I want to share with you my first meeting with people from the Konbit Sante team. One day in 2005 I was training a group of interns in a conference room at Justinian University Hospital where I was a resident in obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN). A Konbit Sante volunteer attended the training and afterwards asked me how I saw women’s health in Cap-Haitian. I answered that although there is a need for improved conditions and care at the hospital, the greatest needs lay out in the community and in the countryside where there is no formal care for women. I also said that if there were basic care available beyond the hospital, there would be less need for women to end up at the hospital as a last resort. I wanted the doctors and residents from the hospital to spend time in the community, so that they understood the needs of the people better, and the people could come to know and trust their own doctors.
What affected me most about this first meeting was that this volunteer really listened. As I learned more about Konbit Sante and participated in meetings with them, I was impressed, not by their expertise, but by the way they interacted with people. I am disappointed when international aid organizations simply bring in their own staff and implement their own plans. Konbit Sante supports a Haitian staff and doesn’t impose an outside plan. At Konbit Sante, we all sit together with the Ministry of Health, medical professionals, and community members, to talk about the situation and come up with a plan together, with respect for the contribution each brings to the table. This is truly the konbit that we talk about.
I understand that much of what you read about Haiti is sad, particularly since the earthquake and cholera epidemic. As a member of our konbit, please see beyond our poor, homeless, hungry and sick, and see our hope and our dreams. Don’t be frustrated and discouraged by the great challenges Haiti faces. Our work together - yours and mine - takes time. I am very thankful for your continued support, which allows us at Konbit Sante to continue to work together to make our health system stronger so that many more Haitians will live longer and productive lives.
Youseline Télémaque, MD
In-Country Program Manager
P.S. That first conversation and many more after that have led to positive change. Now doctors spend time in the communities where their patients live we, and our partners train health workers to go out into the community to do health education and conduct mobile outreach clinics for pregnant women and children. I am proud that some partners want to replicate these models in other parts of Haiti. In this way, we can have an even bigger impact than in just our service area.