Guiding Principles + Suggested Reading List - Midwives For Haiti

Guiding Principles + Suggested Reading List




When you serve with Midwives for Haiti, we first and foremost ask you to understand that this trip is not about seeing an exotic country or getting hands-on clinical experience. It is about training Haitian skilled birth attendants in lifesaving skills as well as compassionate midwifery care, so that they may serve the women of Haiti. This distinction is key to understanding your role as a volunteer.



You are coming here to help us in the teaching of midwifery to Haitian students and in providing quality care to our patients at the hospital where we work. We ask you to read through all of the information presented here, so that you can come into this situation with the most preparation and the best attitude possible.Our goal is to work together to train skilled birth attendants.



You are coming to Haiti. Perhaps you have been here before, perhaps not. Please realize that no matter how skilled or experienced you are in your home environment, this does not translate directly to your ability to help the people here. Please take a step back, observe, ask questions, accept the small and unimportant differences that you see, such as cutting an umbilical cord with a sterile razor blade instead of scissors, and ask yourself how you can support the people who are already working here. Recognize that you will not be able to save everyone you see or solve the problems of all of the women. You were called to do midwifery care, you have those skills, and you will make a huge difference to the women in Haiti that you meet and teach.



We need volunteers who are willing and eager to help us in whatever way is the most helpful to us, which is not necessarily what is most interesting for them. We may ask you to accompany students on mobile prenatal clinics, or work with them in the busy prenatal clinic at St. Therese hospital, or to work nights with them in the delivery room. We may ask you to help us teach class, or not. Please try to be flexible with what the needs are here.



We have worked hard over several years to develop a genuine partnership with the staff at St. Therese Hospital, the Haiti Ministry of Health, our staff, and the people we serve. Some of these partnerships have been hard won. We urge you to “take care of our relationships” while you are there. You represent us and it is important to remember that your comments, your behavior, and your posture toward the Haitians reflect on us.  Our value of “genuine partnership” requires that we meet Haitians “where they are” — always being respectful and understanding that we do not and cannot possibly know what it is like to be in their shoes.



As you volunteer with us, please be mindful that you are in a country with very limited resources.  Food insecurity is a serious problem in Haiti and though you may not directly experience it, please remember that there may be people around you who do. Our guesthouse provides running water and round-the-clock electricity, which is very much a luxury in Haiti and should be treated that way. Try to live in this spirit by using minimal water in showers and dishwashing and only turning on lights when needed.  There is also no public recycling or waste management system. To this end, we appreciate your consideration in removing excess packaging on items you plan to bring to Haiti prior to the trip.

Please find below a suggested reading list that you may find helpful as you prepare for your trip:

  • When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert
  • Toxic Charity
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
  • Reproducing Inequities: Poverty and the Politics of Population in Haiti by Catherine Maternowska
  • Lambi’s Call by Tom Fame (Information on Cabestor)
  • Walking on Fire by Beverly Bell
  • Haiti by Charles Arthur
  • A Song for Haiti by Barry Paris
  • The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs
  • The Rainy Season by Amy Wilentz
  • Third-World Folk Beliefs and Practices: Haitian Medical Anthropology, University of Kansas
  • Where Women Have No Doctor from Hesperian Foundation
  • A Book for Midwives: Care for Pregnancy, Birth, and Women’s Health