"So What Do You Do All Day In Haiti?"

“So, What Do You Do All Day?”

I am honored to be the In-Country Director for Midwives for Haiti, based out of our central office, school, and home here in Hinche in the Central Plateau. My friends, family and many of the volunteers that come to visit our office in Hinche always ask me the same question: What do you do all day?

That is not an easy question to answer! Usually I reply that I focus on our government and partnership relationships, human resources, finance, data collection, keeping reports going to our board of directors… Not a very interesting answer and it in no way covers all the myriad of jobs I handle here on the ground.

Every day here in Haiti is different than the last. Schedules change, things pop up, issues arise. Though our office hours are officially 8 to 4, that is just wishful thinking. So, one Thursday in May I took some notes on what a typical day was like.

I usually wake up around 7 AM. For those who have not been able to visit, our compound here in Hinche contains our school, our office, and the living quarters of foreign staff. Space is tight. In fact, I sleep in the kitchen! Our house has a secondary kitchen on the second floor that has been used as a bedroom. It took me a little time to get used to the tile countertops, but now it just looks like my bedroom to me. And having a sink is nice! I wake up under my mosquito net and hope that no one busts into my room with questions or emergencies while I flip through facebook and email on my phone.

On this morning, I got up and went downstairs to put away all the dishes collected and washed the night before. We live communally, and all share the chores. That means on any given week I could be tasked with folding laundry, putting away dishes, or the very important task of filling the ice trays. I grab a cup of coffee and put away the plates, cups and silverware before all the students start filing in for class. They sing a hymn to begin the day and it sweetly bounces off the walls.

I try to be actually at my desk in the office to talk to our Volunteer Coordinator, Bisma, our Program Manager, Mariot, and our Clinical Director, Perrine, by 8 AM. I pull up my email and answer what is most important. This morning I had an 8:30 skype meeting planned with our Marketing and Communications Director, Summer, who works out of London. It is so important, because our organization works out of several locations, to maintain good communication. And it is always great to see Summer’s smiling face! This time we spoke about our recent mobile clinic campaign.

At 9 AM I finished up with Summer and walked out to the yard to greet the staff. Good morning to Davide, our moto driver. Good morning to Toro, out daytime security. Good morning to Eliette, our housekeeper who we all call Gran. She always gives me the biggest kisses. There is always something to discuss with Manno, our House Manager. Whether issues with the Land Cruiser, a broken window, or scheduling a meeting with some of the house staff, I always have a little list for him.

At 10:00, I’m out the gate with Mariot in his little red car named Luigi. We stop by a shop to buy chux and I pine after some pretty scarves in the same shop. Just before leaving I give in and purchase 2 for 200 goudes. There is so much dust here that it is a good idea to cover your head when traveling, and I’m a sucker for a pretty print.

10:30 we run to the bank, and its sweet director with his 1970’s mustache. On the way back to the office we stop on the side of the road for my favorite pate, a Haitian fried pastry stuffed with vegetables and boiled egg.

At 11:30 we are back at the office after dropping off some chux and supplies at the Whitney clinic, one of our partners. Mariot is invaluable as a Program Manager, and all day long in the office we are bouncing ideas and to do lists off of each other. I keep it all organized and he helps me make things happen. His phone never stops ringing.

Some of the correspondence and work I dug into on this morning included writing up a new policy for guest speaker fees in the classroom, discussing some graduate employment opportunities with Mariot, updating the supply list with one of our lead translators and hospital liaison, Sheily, and shooting out several of the many emails I exchange with our Finance Director, Sci, about some salary issues.

At 1:30, it is very hot, and very stuffy, and very mosquito-y. I run to my little kitchen room and take a quick nap before lunch. The students finish class at 2:00, so lunch is served late here. It takes a little getting used it, but now my stomach expects the late meal. We try to take a work break at lunch, but always end up talking about something Midwives for Haiti-related! It is a good time to catch up with the volunteers as well who may be returning from a trip with the mobile clinic or a morning in the hospital. Our cooks, Dieuny and Solimene, work hard to feed us and keep our tummies happy! On this day we had beans and rice, a chicken leg, and some salad. The cooks offer us a lovely mix of Haitian recipes and their Haitian-American concoctions.

After lunch I ran out to purchase some cold bottles of coke and arranged some cakes on a plate to welcome our Haitian Advisory Board. The HAB is a mix of Midwives for Haiti employees and our outside partners. We depend on them to help up with our decision-making, as they are the best resource we have to do things in a culturally-appropriate and effective way. Of course, as with all board meetings, it is difficult to arrange for everyone to come, especially when the board includes very busy professionals such as local doctors and priests. We sat around the big table in our office and talked about all sorts of things.

Meanwhile, all the students started arriving again to set up a party to celebrate international nurses’ week. Around 4:30 I wrapped up the board meeting and went to my room to finish binge-watching Dear White People on Netflix while I waited for a scheduled skype meeting with our former Monitoring and Evaluations Manager, Brittany.

Unfortunately, by the time our meeting rolled around, the music was bouncing off the walls of the house! The party was officially begun. Unable to hear much and sharing our wifi with the now-many students who had come back to celebrate, I asked Brittany if we could reschedule. I went down to our yard to say hello to all our wonderful students, decked out in colorful dresses and carrying big plates of food. Our lead teacher, Miss Limone, was dressed to the nines and gave a terrific speech about the good work that skilled birth attendants do in Haiti. I had more work waiting for me on my laptop, but decided to call it a day and dance, eat and be merry with the students.

Around 9 or 10:00 the music was off, the patio cleared, the soda bottles restocked into the crates to bring back to the shops… I crawled back into bed in my little kitchen room under my mosquito net, made sure my alarm was set for 6:30 the next morning, and drifted off to sleep.

-Brandy Blue, In-Country Director: ppd@midwivesforhaiti.org.

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