Community Health in the Mountains

Reflections on work by local volunteers
November 22, 2016

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The road to Mamel and the mountains beyond Terre Blanche.

The road to Mamel and the mountains beyond Terre Blanche.

Haiti is a land of mountains. Terre Blanche is located among the foothills, alongside a sometimes-dry river that flows from the higher hills. Beyond Terre Blanche are more hills, mountains and remote villages, accessible only by foot… 

On a medical team in February 2009, I met a very sick woman and her newborn baby who had been rescued from a witch doctor’s house. The woman and infant were carried all the way from Mamel, a village in the mountains, to the Clinic of Hope. The mother was suffering from a postpartum infection and her newborn was starving because her body was not well enough to produce breast milk.

When she arrived, I saw the bed frame that she was carried on and was told that Mamel is very far, with gestures being made that it was over many Haitian hills or mountains. I marveled at the community health volunteers who bravely confronted the witch doctor and the team of people that it took to carry her all the way to the clinic.

This fall, I participated in the community health evaluation. I was so excited to learn that I was going to visit Mamel to help the local community health volunteers interview a group of mothers from that area. I was finally going to see the journey that the woman had been on that ultimately saved her life and the life of her baby.

After crossing the river and navigating precarious roads, the Land Rover eventually stopped in front of a small house with a massive mango tree. Mango trees and the shade they provide are the perfect meeting places in rural Haiti. I asked Pastor Delamy, “Is this Mamel?”

He smiled and said, “no, Mamel is over those mountains,” pointing to the hills in the distance. “It is too far for us to travel today. The car does not go on those roads and we would have to walk for a few hours to reach Mamel. The mothers walked over the mountains to meet with us here today.”

My disappointment at the shortened adventure was momentary as I began to listen to these strong and beautiful mothers describe the difference that the community health program has made in their lives, their families and their community. I am so proud of the local volunteers and the work they are doing to reach people who live beyond the mountains.

Written by Katie Thom, HFH team and board member.

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