In September, Bruno Reich, president of the Ellicott City Rotary club, and Jean-Robert Anantua, president of the Build Haiti Foundation (BHF), traveled together to view potential sites that are being considered for an athletic field in rural Haiti. Such a field — which will host basketball, volleyball and tennis — is a commonplace site in Howard County, but not in rural Haiti, explained Anantua, especially since the field will allow young girls to participate in the athletic activities.
“This is a practice that is very rare in Haiti, particularly in rural areas,” said Anantua. “BHF believes that the construction of this facility will encourage women’s participation in sports through organized tournaments among area schools.”
The trip is just one example of activities associated with a partnership between the Ellicott City club and the BHF. The club also helps support the activities of Sante Total, a nonprofit that aims to provide sustainable health care to rural communities in the central plateau region of Haiti.
Alison Smith, executive director of Sante Total, recently completed her M.D./Ph.D. at Tulane University School of Medicine and is currently a general surgery resident at Tulane University School of Medicine. She has been involved in clinical work in Haiti since 2007 and has led medical relief teams there since 2009.
The Ellicott City club helps support Smith and her teams through fundraising and advocacy.
Sante Total means “total health” in Haitian Kreyol, explained Reich. Currently the club is raising funds to help finish construction of a medical clinic in Jacsonville, located in the northeast region of the central plateau, that will be used by Sante Total teams.
“When Sante Total sends a group of medical people to a rural area of Haiti, they kind of operate out in the open,” he said. “They bring all their medical stuff with them.” While on his September trip, Reich gathered some of the details the club needs in order to help fund the completion of the clinic. “This would mean a great deal for that mission because they could bring their medical supplies there and store them,” he said.
Building Haiti Together
Both BHF and Sante Total aim to consider the needs of an entire person, with the thought that this will help sustain Haiti in the future. For example, Anantua and other BHF leaders believe that organized sports help advance health awareness, as well as a spirit of achievement. Sports and physical education are part of a curriculum that achieves educational standards and goals for kids in Haiti. The new athletic field also will promote a culture of peace and social gender equality, he added.
BHF aims to lift Haitian people to a more sustainable and prosperous future by partnering with the community in Haiti, friends of Haiti and the Haitian diaspora in providing project management services, leadership development and fundraising support for infrastructure projects and community-building efforts in Haiti and abroad. BHF and Sante Total work closely with each other as well, allowing the Ellicott City club’s contributions to go toward work that is collaborative.
Escalated Health Needs
Through Sante Total, medical volunteers — trained and recruited by the organization — make quarterly visits to Jacsonville, working with donated medical supplies to treat patients in a temporary health clinic. Non-medical Sante Total volunteers also are involved in activities such as eyeglass fitting, translating (French and Spanish) and education projects. The Ellicott City Rotary club helps fund and promote the work of the Sante Total volunteers.
Following the destruction and devastation in Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, the need for health care for the people of Jacsonville and surrounding communities became more pronounced, with concerns of cholera and the spread of disease. Smith’s vision for permanent health care for the community solidified during this time.
Since then, over the course of 17 trips, volunteers have treated more than 10,000 patients. “The contribution of the Ellicott City Rotary club is not only for the short-term, but for long-term generations in Haiti,” said Smith.
With the construction of the medical facility underway in Jacsonville, Smith said she is hopeful that a transition to local medical staff by the relief team will establish permanent health care for the people.
Building Haiti’s Future
Even as Sante Total and BHF construct clinics and fields, both organizations — with the help of the Rotary club — are also aiming to ensure a better future for Haitians in multi-faceted ways.
BHF works to strengthen cooperation and partnerships between families, schools, local communities, grassroots organizations and the public and private sectors.
It also has established a Global Leadership Program that helps re-engage second-generation Haitians who have lost their connection to Haiti. The program also provides non-Haitians with an opportunity to get involved.
Anantua and other BHF leaders believe that Haiti is suffering from “brain drain” because Haitians are migrating out of the country due to political or economic pressures. Without the help of able government officials, doctors and architects, the recovery from the 2010 earthquake will take decades longer.
“The Ellicott City Rotary club has been involved in BHF and has always participated in all events,” said Anantua.