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

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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