Mayor’s and Nurses’ Breakfast for Haiti

The breakfast for Haiti this morning at RIM park gave the attendees much more than a simple tribute to Yvonne Martin and the raising of almost $10,000. Various speakers inspired with their own experiences in needy areas.

Betsy Wall, from the Foundation for International Development Assistance works with Haitian agriculture and was in the earthquake. She spoke about the historic and current needs of Haiti even before the earthquake and how the people of Haiti are resourceful. When she returned home, the TV pictures of food aid being thrown at people and a foreign military presence patrolling streets of desperate people upset her. The Haitians she works with are hardworking and persevering despite hardships. She told us our help is not always good help or compassionate help. An example, North American volunteers building projects that local people could build and get paid for to support their families.

This lead into a presentation by Sylvia Scott, RN, a Kenyan and Canadian, who dedicates her life to improving the villages near her original home in Kenya. She emphasized that Canadians or “developed world” volunteers should not be discouraged and that nurses and people like Yvonne Martin  make a difference. Sylvia was so impressed with the strangers giving out inoculations that she ended up finishing school and after immigrating to Canada, she returned to help her village. She emphasized that development and change must come from the people being helped themselves. They must decide what they need and they must be in control of their lives, not well meaning strangers.  The people of Sylvia’s village wanted a clinic built. It was built but then they found out they needed electricity and clean water and supplies to run it. Not to mention basic health and irrigation for crops. So they have moved forward with projects for those needs, including micro-businesses.

Diego Marquez-Leon, a male nursing student immigrant from Columbia then spoke. He decided to go somewhere in the world that would be the last place he would want to go. He chose India because he doesn’t like spicy Indian food. That choice led him to work in the slums and in a home for AIDS orphans. He found many rewards and some challenges such as the fact they worked with only the equivilant of a first aid kit.

Jill Gale, RN from Grand River Hospital talked about the hospital pairing with a hospital in Jamaica. Jamaica, where we go as tourists to richly appointed resorts while many of the citizens are mired in poverty and do not have universal health care.  Donors from the States had given the hospital sophisticated equipment but it sat on a balcony rusting because no one knew how to use it or fix it.  The people from Grand River taught “artisans”, basically untrained workers, how to fix the equipment the hospital had and the nurses taught the Jamaican maternity nurses a simple technique for reviving new-born babies that thrilled the people at the Jamaican hospital. Air Canada donated equipment for a birthing room and the artisans were taught how to maintain it. Jamaican nurses came to Canada to learn our techniques for running operating rooms and keeping supplies. A Jamaican doctor came to Canada and taught our doctors and nurses how to do breach births instead of relying on Caesarians.

I am always amazed at the number of people going about quietly changing the world for the better.

The morning gave all of much food for thought or “reflections” as the nurses call it on how to do foreign development and aid well and how to do it badly. A necessity as the world works with Haiti to recover.


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