A Vignette from Haiti

I am a huge proponent of hands-on experiences, activities outside of the classroom, and pursuing your hobbies.

I spent a month providing health care in the villages of Gros Morne and Miragoane two years after the devastating earthquake in Haiti. During my time there, I screened children in schools and villages that hadn’t seen health care in years. Seeing the public health issues in a developing country first hand was a life changing experience; one that cannot be matched by merely reading or watching the news. The houses and buildings that once stood were mere piles of rubble on the side of the street. The children I saw suffered from a wide range of disease – everything from crush injuries to ringworm. Children roamed the streets with no shoes and no pants, and just a ripped shirt on their backs.

We were able to see and treat close to 400 children a day suffering from common conditions: scabies, ringworm, and malnutrition, to name a few. During the day, I had the chance to interact with children patiently lined up in the clinic waiting to be screened. While I cleaned wounds or gave medication they would teach me Creole. I spent my days repeating “un grenn pa jou” as I provided the packet of medications they would take home with them.

“Un grenn pa jou”

At night I was welcomed with a variety of delicious Haitian staples like fried plantains, black beans, even goat meat that I grew to love and crave. Within weeks I was able to immerse myself within culture and people that surrounded me. On the flight back to the USA, I was already planning ways to return.

Though I saw many cases, one case stands out, particularly in my memory. Two boys had been sent to the pharmacy (me and one other provider) we had set up in the school to get Permethrin treatment for scabies. One boy helped the other behind him dress in the corner even though they were unrelated. Despite being unrelated, these boys were linked by common living conditions, socioeconomic status, and culture. At that moment they were no longer strangers from different families, they were brothers. The sense of unity and support between these two young boys was a striking example of compassion, unity, and Ubuntu.

 

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komal-kumar

Komal Kumar

Komal Kumar obtained her MPH in Epidemiology & Biostatistics from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is a researcher, public health advocate, and a 2017-2018 Fulbright Scholar to South Africa.

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