Homeopaths Without Borders has an inspiring program of education and treatment underway in the large but remote coastal town of Belle Anse, in southeastern Haiti. It’s a stunning location, nestled between 5000-foot peaks and the Caribbean. HWB Executive Director Holly Manoogian has spearheaded this major undertaking, first in Port-au-Prince, and now in Belle Anse.
The journey to reach Belle Anse is itself worth mentioning, to demonstrate the dedication of the intrepid people that work, live or volunteer here. After arriving in Port-au-Prince’s newly remodeled airport, there is a three-hour car ride winding up switchbacks with views of the steep, heavily-eroded barren hillsides over a mountain pass and then descending through several coastal towns to get to the town of Jacmel, then Margot. There, gear, water, food and people are unloaded and reloaded to a open cockpit motor launch for the last 1.5 hours along the turquoise shoreline, southeast to Belle Anse. It’s a town of some 70,000 residents with one rural, government-sponsored medical clinic that is staffed part time, but where medicines that are prescribed are for sale only, so often go unfilled.
The town consists of one main street, set back less than 25 meters from the sea—a street that’s regularly flooded during storms. Pigs, cows, dogs, roosters and donkeys share the street with people and mopeds, with only an occasional vehicle is seen, due to the tortuous overland road that is often washed out. Creole is the language spoken, and volunteers, termed “Blancs,” are greeted warmly at first as “Bonjour, Blanc.” By day two, it’s “Bonjour, Homeopathique”—word spreads fast that HWB is in town with a free clinic at the park.
HWB’s Fundamentals of Homeopathy program is set up in a local restaurant, Le Coin, in downtown Belle Anse. The clinic takes place in the town park’s gazebo, two blocks from the sea, where patients gather at 8 a.m. to take a number. More than 60 numbers go in a few minutes.
PG is a 21-year-old crackerjack teacher: a graduate of HWB’s first Fundamentals class in Port-au-Prince and testimony to the quality of the education HWB offers. He is articulate, empathic, skilled and far more mature than his years. He teaches a rigorous two-day course under the supervision of HWB Educator Lauren Fox, FNP, CCH, followed by two additional days of clinical training. The program is a huge success, with the first of the series of classes in Belle Anse attended by 22 people. This session was a surprise, with 30 students arriving, many with a two- to four-hour walk each way to their home village in the mountains inland from Belle Anse!
After the first four-day session in November 2012, the 22 homeopaths went home and began practice, with each homeopath seeing between 16 and 72 clients in the eight weeks until this second session! We have more people interested in studying than resources to teach them.
Beckert Descollines, a born organizer with the build and swagger of a Haitian cowboy, is on the ground in Belle Anse working tirelessly to spread the word about the school and the benefits of homeopathy. Beckert is also the founder and director of BATF, Belle Anse Timoun Family School, a community center and school for underprivileged children.
Reginal Mede and Roosvilitho Meitre were our translators, both doing excellent work for the first time with HWB.
Clinic for the people of Belle Anse was held for two days while students were in seminar with PG and Lauren Fox, then two more days of public clinic with students taking cases and volunteers supervising.
The ailments we treated included musculoskeletal injuries, headaches and head injury from accidents, many children with coughs and colds, malaria, hypertension, gastritis and ailments resulting from the earthquake. We did see some serious pathology, including dental abscess in the entire mouth of an eight-year-old child, malaria, torticollis for 20 years following auto accident, advanced diabetes and an infant near death after two weeks of vomiting and diarrhea. The students showed remarkable ability to take thorough cases after their second seminar series. The language challenges are major, with translating from Creole to English and back again but, with patience, two homeopaths took 70 cases in two days. During the teaching clinic, four homeopaths and 30 students (divided into four groups) took an additional 80 cases.
Late afternoon was time to take a walk, a dip in the Caribbean or a cold shower. Purifying water and making simple meals on Holly’s MSR camp stove was a daily ritual. Evenings were spent discussing the students’ progress and preparing for the next day’s teaching. When the power came on, everyone plugged in laptops to recharge batteries for the next day.
HWB has a great program underway in Haiti, and it is well worth coming for a stint of volunteer work—every eight weeks a trip is on!
Wendy Pollock, DC, CCH