The Huffington Post features our community arts program

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Our community arts program is what separates us from other medical non-profits. Along with 17 doctors and nurses, we brought five teachers and social workers with us to Haiti do arts programming with the children at the hospital and two nearby orphanages. The children LOVED it. This article in The Huffington Post talks about our community arts program, and how the Haitian children's incredible resilience and spirit really shined through during play. You can also learn more detail about our community arts program by reading Maureen Mahoney-Barraclough's blog post and two posts by Susan D’Aloia, our community arts section leader. The arts and social work component of Unified for Global Healing was the vision of our executive director and co-founder, Zola Bruce, who was inspired to start the organization in 2005 after volunteering in Haiti with doctors Sandy Scott and Thea James. Scott and James, our other two co-founders, had been traveling to Haiti on medical missions for 11 years prior. As Dotti Vojak, an emergency room nurse who volunteered with us on this trip, put it at dinner on evening, "Healing peoples' wounds, that's just part of it. Hearing the kids laughing in the other room, that's what it's all about."
Photograph by Tamara Fitzpatrick

(De) Constructing Haiti

It’s been a few weeks since I came back from Haiti, and I just now feel as if I have realigned myself to life in New York. For multiple mornings, I was still listening for the rooster to wake me up at 4am, still dreaming of omelette fromage and toast for breakfast, listening for Kom ou ye?, still anticipating the hugs and screams from children who knew my name after the first day they met me.

Being in Haiti was a fragmented dream in many ways. I hadn’t been back to work in Haiti since 2005, and I knew it would be a different experience. This time the experience went deeper, something felt familiar, pain I remembered and could relate to, the need to move on and feel blessed to be alive. Honesty, ingenuity, and art surrounded me everywhere.

I visited patient rooms to distribute free clothing and shoes that were donated, checked in on my team to make sure they were taking breaks to eat and drink water while working, and then going out to the tent to hear the laughter and feeling the healing energy of the art program. Seeing each component run smoothly helped me appreciate all of the work it took to put together a collective team in a short amount of time.

Everyone was ready and flexible in their roles and rarely complained about limitations. Instead, they found a way to push their own limits. I was amazed to see the incubator that the Pediatric team made along with Haitian staff to help the 28 week old premature baby in its fight to live. When I went to the community art tent, I saw a little girl jump with one leg from her wheelchair and onto the wool rug (that covered the cement floor) where the other children sat ready to start their next art project. In the same class, I saw a little boy who lost his father due to typhoid, taken care of by our team members who served as surrogate parents. I also saw a woman smile as if a miracle happened when she discovered that through Mirror Visualization Feedback therapy, she could relieve herself of the pain she was feeling in her phantom limb by using a mirror, plus, she now had a new furniture item for her tent. It pulled my heart strings to see the power of touch when Susan D’Aloia gently massaged a child’s hand using pressure points at a hand massage station set-up at one of the orphanages; simultaneously at the yoga station, I saw Chia-Ti Chiu teach children the tree pose.

There were so many stories that we shared daily and we were fortunate to have Sarah Ryley capture some of our most poignant moments. Our photographer, Tamara Fitzpatrick, also documented many hidden stories using a realist perspective. There was so much to see, much to learn, and so many new connections that we all made. Building relationships with Haitian medical professionals, translators, community members, patients and their families, children without families, each other, and ourselves is really important to doing this work.

I found that this visit to Haiti felt different. Its slowly healing, is in repair, but also renewing itself. As the Executive Director, I feel like my vision for Unified for Global Healing is also renewed. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work in Haiti and help in a way that is meaningful and culturally relevant. I am proud to have new UFGH team members from all career disciplines join our family of compassionate professionals that love helping others in a selfless way.

Although back in New York, with more resources, an education, a job, plenty of food to eat and water to drink, I truly gain an understanding of what it means to not take what I have for granted. I learn from people who don’t have these privileges, a Buddhist lesson I have been reading for years; how to strengthen the ability to have internal happiness with nothing.


File Under: Adorable

From Untitled Album

One day a member of our community arts team, artist and teacher Maureen M. Barraclough, was too sick to interact with the kids. They made her these cards, a testament to how much our arts programming was appreciated.

UFGH in The Huffington Post: Haitian hospitals awash with supplies, struggle to pay staff

Sadly, part of the reason why groups like Unified for Global Healing are so necessary in Haiti right now is because hospitals lack the funds to adequately pay for their own Haitian medical staff. There are some hospitals where the staff hasn't been paid at all, or has only been partially paid, since the earthquake. This article in The Huffington Post discusses how hospitals in Haiti, like Hopital Adventiste d'Haiti, are literally overflowing with donated supplies, but lack the funds to cover basic expenses like salaries. When we arrived at Hopital Adventiste on July 12, the six-month anniversary of the earthquake, the hallways were indeed lined with boxes of donated supplies that a whole team of university students from Loma Linda University were in the process of sorting through. And there were very few Haitian doctors and nurses working the floors so, accordingly, the hallways were essentially empty of patients. The scene was definitely in contrast to what some of us were expecting, having heard that hundreds of people were living in tents in the hospital's yard immediately after the earthquake, awaiting care. But as word got out that we were in town our patient census steadily grew. On the first day we saw 26 patients in the Emergency Room. By the last day, we saw 107 patients in the emergency room. That's in addition to the 32 - 40 in-patients we saw on a daily basis (these stats, thanks to our head of research, Dr. Khalid Elhussein).

Despite the hectic pace, "I told the team to make working together with the Haitian staff our daily mantra and I asked them to pose their questions to our Haitian colleagues before asking me or one of our nurses anything," said Dr. Thea James, one of our co-founders. We learned a lot this way, especially when dealing with conditions that we as American doctors aren't exposed to, like typhoid. In exchange were able to teach the Haitian staff a few things. For example, Dr. Richard Zaidner taught Dr. Erwine Dina Jeune how to use ultrasound for emergency care. We try to incorporate teaching into all of our trips so our impact will last long after we leave!

My Haiti Diary

Photos and entry by Maureen Mahoney-Barraclough

I have been home from Haiti for over a week now. Every day I discover that I am not really all together home yet. Just like my UFGH teammates, many everyday occurrences trigger vivid memories of my time in Haiti. Paved roads, driving my own car, variety and abundance of food, clean water from the tap all remind me of how comfortable (and grateful) I am. But my memories also inspire me since the Haitian people have none of these amenities and yet they were joyful, generous, loving, and appreciative in all my interactions with them.

Also, the several times I was able to walk from our hotel to the hospital, I waved to a family that lived in a tent near our hotel. In a modest tent labeled USAID, I noticed a father and mother, two teenage girls, two young girls, and a very young boy living in a tent that might be 10 foot square, at most. Their tent looked sturdy enough, but it was located next to a garbage heap. In the morning, the father was cooking over an outdoor charcoal fire. The girls were dressed neatly in green and white uniforms walking to school. When I passed by another time, the father was sitting on the stone bench outside the tent reading to the very young boy. The mother was preparing some kind of green vegetable in a towel in her lap. I wondered in amazement where they get clean water, where they bathe, how the girl's uniforms look so clean and pressed.

As I reflect on this, my son and husband are tent camping in Yellowstone. Their tent is in a beautiful pristine environment. They have lots of food available to them, camp showers and toilets, and most importantly, if it gets too rough, they can just drive home to all our routine comforts. I don't wish lack of comfort for anyone; I just wish that everyone everywhere could enjoy the stability and comfort that we do. Through their example, I am reminded every day to be joyful.

As I drive into the paved parking lot for Urgent Care in my hometown to get treatment for my pesky cough, images of the Salle d'Urgence at the Hopital Adventiste in Carrefour, Haiti materialize once again and disorient me. The Salle d'Urgence is a large light brown canvas tent erected over a cement pad, maybe 20x30 feet. There is an open door at either end that provides some circulation in the 100-degree heat and 100 percent humidity. Gray woolen blankets are spread loosely on the cement floor, art supplies are stacked on the wooden benches lining the walls of the tent, our Haitian translator is writing new Creole words for us, and best of all, about 20 children are eagerly awaiting commencement of today's art projects and circle games.

Our translator, Roosevelt, (very proud of his name honoring our 32nd US president) teaches us Creole words like pliye (fold), papye (paper), penti (paint), koule (color), seezors (no explanation necessary). Creole is a lyrical language, the very cadence and inflections of which make me smile. Read More


Melissa’s Sob

By Susan D’Aloia
Saying goodbye to the Haitian people I worked with in Carrefour, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, proves inevitable. A few days before the end, I think of the participants through the aspects of their lives I have come to know. Building three-dimensional connections take time, experiences and even minor conflicts in order to build trust. I recall how Teddy, a nine-year-old boy, makes a Warrior3 poise in yoga -- sticking his tongue out in intense focus every time he stretches his body. His mother, who attends closing ceremonies, shares how sad her son was the night before because the program had to end.

I think about Fara, 10 years old, who vacillates between taking care of her three-year-old brother in workshop when he gets fussy, to fiercely making decisions about her particular project’s design. Calvin and his friends embrace competition as they master the game of ‘Set’ with Mark, one of the translators. And Roosevelt, the core translator I have worked with, tells me anecdotes regarding the hospital and community. I too learn a bit more about his family and his girlfriend.

On Saturday, many of us attend church on the hospital grounds. Afterwards, packed inside the tap-tap, the funky colored bus for transportation, we say goodbye. Melissa watches us. Melissa, during workshops became intermittently feisty, passionate and demanding; as well resigned, frustrated and shut down. This is not such an unusual fluctuation for the universal teenager if one exists. This Haitian teenager’s trajectory, however, along with her surrounding peers, proves rife with overarching economic obstacles so to survive day-by-day. Today, Melissa wears a scowl, her hands on her thin hips staring down the tap-tap. I say her name and a goodbye. She looks down and walks around. She lifts her head again and my eyes meet hers. Then she sobs, looking down again.

I negotiate Melissa’s sobs, considering various degrees of the obvious and the mystified. A program where she experienced success, which also served as a space where she could be annoyed, joyful, frustrated and celebratory, has come to an end. Loss begets loss, as any human being can attest. Her sobs ring the joy and pain of life. They too ring of overarching injustice.

The arts team I have worked with -- Chia-Ti, Kiyana, and Maureen -- feels special to me. They comprise heart, soul and dedication. Melissa, Teddy, Calvin, Fara, Mark, Roosevelt, and the other Haitians we worked with, too are special. They are filled with heart, soul, dedication and a desire to embody these principles through action. They want to make art and create change. Upon creating an interactive “puzzle” of Haiti as outlined by Maureen, participants colored index cards with a broad black stroke on one side and a number on the other. Through a coordinated grid, the collection of designed cards formed a colorful poster of Haiti ornamented with symbols from life.

The follow up activity sought youth’s commentary, on what they loved about Haiti and what they wished for it. Loves: The food, the flag, the music, the people. Wishes: End the misery, advance, end the misery, create jobs, end the misery, make schools, more schools, more beauty…

So Melissa’s sob has come to encompass this ache, too, the ache of these collective wishes as communicated by the youth in workshop. My own thoughts around the political economy of Haiti, the Global South, and the territorial battles of disaster relief, will find their place in my conception of Haiti in the weeks to come. Melissa’s sob, for now, monopolizes my thoughts. This depiction communicates my goodbye and my gratitude to Haiti and the Haitian people.


These are two letters that our community arts team received on their last day at Hopital Adventiste d'Haiti, both from Cadet Williams, a quiet teenager who was a regular participant in the activities. While he was always engrossed in the art projects, he had a somewhat limited affect and didn't talk much, making the letters an all the more moving reveal of his internal thoughts. One of our team members, Michelson Dorime, an EMT and pre-med student who was born in Haiti and speaks fluent Creole, provided the translation.

The top note says:
Today, I take the occasion to say thank you to you. I say thank you, for the photos you took for us. I say thank you because you thought of Haiti, you left your activities in your country in order to come help us.

Unfortunately I do not have anything [tangible] to give you in return as a gift. But the gift I would like to give you is Jesus. Take Jesus (with you) because the world is going to end. -- Cadet Williams, Thank you

The bottom note says:
Today, I feel happy to write you to tell you thank you. I say thank you for the beautiful games that you showed us and thank you because you thought of Haiti and all the children. I salute all the children that are living in the USA country. -- Cadet Williams, Thank you

Haunted by Haiti

By Dr. Seema Tiku, pediatrician

Ever since I got back, every little thing reminds me of my time in Haiti. From the smoothly paved roads I drive down, to the garbage chute I can easily rid my waste in, to the air-conditioned stores that I comfortably enter. But one thing that haunts me more than anything else since I’ve arrived back to the States is the site of a healthy infant. This poses a significant problem since I’m a practicing pediatrician.

There was a patient in particular that I cared for at L’Hopital Adventiste that turned me. His name was Kenny; he was three days old and born eight weeks early. But according to the hospital he was born at in Port-au-Prince, he was no better than an infant born nine months too early. He wasn’t considered a viable patient at 28 weeks to the birth hospital, so his parents asked his aunt to take him by whatever means possible to us because maybe we would consider caring for him. Without medical care, Kenny would hardly survive another day.

That was my first day in Haiti. I was panic-stricken. In front of me was a 1.6-pound baby wrapped in a white towel on an exam table, while his adolescent aunt sat nervously in a chair across the room. The panic was rooted in two facts: One was that Kenny was actually a very viable patient with a high chance of survival, and second was that his viability was based on my ability to care for him at a highly equipped and staffed hospital, which he did not have access to.

And so it began. I spent most of that week calling colleagues in the states and trying to be creative with what we supplies we had, trying to supply Kenny with the best care that he needed. There was a lot of guesswork involved because we were unable to test Kenny for any neonatal complications. I tried to make the best choices I could, but I felt blindfolded the whole time I was caring for him. It was enough to make me want to pull my hair out.

Kenny was tough -- with what little we were doing for him, with what little equipment, volunteers and staff we had, he was alert and breathing comfortable. Every night I would go to bed and my dreams were about him, every morning I would wake up and worry that he didn’t make it through the night. And every day that I was there, I would go into to see him in our makeshift NICU and he would give me a wide stare. He wanted to live. It was almost like I could read his mind and he was saying, “Just give me a little help, I can make it.”

So, the day that we found out that Project Medishare, a US-based satellite hospital, was able to accept him to their NICU, I literally jumped for joy. We packed him up in a cardboard box with whatever resuscitation equipment we could bring and tried to maneuver the unpaved roads of Port-au-Prince in our ambulance. We were too scared to use the siren thinking it would cause stress in his frail body. We were too scared to use the air-conditioning even though it was July in Haiti, worried that his frail body couldn’t withstand it. We held onto that box for dear life for that 60-minute ride, worried that his frail body couldn’t withstand all the potholes.

But then we finally arrived at freedom. We brought Kenny into his new home to meet his new caregivers. Even though I was going to miss seeing his wide eyes every morning, I was so happy that he was going to get the care that he deserved, the care that he asked for. The minute I got back into that ambulance was the first deep breath I had in about five days. I would sleep tonight. Sometimes there is a happy ending…

Sometimes there is not…

I learned about a week later, the night before I was to head back to the states that Kenny had passed. For what reason I do not know, nor do I think I care. It is his wide stare that haunts me when I look at the glowing face of a healthy newborn.


To create; to live...

By Susan D’Aloia

“There’s no place in the world I’d rather be right now than enveloped here in Haiti.”

This is what I wrote as a Facebook status update after three days of working as part of a team of doctors, nurses, social workers and artists here in Carrefour, an area of Port-au-Prince. That status update attempts to encapsulate my experience of visiting an orphanage, making star mobiles with young people, and playing kick ball on the hospital grounds while attempting to avoid the sun. Yet, even that descriptive falls short of harnessing the arts and community program of which I have been privileged to take part during this delegation. Today, with my team mates consisting of American practitioners and Haitian translators, we built accordion books in a project titled “Imaginer.” Eighteen young people between the ages of two and 17 drew a “place” from their imagination, created “a person” of their choice, and represented a “feeling” any way they wanted through creativity. Participants drew houses with the natural wealth of Haiti’s banana, papaya and “chedok” trees, and boats on the sea. The people depicted included self-portraits, “zamni pou l’ecole” (a friend), family members, and even Barack Obama.

Multiple projections can be pulled from this. Youth will express themselves, have fun doing it, experience more connection and heal. It need be mentioned the young people my team works with include patients that have lost limbs or have protracted injuries; young people whose family members are patients or were patients and still live in tents on the hospital grounds; and children who have found employment at the hospital, whose labor exchange is food and access to a more protected setting.

One participant,eight years old (whose name we will keep confidential), has participated in our programming every day in between late afternoon walks on the grounds with his rail-thin father, a patient in the hospital. It is hard to not to become affected by his smile and penetrating eyes as he holds his ailing father’s hand and introduces us to him. His unbridled enthusiasm to draw, play, learn a game and create surfaces every day. I am also struck by what I experience as his precocious sense of regard. On Monday, after working for six days, I feel ill and stayed back at the hotel to rest and hydrate. When I returned to the hospital grounds after the next day, the little boy immediately expressed concern over my sickness. That day he draws and colors a vibrate picture of a house and trees along with a self-portrait. His feeling was expressed via a boat on water.

That night, his father died from his battle with typhoid.

The next day, we prepared a bag with a few shirts, toys and a pillow from the donated items we brought as a delegation. The little boy, whose mom died two years before, awaits his fate somewhat determined by a distant family member who was expected to call after learning his father passed. As he waited for this call, he attended all the arts programming offered. He did puzzles and played with stuffed animals, and made art from ink pads. He demonstrated what might be considered anxiety when asking repeated questions regarding having enough materials. Finally, mid-day the family members got in touch, explaining that they don’t know him at all and can’t take care of him. He is also struggling with his health and it looks like he will end up at one of the many local orphanages. The hospital administration, though overwhelmed with patients and scrambling for money, acted concerned about him and agreed to have him stay in the hospital grounds until a measured decision can be made. Chia-Ti, my teammate, decorated the small area where he will sleep with the artwork he’s done over the last week, including a visor he decorated in preparation for a nature walk we went on. He has worn it for two days.

I do not know the outcome of this little boy's story, nor how his grieving process will unfold. I cannot assertively assess how much healing making art and playing games for two weeks will provide for him or the dozens of other children we have been so lucky to connect with through art and play. This little boy is but one Haitian child who survived what the kids in our program call “goodah goodah goodah!” ⎯ a name describing the sound of the earthquake. It is for certain, however, that the interactive activities we have shared with these Haitian children at the hospital grounds and the orphanages we have visited has brought us closer to these kids and their indomitable will to live.


Unified for Global Healing in the Huffington Post

Our team arrived in Haiti on the six-month anniversary of the earthquake, which was also the same day that the government ended it's mandate that all health care be provided free of charge. The hospital we are volunteering at, L'Hopital Adventiste d'Haiti, is one of the many hospitals that started charging in order to avoid bankruptcy. This article in the Huffington Post talks about this transition, and how our team is helping to manage it. Props to Doctors Sandra Scott, Juliet Hwang, Seema Tiku, Thea James and Raja Brahmbhatt for helping to save the life of the 28-week premature baby on the night we toured the hospital. Since then, our team has tirelessly treated an average of 80 patients a day, according to our head of research, Dr. Khalid ElHussein.