Reflections from our Duke SRT Students

July 14, 2016


Our time here in Haiti has been an incredibly immersive experience into global health fieldwork. As we look back at the past 6 weeks, we can’t believe how quickly our time here has gone by. Our first few days were marked by confusion and excessive sweating; Creole made no sense to us and we suddenly became known as “blans” everywhere we went. Haiti was a feast for our senses – the hot sun constantly blazing down on us, the varied smells of the Leogane market, the ripe mangos seemingly hanging everywhere, the colorful tap taps and motos zipping down the streets. Everyday it seemed we were stepping further and further away from the life we had just left in the US.

Our first days working were overwhelming – we jumped headfirst into the local community literally walking straight into people’s houses to question them about their knowledge and use of contraception (not exactly the things typically covered when first introduced to someone).

These experiences have been eye opening. Not only have we learned from the information these women have shared with us, but we have engaged with and observed the Haitian culture and lifestyle by getting up close and personal with the women we have met. We have witnessed first-hand how children are cared for by the entire community. We were given a tour of a Klerin (the local moonshine) distillery we stumbled upon one day by an enthusiastic businessman. Our translator, Jameson, invited us to his home and showed us his bakery, even dropping off bread for us some mornings. A women showed us how she makes Haitian coffee and we got to try some (strong but very sweet). However, we have also been privy to the realities of a developing nation: the excessive trash in the streets, the lack of running water and electricity, the flooding that happens even after a light rain, and a lack of knowledge of and access to healthcare. These realizations have
been sobering and thought-provoking. Although Haiti is full of potential and hopeful, hardworking people, there are many systemic obstacles blocking the country’s path to success. Excessive poverty and political instability have led to a severe lack of opportunity in the country, and there are no simple solutions to addressing the myriad of issues that plague Haitians.

We talk about these issues a lot, and we’re leaving this country with a heightened understanding of the depth and history regarding Haiti’s current state. This newfound awareness has made our fieldwork all the more important to us and has helped us form a meaningful personal connection with the country. We are grateful for the experience to work in Haiti with Family Health Ministries, and our understanding of development, global health, and the world has been greatly impacted by our time here.

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