Tag Archives: Charities in Haiti

Nepal Journal: There was once nothing.

Special guest blog by Dr. Nikhil Joshi, currently on the ground in Nepal for Team Broken Earth.

I’m hyperventilating.

I need At least 10 translators. They need excellent English skills, and then have to be able to speak at least 3 of Nepal’s 40 or so dialects. They have to be available, affordable and willing to work the long hours our team will.

But that’s not all. I need space. I need clinic space, enough for at least 8 nurses and physicians. Separate rooms to allow people to be examined without loss of their dignity- which is something critically important to preserve as these people have gone through so much.

What about lab equipment? A laboratory tech? Clean disposal of needles? Supplies of dressings, antibiotics, anti-tuberculosis medications? The list goes on and on.

I sit down. I feel defeated. The day hasn’t even earnestly begun and I’m overwhelmed with the sheer complexity that comes when trying to start an endeavor of this magnitude.

But I remind myself that even Team Broken Earth had a beginning. Few people think about that now. We often focus on the excellent work multiple teams from across Canada have done. But before there were two story buildings and Haitian patients walking on rebuilt femurs, there was people like Dr. Furey sleeping on the floor in some random house as patients slept in nearby tents.

There was once nothing. And now Team Broken Earth has launched a multitude of teams and initiatives and are regarded as ‘local’ partners rather than sporadic visitors. The teaching our organization has done in treating patients with trauma was so popular and timely that it captured the gratitude of Haiti’s press and President. From a humble tent on the ground, there is now a stable two story building where people receive aid, are taught and can come for help. There is a foundation laid in the city that people can see. A place that says our commitment to the country is not transient, is not dependent on media coverage, but grounded in a shared vision and hope. Consistent work and focus over a long time will yield results.

Foundations. That is what I need to lay. I need to talk to people, as many people as I possibly can. I need to find who needs help and what help they need. I need to accept that I can’t help everyone but realize I can help someone. I just need to find other local partners whose core needs match our core competencies. I just need to find people who need help and those who can help us.

My mother taught me when I was young that if a problem seems too big to break it down and down into manageable pieces.

So today I’m going to try and find us some translators.

Wish me luck
-Nikhil Joshi

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When the groove is good.

Each update made me more and more excited. Sometimes pictures are just not enough. We are building something. It feels like we’re taking something back from the earthquake’s devastation. Putting a foundation down. Literally, a foundation. A footprint that says Team Broken Earth and our amazing supporters like Columbus are here in Haiti to stay. This new building represents such a big part of our aspirations here.

I can’t help but draw similarities between the new building and our teams. Both started from an idea and have grown so far beyond what we expected or hoped.

Our team is now composed of over 500 people from across the country.  The building – a discussion with our good friend and tireless supporter, Brendan Paddick – is now up to the second floor.

The team is a cohesive working unit.  The building is now a design of working support structures all leaning on each other for support. The team will make an ever-lasting effect on patients… the building, on the face of Haiti.

The teams continue to grow as will the new infrastructure for this country. We can all be proud of that.

Of course it’s business as usual here. Well, Haiti’s version of usual, which means non-stop. The new ER doctor, Brook Saunders, has received his baptism by fire. The surgical team has not stopped with a full day of clinic in two hospitals.

It was good to watch as Dr. Rideout consulted with new patients. They all offered the smiles he’d soon make perfect. And that in turn made us all smile.

– Andrew

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One too many mornings…

This is all too familiar. Early, early rise. Drive to the airport in the dark. The cold still biting. The city’s still asleep. The airport lit up like a greenhouse.

This can be the toughest part sometimes… times when I am not so psyched about the trip. To be honest, sometimes I am just exhausted. Dead tired. Worn down. Sometimes, it’s because of the bureaucratic weight of the teams and the organization and keeping everything in motion. Sometimes it’s just too many balls in the air and the tension of making sure nothing drops. Sometimes, I just want a break. Order a pizza. Binge-watch the latest season of House of Cards. Sleep late.

It’s bright inside the airport. Start seeing the familiar faces. The smiles are big. Even bigger are the smiles of the flight agents checking us in. They know all about the team and love to see us coming. There are hugs and coffee and laughs. There’s an energy. An indescribable excitement building with each team member arriving. And that is it. That’s the turning point. It’s the team. It’s the immediate sense of the team that makes those previous feelings fade instantly. Kevin Spacey will have to wait.

Another 30 people. Another 30 families and loved ones, giving up their vacation time to help. That gets me every time! Even though some of the trips become routine, standing here in the airport, watching people make this sacrifice, well, it’s humbling.

I’m a lucky guy. I’m blessed by the energy and support of my own family, who give more than I will ever know. I am inspired by each and every team member, and I’m overwhelmed with a feeling of humility from the support we have received from people across the country. I feel a responsibility to not let them down. To honour their generosity.

I know that there is a lot to do. A lot to accomplish. I know that there are lives to change… patients and our own. I’m ready. Let’s get this mission going!

– Andrew

PS. We all read your Tweets and posts and messages of support. That’s what fuels us for a week in Haiti. Thank you for that and please keep them coming!

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Bangladesh, Day 3

Thanks to all who sent well wishes and thoughts on yesterday’s post. It really does mean a lot to me and re-energizes me in so many ways.

Today was better.

We visited Dhaka which has approximately 15 million people so it was a dense day, dense in every sense of the word.

We travelled throughout Dhaka to the older part of the city to visit a SAJIDA hospital. It was without a doubt one of the more interesting drives I have taken. There were more rickshaws and other forms of transportation than I could have dreamed existed.  On the way home, it took us 2-3 hours to travel a short distance through what I can only describe as an ocean of people, not waves, or groups, but constant people side by side, rickshaw by rickshaw for kilometres.

When we got to the hospital, we had several presentations and discussed with how Broken Earth and SAJIDA could collaborate.   They have the equipment and skills, but need more education and support. I think that is where we could help. They average 3-4 C-sections per day, but need more training in infant resuscitation, a course we could teach them. Then they can pass on that knowledge.

Following that we ran a busy clinic with the help of local doctors and nurses.  It was incredibly rewarding to work along side such remarkable people, to work with, and learn from them.

From the clinic into the operating room, where Dr. Rideout helped change the fate of child who may otherwise have gone through life with just three fingers.

We met one patient yesterday who was born with no legs and only two fingers on one hand.  He lives in rural Bangladesh, and despite his perceived disability, he is a successful farmer (farming the land himself), husband and father.   He was so thankful to see us, he demanded to visit with us tonight to sing us a song of appreciation.

In many ways this place is different than Haiti, but the human spirit, hope and determination to help those in need is a universal tenet, it just gets clouded sometimes.

Speaking of Haiti, I was extremely saddened to hear of the loss in Haiti yesterday. 18 people killed, celebrating Carnival, our thoughts and prayers are with our Haitian families and friends.

Best,

Andrew

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If someone asks for help

I didn’t want to come here. Bangladesh. I had a lot on my plate between work and Haiti and finding time in between to be a husband and a dad. A friend of mine had approached me a while back to come and assess their charity and explore where they can improve and how Broken Earth could use its skills to help improve theirs.

I was being selfish.

I justified it to myself that I was trying to protect the resources we have for Haiti. But as quick as I said no, it struck me why we went to Haiti in the first place…

if someone asks for help and you are able, you should.

I thought about the opportunities that could exist with Broken Earth in a different country without changing our focus from Haiti.  It struck me that we could offer to support teaching and education while not diluting our efforts to the people of Haiti.

Frankly if I had stopped and thought about the work, the risks and the sacrifices prior to going to Haiti, I don’t know if I would have gone in the first place. But I did. I’m glad I did. I’m proud of how many of us have now chosen to go.

I have often dreamed what mountains lie beyond Haiti, what tasks and opportunities would present themselves next. I never dreamed it would be Bangladesh, but then again, I had never dreamed of Haiti either.

Please stay tuned as this journey begins. Like that first trip to Port-au-Prince in 2010, I have no doubt that it will be an eye-opener and I really want to share the experience with you.

Best,

Andrew