Journal from Haiti #7

This journal chronicles the six months my mother, Martin Johnson, spent in Haiti from October, 1987 to February, 1988. She worked as an RN in a clinic sponsored by a non-profit located in Searcy, Arkansas. Jerry Myhan, Director of the Clinic, had his young family with him. Haitian workers in the clinic served as interpreters, clerks, and medication management. The following is taken from the journal she kept with a little editing on my part.

Jerry examining a young adolescent with TB

Jerry examining a young adolescent with TB

January 26, 1988

A lull in life in Haiti, hence a good time to begin this journal. (This is the first entry in her journal even though it was her next to the last entry before leaving Haiti. It seems that she journaled backwards in time!)

The reason for the lull brings me to one of the many questions about Haiti and Haitian people. One week ago during a staff meeting at the clinic the Haitian workers demanded a raise. After learning it was not forthcoming and they could only expect what had been agreed upon when they were hired, they announced they would not work anymore!! So for now the clinic is closed. And it appears in danger of being permanently closed.

Another staff meeting has been held since then; the workers demanded $100 a month for three days a week of work. Jerry, our clinic director, has investigated the pay scale at other clinics and found ours above average. From the beginning of the clinic, the goal has been to generate just enough money to pay Haitian workers a reasonable amount according to the current pay scale and to replenish the pharmacy. This has been done as long as contributions from the states came in the form of the AGAPE Fund (for patients who can pay nothing.)

Jerry Myan in clinic

Jerry Myhan in clinic

So in light of the purpose of the clinic – to help sick people – and the fact that these workers had no steady job before the clinic opened — why would they walk out???

Some say —

  • They are bluffing.
  • They think Jerry is bluffing, that he will relent and rehire them at a higher pay.
  • That our pay was too high to begin with and we had no room to bargain.
  • That Haitians believe that all Americans have to do is get more money is write home and ask for it. (One of the workers made this statement.)

But whatever the real reason, it will be a sad occasion to close the clinic permanently. It would have been open two years in February. There are 10,600 patient records. Many were given prescriptions without a chart being made. When mobile clinics were conducted records were not made, but I estimate over 13,000 patients have been served.

The clinic has an excellent reputation for quality care, considered one of the top three medical services serving North Haiti and the only one specifically established in the poorer section of Cap Haitien.

Reading Seldon Rodman’s book about Haiti I found this to be insightful. A benevolent American planted a large grove of coconuts only to return a few weeks later to find the nuts dug up and eaten; when your stomach is empty you can’t very well plan for the future. In another incident where young trees were planted in an effort at reforestation, those same young trees were harvested before they could grow —- to provide charcoal to cook with. Immediate needs seem to prevent planning or problem solving.

Numerous well-meaning efforts have been frustrated or defeated by similar incidents. But I would heartily recommend this type of work again and again. For one reason – to exemplify Christ’s love.

I find it interesting to compare these problems with those that can still be found in Haiti. I can’t help but think of the work of Healing Hands International — training teachers in problem solving skills so they can then teach their students these same skills. This seems to me to be a worthwhile effort that can reap many benefits.

Good intentions have poured money into Haiti, especially after the earthquake. I pray for wise heads to look carefully at the ways money from good intentions is used to make lasting improvement in the lives and souls of Haitian people.

Thanks be to God for those who give time, money, skills, and love to those who are without the grace of God and do not know the love of Christ.



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