Deworming. That word has become a natural part of my vocabulary over the last few years, but I know that most of you don’t even know what that word really means (and it kind of sounds gross, so maybe you would prefer not to know!) There are many reasons intestinal worms aren’t a major problem in the US: we have a good understanding of basic hygiene, a really great infrastructure that provides us with clean running water and reliable sewage systems. Intestinal worms are a huge problem in developing countries and affect children the most, robbing their body of essential nutrients and the ability to grow, thrive and learn. I’m not going to spell out the illness and problems here in detail because Deworm the World has done a fantastic job of explaining the issue. Click on the link for more information!
I recently had the opportunity to fulfill a deworming project that The Orchard Evangelical Free Church, from the Chicago area, had sponsored for their sister church in Astruc and 2 other satellite churches in the district. Do you know that deworming is as simple as providing one pill a year? This is the third year The Orchard has invested in this project. Each time they have added a new church/school, they provide educational materials and educate the teachers, pastors and school administrators on worm prevention and hygiene, so that they in turn can educate their students. The first year they educated and dewormed the main church and community in Astruc. Last year they added two more churches in the district. This year, they did one additional church in the district. They asked me to return the last few years to the churches that they had previously visited to administer the medication. This year, I took a day trip and went to 3 churches on a deworming adventure!
For those who have been to Haiti, you know very well what the roads are like once you leave the main road! The roads are all dirt at best, rocky and rough, over mountains, through valleys and across rivers (and very little bridges). There are no road signs, no GPS, no in-car navigation system with a pleasant female voice telling you to turn right in 100 feet. I have been to Astruc numerous times so I know how to get there. At least I thought I did! I left at 6 am on a Thursday morning with Denise Joseph (a nurse we hired for the day to come, and Benson’s wife) and Patrick, an RMI team member. The drive is usually about two hours, but about 20 minutes away from Astruc, where I knew to turn to drive across the river, there was no “road.” The road that led into the river to cross was washed out by TS Sandy and was a cliff! Thankfully Patrick knew another way to get there. It took us an extra 20 minutes than the old way and meant we had to cross the river 3 times instead of once, but we arrived in Astruc safely.
I’ve learned, living in Haiti, that we can make plans, but those plans don’t always come to fruition like we think they should. I’m thankful God knows! When I arrived in Astruc, I learned that one of the satellite churches may not have much of a turnout of people because of last minute communication and market day. We decided to head out there anyway. It was a very bumpy 20-30 minute drive to the Clairie church. Only the school kids were there, so it was a little disappointing to do all that driving and not have much of a clinic. Before giving the meds, I decided to teach the kids a song called “Vè Yo” (Worms) that is a catchy little tune about what worms can do to you, why you don’t want them and how to prevent them. When we were done, we got back in the car to drive 20-30 minutes back to Astruc.
We continued on from Astruc, about 30 minutes in the other direction, to the church in Morrisseau. This was over very bumpy roads and up and down over 3 or 4 mountains. We were happy to see a large group of people waiting for us and ready to go when we arrived. We planned for about 220 people (the size of the church). After we went thru 280 doses, I had to tell the pastor we had to finish after the last group that was waiting. I think we treated about 320 people in that mountain community when we were finished.
Next we were back in the truck driving 30 minutes back over the mountains to the Astruc church. The school director was ready and had the kids lined up and ready to go. We administered meds to the preschool (K-3, K-4 and K) and grades 1-3, then took a lunch break and continued with grades 4-6 and any other church members who were around. We administered about 300 doses at this location that day. After that, we drove the 2.5 hour trip home. These pics were taken on my phone, so they aren’t the best quality, but here are some photos of the clinic at the Astruc church:
A team came the next week from The Orchard, so our team was able to return to Clairie, with a much better turnout. They were also able to hold a clinic for the rest of the Astruc church that wasn’t able to come the day I went out there.
Left home at 6 am, returned home at 5 PM, about 550 people dewormed. That night I crashed in exhaustion on the couch, happy to be home with my family, worn out from a lot of strenuous driving, and fulfilled. Our calling to Haiti meant that I had to give up my pharmacy career as I knew it. But God has allowed me to use my education and knowledge in a very tangible (and different!) way. For those moments, I am thankful.