with traveling mercies ~ and for our luggage. Always my worst time of the trip...waiting for the flash of each ribbon in the luggage pile. Now, instead, each bag arrives via a new turnstile - and there are enough of us that no bag gets dizzy circling. Each bag arrived with its bounty! Takeoff was uneventful with just a 45 minute delay. We can barely remember the frigid and snowy weather we left behind and the travel nightmare that accompanied so many over the holiday exodus. We have a talented and diverse medical team with each provider bringing a specialty; exceptional nursing and pharmacy students and plenty of very eager non-medical helpers bless our team! Our work in the clinic has been a joy and an everlasting experience for all. The faces of well over 1000 men, women, children and babies we cared for in the clinic and at the MTM school will be ever clear in our memories. Oh yes, we’ve been slathering on sun screen, aerobicizing with daily mountain walks and soaking up every minute of the warmth of the people, baby goats and the weather in Haiti!!! Hope all of you can be warm just thinking about us :) Below is a prayer written by Tim Fitzpatrick, a pharmacy student from Roosevelt University. He lovingly wrote this prayer to be said before our final meal at the guest house at MTM… His penance for losing a game of Jenga the night before ~ “Dear Lord, Bless this meal; amid the oh-so-proven talented hands that have prepared it. Bless the tired feet that traveled up the mountain for treatment. Also bless our equally tired feet that found their way up the mountain to serve in the clinic. Thank you for helping us with our mission to lower blood pressure, relieve itches and pain, alleviate reflux, infections, worms and so many other conditions that are a result of a hard but beautiful life. Thank you for the opportunity to make so many new friends and the chance to learn from so many open, knowledgeable and modest people. Bless those who may find their way back to this beautiful country to continue to serve. And may everyone here continue to grow and learn and have great careers. Thank you for the things we found that we weren’t looking for such as great scenery, heart-shaped rocks, best friends or a baby from the orphanage we all wished we could take home! Also, thank you for the wonderful creation of Epocrates. May those who we could not help find the help they need, and may you guide us safely on our trip home. Amen.” Thank you for following our January 2014 trip, Team 21, as we serve, little by little in Haiti. Sue Walsh
October 2013 Greetings from Haiti- We are more then halfway through our week here at Mountain Top Ministries and we wanted to send out greetings from the Team. Our travel was uneventful and we arrived at the Guest house without a hitch. No one was lost in the airport, everyone's luggage arrived and Willem was there to take us up the mountain in the back of the big blue truck. Clinic has been a little less busy then usual - there was another team here only 2 weeks ago, but it seems like more of the patients that have come have been significantly ill. After 3 days of clinic we sat together last night and shared the path that brought us each to this team at this time and it was amazing to see the creative ways that God used to connect this team for this week. It is clearly evident in our time here that each person is here for a specific purpose. Our pharmacist Dachelle and her pharmacy "techs", Ray, Betsy,and Debbie have been awesome. Our inventory manager Lou and his storeroom staff, Catherine, Cheryl, Chris, Pat and Mike have keep us in good supply. Kara runs the lab (and is the lab), Lanelle mans the scabies station (lucky Lanelle), and Ashley captures it all in living color as our team photographer. We have Murph Jr, Jon and Patty triaging the patients in a chaotic entrance hall- and the rest of us are able to see patient in steady flow. Clinic has run like a well-oiled machine... well, most of the time. Vanda and Lisa are doing a great job keeping us aimed in the right direction. There have been plenty of challenges presented by some very sick patients that need far more then we can offer like a 12 year old boy who likely has a brain tumor of some sort. We have also experienced a few miracles like the tiny 8 week old female infant brought to us this AM from the orphanage with a 2 week history of vomiting. We unwrapped the swaddled infant to find a severely dehydrated little baby "raisin" peering up at us with tired, sunken eyes. It was clear this little one needed immediate intervention and a quick decision was made to take the baby into PAP to try and get her into a hospital. A group from the team took her in and were reassured to find the Medishare hospital to be a well run and organized hospital adequately staffed and knowledgeable in their care. The baby was rehydrated successfully and then admitted for more care with a working diagnosis of pyloric stenosis. We have another sick baby from the orphanage with severe failure to thrive and very abnormal anatomy that we uncovered on X-ray. We were able to get input from a pediatric surgeon in the states and it is clear the infant needs a complicated abdominal surgery soon if he is to survive. So we are praying for another miracle. Of course intermixed with the serious nature of our mission are moments of laughter... hearing a little Haitian girl skipping by down the path by the stray dogs singing "who let the dogs out" in creole...trying to shoe the gecko off the bug net... watching Lou's imitation of Peewee Herman and Vanda doing her version of Michael Jackson in a game of garbage.... and the joys of being on a team that is made up of newbies, returning old-timers, life long friends, a father and son, mother and daughter, husband and wife- all working together as one to deliver God's love in many forms. Thank you for your prayers as we continue God's work, Fondly, LBL Team 20