Sak Pase: What’s Happenin’ in Haiti

June 09, 2014
Haiti SRT team
The SRT Project Team: Zachary Morrow, Garland Austin, Elle Gault, and Lily Zerihun

By Lily Zerihun

Bonjou! Hello, and welcome to the Haiti blog for Duke Global Health Institute’s Student Research Training Program.

This summer, we have the opportunity to spend 8 weeks in Léogâne, Haiti to learn about health practices and community needs through two survey-based research projects.

We arrived on June 1st after a breathtaking plane ride over the Bahamas, and made it to the small town of Léogâne after a gut-wrenching car ride through Port-Au-Prince traffic. We quickly found our new home to be a peaceful place, nestled between scenic mountains, sugarcane fields, and palm trees.

We are working with an organization called Family Health Ministries (FHM), which focuses on collaborative projects with Haitian communities to increase accessibility and quality of healthcare resources. This organization serves the cause of improving quality of life by tailoring treatment and education programs to fit the community’s specific needs.

With the help of translators, our group splits up into two teams and spends 5-6 hours per day working in the community. The first group goes into neighborhoods to take blood pressure/doppler measurements and to ask survey questions about risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. The other group administers surveys at a local clinic to study community experiences with HPV and cervical cancer, and to understand acceptability of a potential HPV vaccination program.

Our lives outside of work are peaceful with a dose of excitement; whether it’s meeting new guesthouse residents, visiting scenic beaches, spending time with puppies and cute kids, or avoiding the widespread Chikungunya virus. The guesthouse staff members help us practice our Creole and fill the house with sweet laughter. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the 24/7 aroma of mouthwatering Haitian food, and the fruit smoothies that sweeten our meals after a long day of work.

Although the language barrier puts us way out of our comfort zones, we have been challenged to improve our Haitian Creole skills through biweekly language tutoring and plenty of practice with the beautiful, friendly Haitians living in our community.

I hope that this research project might play a positive role in the reduction of chronic disease burdens in Haiti. I’d also say that the personal awareness and empowerment I’ve already gained from participating in the SRT program is far greater than anything I could have imagined. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been impassioned to work long-term for the mission of health equity, and I’m only beginning to understand the power of multidisciplinary Global Health perspectives in the fight against disease morbidity.

Look out for another blog post next week to see how we’re doing... orevwa (goodbye) for now!