Homage to a Great Afro-Haitian Traditional Healer

Oliama Derivière (1960 – February 9, 2014)

Oliama (to the far left) with the clinic staff

Oliama Deriviere (which means “of the river”, and the Water Goddess is the one who bestows the knowledge of healing in an underwater-initiation) was born as the oldest boy into a family of traditional Afro-Haitian healers. Trained since childhood in herbalism, traditional bone setting, and midwifery, his training also included subjects such as using the power of prayer, dream work, and astral traveling. The power of being a healer is passed down to only one child in such a family. Both of his father and mother were outstanding healers, and they passed their power to Oliama.

He never received formal schooling, and the fact that he was illiterate nor spoke French (the language of the educated) caused him much pain and embarrassment for the rest of his life. As an adult, he received such recognition for his healing skills, that the doctors at the hospital asked him to work as their assistant. “They asked me to fix all the difficult cases they did not know to treat”, he said “but always made it look like they had cured the person. I was severely underpaid and treated badly, so I finally quit” he continued with bitterness.

After the earthquake catastrophe, many people from his neighbourhood had badly smashed limbs and were lined up for amputation surgery. Seeing them, Oliama said “I can fix you”. Taking them home, he set their bones, applied herbs and healed their legs so they can now walk again.

Oliama setting the neck of a man with a fresh concussion

Raised in the (non-black magic) voodoo tradition, Oliama converted to Christianity as an adult and became a fervent follower of Jesus. He always had us clinic staff on our knees praying to the Lord. By that time, Haitian herbalism and traditional healing had completely fallen out of favor, so after leaving his job at the hospital, Oliama worked as a brick layer, paid a few cents for each brick he laid. This was gruelling work for someone who had had childhood polio, as he was somewhat limping and struggling to walk.

Oliama married young, but his first wife, once pregnant, did not adhere to his expert herbal and midwifery advise, which ended in miscarriage and her subsequent death. He later married Nelia, with whom he had nine children. They managed to build a small house in the slums of Petionville, a garbage-filled ravine on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Nelia also comes from a family of healers, and Oliama trained Nelia in much of what he knew.

We continued to interview various traditional local healers for the Haiti clinic, but could never find anyone else whose knowledge and skill level could match that of Oliama. He provided an invaluable addition to the service we could offer at the clinic, as well as deep insight into local traditional healing models and herbs. Outside of clinic periods, Oliama served as the slum emergency midwife, delivering about 20 babies a month free of charge, as well as being called upon by his neighbors for all kinds of other medical emergencies by those who could not afford the hospital.

Nelia will carry on Oliama’s healing lineage

About a year ago, Oliama fell ill with diabetes and almost died at the hospital. At that time, we (Jinpa and Julia) sent some money to pay for his treatment. He joined us for the spring 2013 clinic, a shadow of himself and greatly weakened.

His death came suddenly. Oliama passed in a diabetic coma, probably brought on by his lack of proper food. Always struggling to send all of his children to school, he ate only the cheapest of food: white flour and white sugar—which he should never have eaten.

As a result of working for us at the clinic—for being seen work hand-in-hand with these magnanimous “foreign gods” from the mysterious rich countries—his recognition in his neighbourhood greatly improved. People suddenly remembered “Oh yes, we have natural medicine, too! I can go to see my local leaf doctor!”

Because of him, the clinic also came to serve the slum on several occasions, and he received the credit for having brought free treatment to the area. Seeing Oliama work side by side with us was a further strong endorsement of him in people’s eyes. Each clinic would bring Oliama a new small stream of clients, and those in a position to pay would do so.

Working at our clinic meant he was able to stop working as a brick layer, instead working from home as a healer. He brought some of his clients to see us for a free homeopathic treatment, which further cemented his status, and he learned to add some homeopathic Arnica to his bone setting sessions!

Oliama teaching bone setting

We will always remember Oliama with fondness, and remain grateful for all he contributed to the clinic and its 15,000 patients. He was instrumental in some of the lives we saved in our last five missions.

Oliama was a true master in his tradition: a docteur feuille or leaf doctor. Sadly, discrimination had taught him to be ashamed of his African roots. It is ironic that the first recognition for being a master of his art came from us, traditional healers trained in developed countries. He savored our admiration for his knowledge and was as eager to learn from us as we were from him. Co-treating patients with him at the clinic was one of our joys.

His death is a great loss to his country and his tradition. Living a small life with little recognition, he was nonetheless possibly the greatest docteur feuille left in all of Haiti. A master diagnostician, he said “When I saw you (foreign healers at the clinic) diagnose people by looking at patients and by touching them, rather than with machines and tests, I knew you were true healers.”

While we know that he was not able to pass every single one of his skills to Nelia, we will continue to do our utmost to have her work with us at the clinic. We hope she may be able to carry on their little herbal practice, part of a very shy renaissance of natural healing in Haiti which has been greatly helped by the US culture’s embrace of traditional herbal methods. It will of course be much harder for her, as a woman healer in a still very patriarchal society.

Our Fifth Trip

Jinpa and Michelle co-treating

We were moved once again by just how many of you answered to our call for a donation. Each year, we wonder if the word “Haiti” will still touch people, and luckily it does! Thank you all for placing your trust in us to carry out the precious work in this country, one of the poorest of the earth. We tried to list everyone who contributed to this grassroots effort at the bottom, knowing there are always so many more whose names we do not know. Just look at how long the list is! Thanks to all of us joining hands, we were able to once again offer free naturopathic treatment to 3,000 people, bringing the number total so far seen at the clinic to a staggering 15,000! We are in awe of what can happen if you just try.

Here is how this trip went:

Antony, who came to assist the clinic for the first time, was shocked when he arrived in Haiti: “I could not believe that so much poverty and misery could exist just three hours by plane from New York City! It was unbelievable.”

The rest of the crew returning thought that many things had improved over the former trips: there are now street lights back on the main streets, which cut down the crime rates. More houses have been rebuilt, more people have access to clean water, and some of the tent-camp inhabitants have been relocated to housing, so a few parks that became tent cities have become parks again.

The president and government remain corrupt, with a continued slow process of signs that the president might turn into a dictator some time soon. The prices have continued to skyrocket, cutting many people off from necessities such as sufficient food and health care. We never saw as many people pour to the clinic, with the exception of the trip right after the devastating earthquake.

No matter how many days, and how long hours we worked, we never managed to finish the endless line of waiting people.

Wendy needled the people waiting in line.

This is the first time we had a lot of middle- and even upper-class people come for treatment, as they can no longer afford health care: “Pre-natal care used to be a flat fee. Now the doctors charge for every single visit, and they charge a lot. Whenever you go, they give you a lot of shots for which they charge a lot. We don’t think we need those shots, we feel they just give them so they can make more money, but we don’t know what to do. So we can’t afford health care for pregnancy any more,” a middle-class woman complains.

You would expect the building activities in Haiti to increase employment and help the general population; however the houses are being rebuilt by the rich businesspeople who give the jobs to foreign companies, such as contractors from the Dominican Republic who come in with their own building crews, or US building contractors. We found every one of our local crewmembers much changed, having lost a lot of weight from lack of food, and two of them had battled life-threatening illness while we were away. A local priest who presented his research at Harvard University observed: “Between the post-traumatic stress disorder from the earthquake and the chaotic, life threatening living situations, Haiti is one of the most stressful places to live in on earth.”

The makeshift clinic in the heat with the mosquitoes took a lot out of the crew.

Woodline (handing out tea for insomnia) almost died recently, and looks much changed from recent years.

Antony described his experiences assisting at the clinic: “After I got over the initial shock of the poverty, I tried to help out as much as possible. Being with the clinic gave me a feeling I never had in my life—like euphoria—a sense of fulfillment. Despite of the short time, I felt so rewarded emotionally. The reward was the amount of people who came, got taken care of, and left. I got a lot of smiles. I was not even one of the doctors, I just passed them what they needed so they could treat people faster. It was like bar tending. The clinic is so special and unique by way of having Haitians on the crew. It reaches the needs and culture of the locals in a way that international help cannot. The locals open up in a short time and they really feel taken care of. The cooperation between the foreign and local healers was seamless. When I was sick, our Haitian healer worked on me, which really helped. It was powerful the way his bodywork went into my organs, it was impressive. I will never forget how some people go out of their way to give so much to others they do not even know.”

Another Life Saved

A young man walked into the clinic in the early morning, holding a sick baby. “Excuse me,” he said, “I was on my way to the hospital with my daughter when I saw the crowd here. I hear you can help. My baby has had a high fever for days, diarrhea, skin infection, and she can’t eat.” The little one was hanging in his arm limp and lifeless, not showing any reaction. Jinpa put some FES Benediction oil on her heart to reawaken her soul. She started to stir. He then sprayed her with Five Flower flower essences. She opened her eyes. Jinpa proceeded to give her homeopathic Camomile 30 C (Hahnemann Labs), and sent them home, the infant now awake and holding her head and body up by herself.

Half an hour passed, and the man came back. “The baby is fine, she is eating. Sorry, but could you give me something for my toothache?” We gave him clove essential oil (donated by VCIH). He came back one hour after. “Excuse me, but who are you and where did you come from? The pain in my tooth is gone, and here is my wife, she has a vaginal infection…” We gave her the usual essential oil mix, and they left.

Claudia and Oliama giving a treatment.

Oliama also almost died this winter, and we were glad to have him with us for this bonesetting skills again.

Half an hour later, the man came back with a 70-year-old lady. “Doctor, I don’t know, this is my mother-in-law.” The old lady said “I am poor, I have no money, I have nowhere to go, everything is hurting, I can’t sleep… Please help me at least to get rid of my belly pain and headache!” We gave her our successful essential oil blend for gassiness, and needled her feet for her headache. Much relieved, she also received some Benediction oil on her heart for post-traumatic stress disorder and insomnia.

By 5 pm, when we were ready to pack up and leave, the same man from the morning returned, crying. Jinpa was shocked and ready to hear the worst. But this time the man was crying with joy: “Thank you, thank you, ko te ou soti (Are you from this realm or from heaven)?”

“I took a deep breath to answer” says Jinpa “Yes, thanks to Vivien, Michael, Andrea, Julia’s vision, Lili, Kate, thanks to Hahnemann Labs and Whole Foods, Sandra, Neill, … , …, we are here…”

“All of those people?!?” he replied incredulously.

“Then I also started to cry,” Jinpa confessed, “and did not have the heart to continue listing everyone’s names.” It was time to drive back home. This is what happened every day, every hour, every minute at the clinic, non-stop.

Michelle at work.

Antony put his skills to work as the assistant.

Thanks for Gabrielle, Marguy, Everett and Sandra, crew members of the previous clinics for your help, as well as special thanks to Jolene, Megan and Diderik for preparing the trip.

With infinite thanks to all the donors, big and small, and those that gave through secret channels whose names we do not know or forgot in the scramble:

Michael Friedmann of Restorative Medicine
April Eya of Hahnemann Labs
Boiron Homeopathics
Vivien Williamson of Sun Essences
Kate Gildae of Woodland Essence
Larken Bunce of the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism
Christine Dashper of Pure Element Aromatherpay
Swanie Simon of Drei Hunde Nacht
Donna Peaker Ritzo
Lata Kennedy of Flower Power and the Flower Power customers
Robin Rose Bennett and her students
Zack Wood Herbs
Sandra Kong and Neil Jacobs
Catherine Wing
Anthony of Acupuncture without Borders
Michel, Anne and Colette Marliagneas of Pharmacie de Linards

Ven. Andreas Ansmann, Lili Chopra, Irene Turner, Luv Snap, Debra Milne, Abby Ludowise, Laressa Dickey, Julia Hengst, Woodland Essence, Margaret Hee, Laura Brodsky, Nicole Moss, Lun Shan Hsu, Ya Chi Huang, (2 names in Chinese characters we can’t read…), Alexander Brebner, Chiu Shih Wei, Rolf Grooten, the Guerrier family, the Gordon family, Katinka Locascio, Lena DeGloma, Rhiannon Harris, Raymonde Godin, Leigh Warre, Glen, Adrienne Mockler, Brigitte Helbig, Lee Mason, Everett Ramos, the Nettle Patch and the New York meditators and many many more.

And last but not least, thanks to Andrea Lemon for being our tireless website hostess!!!

Preparing for our Fifth Trip (May 2013)

We are happy to announce that the next Haiti clinic trip is brewing for May, 2013. The crew is gathered, and we will be offering free natural health treatment for another 3,000 people, bringing the total of the people served by this tiny grassroots operation to a staggering 15,000! As always, we are just a few friends all chipping in together, and whatever anyone contributes goes a long way.

A Table and Two Chairs = A Clinic

We continue to be surprised at just how successful the makeshift clinic has been on all levels — in raising the funds and means to treat 12,000 people to date, as well as to leave such a local impact that we are sorely missed. Jinpa’s father tells us that people knock on his gates every day, pleading “Tell the doctors not to stay away too long! We really need them here!” Let’s make it happen again!

The Misery is Rising

While the political situation in Haiti is “stably unstable”, the economic situation is progressively getting worse. This island state, listed as one of the poorest countries of the world even before the catastrophe hit, lately saw massive street riots. The destitute were protesting against the fact that all government projects are given to US enterprises, thus funneling the tax revenues outside of the country and leaving the locals unemployed. In a country in which corruption and embezzlement are the norm, this does not go down well with the populace.

The latest example of economic colonialism: a gorgeous tropical island rich in natural resources, now almost entirely dependent on food imported from the US, because — well — because the US wanted to take over the tiny neighbor economically. The devastating earthquake laid the groundwork (so to speak) by destroying whatever local infrastructure and shaky economic independence Haiti still had. This is certainly true for the urban population of Port-au-Prince, hit hardest by the earthquake. Still in shacks and tent camps, with skyrocketing food prices (they were already higher than in the US a year ago!), the malnutrition and poverty keeps getting worse. In plain terms: The destitute population of the still largely-destroyed Port-au-Prince, capital of one of the world’s poorest countries, and mostly unemployed since the catastrophe, have no alternative but to buy imported US food at prices much higher than in the US. As a result, hunger is rampant.

Oliama, the cherished local bone setter and herbalist of our crew, a very poor ghetto dweller, fell ill about two months ago and is also one of those who cannot afford health care or find enough food to eat. We just sent him some relief money. One of the locals warned us “You should expect three times as many patients flocking to the clinic as before, because so many more people have lost access to the bare necessities.” Since this would amount to being stampeded (no joke, we have gotten overrun by the desperate crowd in the past!), we are budgeting extra money to pay “crowd control helpers”, and we hope to return to the same locations more often to serve those in need.

The Fame is Spreading

People waiting in line — we give out numbers to keep the crowd calm

Jinpa’s brother Bernard was recently in a restaurant in Miami, Florida,where he met a Haitian business man who praised this incredible Buddhist monk who runs a free naturopathic clinic and gives incredible interviews on Haitian radio. He said that once he’s back in Haiti, he will do anything to find him there. Bernard surprised him by saying “Oh, that’s my brother!”. This is how we found out that Michelle and Jinpa’s radio interviews were so successful that they became the talk of Port-au-Prince as well as the Haitian diaspora in Florida. Bernard warned us, “People will flock to you once you’re back there!” Maybe so — we are already enlisted for further radio interviews by two radio stations!

What We Need

Nelia, the local bone-setter

As usual, we need whatever herbs, essential oils, or other natural remedies you might be able to offer. We also need cash donations to pay the desperate local crew, most of whom are entirely out of work when we are not there — because there is simply no employment in Haiti. This is even true of people with high qualifications. For example Claudia, one of our translators, is a qualified English/French/Creole translator, a highly desirable qualification, and she cannot find work. She offers her services to the clinic at a low rate, inspired by our work and out of gratitude for our having healed her.

We need cash donations to pay for the petrol to go around in the jeep, to pay the local crew, as well as offer them a meal. This may be hard to imagine, but the locals come to work on an empty stomach. We start at 6 am and work without real break until 4 pm. The foreign crew members bring their own energy bars so they can eat something non-contaminated for a quick lunch pause. It feels awful to have the Haitians just sit there and watch, while they have nothing to drink nor eat, nor money in their pockets to go and buy something. Unless we feed them, they will go hungry until the evening, when they take their pay home to feed the large family.

Serving even the smallest needs

Please Help Fund the Clinic

Every dollar goes a long way. Because all work by the non-Haitian crew is done on a volunteer basis, we estimate that $3 provides each patient with a complete comprehensive treatment that includes natural remedies for their physical and emotional needs, acupuncture, cupping, massage, and/or bone-setting as required.

Make a donation

The Fourth Trip

To our great surprise and joy, due to last minute changes we were able to offer free treatment to 3,000 people instead of the projected 1,000, bringing the total number of people we’ve treated to a mind-boggling 12,000! We all stand in awe of how powerful such a simple grass-roots effort can be. Deeply grateful to New York acupuncturist Michelle LaDue, who spontaneously joined us last minute, the clinic was able to see so many patients. Michelle’s ability to stop pain instantly by way of the needles earned the clinic the nickname, “The miracle doctors are coming”.

Needling people at the clinic

True to its mobile set up, we again served various neighborhoods in and around Port-au-Prince, including a school and orphanage with hundreds of previously untreated children, both suddenly abandoned by the NGOs that founded them. Working with children who have not had treatment for emotional shock since the earthquake—now almost 2-1/2 years ago—drives home the realization that such a shock continues to cripple if left untreated. Time does not heal all wounds.

The Clinic

Going in a jeep from place to place, in a different location each day, the clinic set up “shop” in several of the same locations as on the previous trips, thus seeing some of the same people we have been serving for the past 2 years. This included a little boy we first met 1-1/2 years ago when he was two months old and on the verge of dying from yellow fever. The right homeopathic remedy and flower essence saved his life. With a moribund infant, his very young mother seemed completely indifferent to his fate, possibly because she could not stand the pain of losing him. Now a proud mom, she brought the thriving boy in to see Jinpa. Oddly enough for a black baby from a Haitian tent camp, he cried when picked up by Haitian Jinpa but happily jumped into the arms of our tall white acupuncturist Michelle. Jinpa commented “He was crying every time I tried to touch him. However, the minute the ‘white lady doctor’ arrived, he immediately jumped into her arms and stopped crying. I could not help but think that subconsciously, he remembered Julia who had saved his life. I think the little boy was saying thank you to the one who saved his life. Michelle even needled him without difficulty. I cried a bit at the end of that day contemplating this. It is touching with how little one can make such a difference in the world. I will never forget this. This is love and compassion in action, and it speaks even louder when it comes through the actions of a little child.”

Michelle with the little boy, looking at the needles

As before, word of the clinic spread, and people took the bus to arrive from far and wide. Pierro, the medicine preparator since our first trip, by now has memorized and mastered all essential oil mixes to such a degree that he was able to see and treat some patients by himself, treating chest colds, joint and muscle aches and pains, belly aches, etc., with our custom mixes.

Michelle’s Cases

Here are a few of Michelle’s cases:

“A middle aged woman came into the clinic toward the end of the day, brought by a younger woman we had treated earlier. She explained she had just fallen off a motor bike. She had not hit her head but had road rash all up her left leg, which I cleaned and treated with the calendula oil (donated by FES). Then I gave her a high dose of arnica homeopathically and some Five Flower Formula. She was also exhausted and had a backache. I then found some points on her feet that when I pressed it relieved the pain in her back, so I needled those points and left her to rest a bit while I tended to another person. Maybe 10 minutes later, the young woman who brought her in said she was feeling faint. I then took the needles out and put in a revival point directly under the nose and stimulated it. Jinpa instructed the young woman to apply Benediction oil to her chest, heart, middle back, palms and soles of her feet. She then was back in her body, more alert and able to go home to care for her family.”

Michelle with Bernard and a boy at the school

“Jinpa and I worked with a young woman who had been menstrual bleeding non-stop for 4 consecutive months. We decided to give her some acupuncture to help stop the bleeding and regulate the hormones. She was terribly fearful of being needled. We did a few points and then she was too scared to let me needle her ear. We misted her with the Fear-less flower essence spray and after that she was requesting more acupuncture!”

“This is a study that I experienced myself with the Crab Apple Soothing Cream with lavender essential oil (donated by Vivien Williamson of Sun Essences). We set up in the church and saw many of the local community members. I was doing a lot of acupuncture and working with many skin infections and irritations. At the end of the day I felt itchy all over my arms but there was nothing there. It was not mosquito bites or anything visible. I started to believe that it was psychological from treating so many skin irritations on others. I wiped my arms with a moist towelette and rubbed on the ‘Soothing creme’ and I immediately felt a tingling sensation in my arms where I had put the creme. All I can describe it as is energy radiating up my arms for a few minutes and then the itching was gone. It was nice to have this positive experience with the product that we were using so often on others.”

“I absolutely loved the experience of working in Haiti with the clinic and can’t wait to be back!” says Michelle.

Ariana’s Experience

Aiana joined as our flower essence person, mainly helping giving flower essence to children to treat for post traumatic stress disorder. She had been to Haiti twice before – directly after the earth quake – once with an organisation offering psychological help to traumatised children, and then bringing a plane load full of tent back to the island. She comments “I really liked working with the clinic, as compared to the other initiatives I was part of, it is so effective. Every single penny of donation money is well spent and not wasted. I also had not experienced an effort before that took knowing the Haitian culture as a basis, thus really meeting the Haitians and their needs.”

The Miracle Doctors – Love and Compassion in Action

After having come to Haiti for over two years, the clinic is now receiving real feedback for its action. The patients in the places we visited are over their shock due to the flower essence treatment, so they start to really talk about what happened to them. Of the 3,000 people, one-third of them women, only two said that the essential oil mix against vaginal infection did not work. We give out hundreds of bottles at each trip. Instead, they bring family and friends with the same condition to be treated.

The clinic is renowned for its successful treatment of vaginal infections, headaches in connection with high blood pressure, flatulence and indigestion, intestinal worms, and skin rashes and infections, all very common conditions. A lot of the people treated successfully spread the rumour that our essential oil belly rubs are curing ulcer. While we are not sure that the lump in their belly the doctors pronounce as ulcers are not stuck intestinal gas, these are dissolved along with flatulence and acid reflux, so common in Haitian. Clients say that all of this is cured after one day of application of the essential oil mixes, coming back in to thank us.

By now, a lot of clients come back knowing what they want: “I want you to give me the same thing you gave me before for shock for stress. I am no longer in shock, but it helped me sleep, and right now, I can’t sleep from stress. It helped so well, please give it to me again.”

Ariana working with children

Our idea of working with local healers is working well. The idea was to complement each others skills. For instance, Jinpa was not able to find a right remedy for a woman about six months pregnant. Nothing seemed quite right. When he asked Oliama, the Haitian midwife for a second opinion, he asked the lady to immediately go to the hospital. Later he explained to Jinpa that he did not have the heart to tell her that the foetus had died in her womb due to her anemia, result of her malnutrition. We had two cases like this. Working with local healers complements the range of treatment we can offer in a way that almost every condition can be treated. The local healers also cured two babies of their hernias with poultices of grated medicinal yucca root.

An old lady without means dragged herself to the clinic, depressed and with insomnia, because the doctors wanted to amputate her foot. Limping, she had had some infected thorns in them that had been removed, but the foot was still cramped and immobile. “People say you can help me, so I made the effort to come.” Jinpa needled her, which enabled her to move the toes, because the pain went down. Then we rubbed her legs (we discovered that a quick leg rub with rosemary oil worked very well for the elderly), and then asked her to wait while the team went for their lunch snack. Meanwhile she stood up. When Bernard asked her how she was, she started dancing. “Don’t you see? I’m moving! I’m dancing home now!” She returned two days later to say that she had also slept incredibly well.

When we were able to mobilise so many legs and feet of old people, the clinic came to be called “The Miracle Doctors.” We still are not sure what is the secret ingredient — the needles, the essential oil, or the fact that we lovingly massage their limbs, often rendering them to tears. “O doctor, no one has ever done this to me before!” It might be the psychological effect, too. When Haitians come to see you for their headache, belly ache, etc., they make sure to clean that part of the body, but not necessarily their dusty feet. When Michelle started to lovingly touch their dirty feet, they were embarrassed and moved that anyone would care to touch their lowest dirty parts without the slightest disgust.

The Political Situation

It required a bit of courage to go on the trip as planned, since there was an attempted coup d’etat of sorts in Port-au-Prince, as well as a shootout between the former military leaders and the government just before the clinic’s scheduled arrival. However, things stayed calm for the entire trip, though the day after work was over there was another shootout between the former military leaders and the UN. This, however, did not affect the clinic. It just lent a dramatic flair to the mission.

Haiti remains politically unstable, with a president blocked by a corrupt parliament, and a lot of suspicion as to whether or not he will turn into a dictator in the long run. President Martelli remains popular with the masses, as he likes to go out, pick someone off the street, and give them a brand new motorcycle. The Haitian intelligentia, however, remembers that this is exactly what dictator Duvalier used to do before turning to murderous suppression.

The Radio Interview

Jinpa translating for Michelle explaining acupuncture for Haiti

A radio reporter from Radio Signal Haiti came to the clinic with his friend, entirely skeptical about the operation. When he saw how his friend’s pain subsided and the way we worked, he became very open and interested, inviting Michelle and Jinpa for a radio interview about acupuncture and how alternative healing could benefit Haiti. Jinpa explained some simple treatments, such as using locally available plants to treat anemia, or how to use eucalyptus leaves for colds etc. The interviewer, however, was more interested in exotic and unavailable acupuncture than hearing how the impoverished masses, deprived of medical care, can learn to use the plants in their backyard to heal themselves. The interview was aired last week.

The Vitamin Trees

The three tiny moringa trees that Julia had brought to Haiti last fall have by now grown and are towering higher than seven feet! The clinic kept educating the local people about this “vitamin tree” the leaves of which are richer in vitamins and minerals than any other plant known to man. Moringa grows in Haiti, unfortunately most people do not know how to eat it (raw or cooked!)

Thank you once again for your incredible support!

With special thanks to:

  • Swanie Simon for her huge donation of essential oils
  • FES for their generous donation of Benediction and Calendula oils and flower essences
  • Vivien of Sun Essences for the fabulous cremes and essence combinations
  • Lata Kennedy from Flower Power Herb Store
  • Kate Gildae of Woodland Essence for the invaluable herb powders
  • Michael Friedman of Restorative Medicine for the nutritive powder
  • Catherine Wing and partner for the wonderful herb powders and especially the capsule-making party
  • Robin Rose Bennett for all the herbal tinctures
  • Tony Pinkus of Ainsworth Homeopathics

…and all other donors, great and small.

Read about our other trips to Haiti:

Our Third Trip

The third trip was, as always, overwhelmingly successful, busy, and heartwarming. Here is a report on what we did:

As before, we took the clinic in the Jeep to several places, most of them places we had been to before. We thus encountered a good number of return patients asking for refills or reporting cures. This is a good quality check on our work, as we like to verify that what we do works.

We saw 300 people per day on average, a total of about 2,500 patients for this trip. We tried our best to treat the poorest of the poor, and give equal chances to the most disadvantaged. This sounds easier than it is, because the street children and most destitute do not have the same courage and sense of entitlement to stand in line as those a little better off, and if we did not do half of children as a rule, we would have seen mostly adults; and without all kinds of subtle tricks on how to give out the numbers to stand in line mostly adult men who are better off. By having a children-only line where a number is not needed, we were able to treat that half of the population.

With Sally and Barbara from Homeopaths Without Borders

This time, we were two herbal doctors, one shiatsu practitioner (Everett), and two Haitian healers. We included educational talk to those waiting in line about natural prevention and treatment of cholera with lemon juice, as well as which local plants to eat to treat anemia. We also left lemon essential oil with the key people of the tent camp and other places to treat the water supply for cholera prevention.

To our delight, Sally Tamplin and her team from Homeopaths without Borders were in Haiti for some of the same time as us, and we met them, at which time they kindly provided us with a range of homeopathics we did not have.

Julia and Carole with a teenage girl who lost her limb in the earthquake, Leogane

The first trip was a kind of experiment. For our second trip we received the overwhelmingly positive feedback from the people who were healed. Now, on the third trip, we have grown very confident, knowing exactly what works for Haitians having this, that, or the other.

Everett, a first timer for the clinic, says “I had long been called to work with amputees, so I was grateful to have a chance to work on those children with missing limbs. A profound humbling and teaching experience for me, the treatment had it’s magic moments in which the distinction between the giver and receiver melted and I became the one receiving, the one enriched.” It was beautiful for us others to watch those children walk out with restored dignity, radiant.

General health situation

Handing out medicine and nutritional powder to malnourished children in the slum of Petionville

Since the recent events have left Haiti’s middle class impoverished, not even people who own a house and nice clothes can afford the $60 (USD) for a doctor’s visit anymore. So everyone needs a free clinic visit now. There is much more widespread malnutrition now, especially since the middle class has increasingly adopted the poor American eating habits, and while people might be chubby, they are malnourished when it comes to vitamins, minerals, etc. While the repaired water system leaves most people with clean water to drink and wash, and therefore skin infections and plain dirt are much reduced, we continued to de-worm about every single child, saw an ocean of hungry people, and every epidemic disease as well as those of starvation. We were very grateful to have had a large supply of nutritional supplements to give out to patients on this trip. In two locations, there was not one person we saw in the clinic who was not hungry and malnourished, if not starving.

Cholera

Cholera came to Haiti with the Nepali UN soldiers and has since killed over 3,000 people. While we think we saw a few cases in the clinic, we cannot say that we encountered it in the form of an epidemic anywhere we went. Those cases were of course in the tent camps where the sanitary situation is the poorest. We were shocked to find out how easy it actually is to prevent and treat the disease naturally — all that’s needed is lemon juice!

Return patients

We have always enjoyed returning to the same places and treating patients we saw before. Apart from the feedback they provide (to show us that what we do is working), it also is a heart-opening experience — we are so happy to see them again, and they pour out their gratitude, or ask for refills. The amount of return patients varies from place to place; it is about half of the people we see on average. Here are some stories:

He survived and is now 14 months old

Last year, we treated a two-month-old boy with yellow fever who was so malnourished and limp it was scary. He came back to life very fast with the right homeopathic remedy, flower essence and cranial treatment, and he has grown to be a fat, happy toddler. His mom — at that time oddly disinterested in his fate — is now proud of him.

We see a number of adults with what we suspect is tertiary (congenital) syphilis. We do not run lab tests, but we assume it’s syphilis from the symptoms: increasingly violent insanity. Having previously encountered such patients in an African hospital — they usually threaten to start a fistfight in the waiting line — we gave them a dose of the homeopathic anti-syphilis remedy. Last year, this would make them cry and repent, and gently wait in line for their turn.

Meeting two of them again this year (one of them spotted Jinpa in his robe in the ghetto chaos and came running to him for further help), we were pleasantly shocked at how much better and more mentally coherent they seemed. Thus we had a chance to give them another dose. The one who spotted Jinpa said, “I remember you, can I help you in any way?” We made him our body guard — so while a year ago he threatened to take the clinic down, this year he was our doorman, standing there lecturing all those waiting on Jesus.

No, we don’t do eyeglasses, but our essential oil rub for aches and pains was a big hit

A lot of the young girls who returned said that their chronic vaginitis had healed with the essential oil mixes, and not returned. The same was true of the itching eyes and skin diseases, as well as other maladies.

To our surprise, many of those who suffered from dust lungs after the earthquake (supposedly a chronic condition impossible to recover from) reported that they were entirely cured by the pine/thyme chest rubs we had given them.

Not surprisingly, the one condition that persists and that we cannot heal in the long term are intestinal worms: so we continued to de-worm entire ghetto populations.

In Jinpa’s words:

This is my third time with the clinic, and people are coming like rainfall and we can’t finish the line, and we keep on treating people up to the moment we go to the car. It is at the end of the long day when I am supposed to be exhausted that the joy of helping others really kicks in, and I feel that at that time I am not just one person, but one with the team, and that everyone who is working is feeling it. At that time I wish that everyone could feel this feeling at least once in their lives, no matter where or how, because this type of experience helps us break down the boundaries between suffering and joy. The person is suffering, and you feel joy giving them the medicine, and as you hand it to them, you transmit that joy to them. My strongest wish is to keep that experience until I die.

When we stared this project 1-1/2 years ago, I id not know we would take it this far, and I had certainly no idea it would have such an effect on the people. Half of the people I am seeing are people I have treated before, and the other half are mostly people sent by them for treatment. That means that even though we have been focusing on five places to set up the clinic, we have been treating all of Port-au-Prince, because people are coming from all over. And I wish I could put this into beautiful song to tell you about it, because when people tell me, it is like they are singing:

You cured my ulcer, I can’t believe I can sleep now.

My infection is gone, it does not come back any more.

My heart palpitation is history.

How come such a little bit of oil can make such a big difference!

Dyspepsia, toxic blood, pimples, indigestion, gas, hypertension that has not been possible to stabilize for years, depression, arthritis, malaria, and so forth.

I am pregnant now and my vaginal infection is healed. Can you help me hold the pregnancy?

Open hands in love and action

The nurse of the tent camp we left our wound dressing materials with (a former classmate of mine) said “No matter how much money you gave me or will give me in the future, it can never replace what you did — healing the entire tent camp population, the children here, the entire neighborhood!”

And none of the return patients forgot the previous healers who came to help, asking for the women who did not come back, even all the way from the first trip 1-1/2 years ago.

Treating unusual cases

Since we are an unusual clinic, we treat unusual cases. Some of these include spiritual disease. A young woman was brought in by her brother. She’s been in and out of spirit possession for the last two years — whenever possessed does not remember her name nor who she is, does not react when spoken to, just lies in bed and the only thing she can do by herself is go to the bathroom in the bed. She went into that state just before she was brought in. She was peaceful but like a vegetable. Jinpa called my attention to it saying, “So here we have a case for the periwinkle tincture!” (breaking black magic spells). He put a few drops into her mouth. It looked like her soul returned to her crown from far away like a light, and then just above the crown it was as if a dark knot was untied as the spell was released. Jinpa saw a tremendous blackness lifting. The released energy “spilled” all over the room and gave me the creeps and a chill as it reached me. The young woman suddenly looked straight into Jinpa’s eyes as she came back into herself, and held on to his arm for the rest of the consult, talking to him, fully conscious of who she was and not wanting to leave. Jinpa explained to me later that it is typical for people when they come out of the possession to hold on to the safe person they are with like that. Jinpa then also tied a Buddhist spirit harm protection chord around her and send her home with the periwinkle tincture. A startling classic case, confirming periwinkle’s anti black magic use in the European as well as Caribbean traditions.

I saw a three-month-old boy with the classical diagnosis: “Failure to thrive.” It took quite a while of questioning the destitute mother to discover that he did not stop growing from lack of food in the family (although they certainly only ate once every couple of days). Had I not been familiar with the local folk medical ideas, this would have slipped my attention. After I gave whatever nutritional supplements we had to mother and baby, she mentioned having had a breast abscess. This brought up a red flag in my mind: “Spoiled milk!” Spoiled milk is a folk concept whereby black magic, traumatic emotions or something more physical as an abscess (even if it has not broken into the milk ducts) are said to spoil the milk and risk to kill the baby. The problem is that the mother never attempts to get the baby back onto breast milk, and many babies die from malnutrition. So I checked the breast, which did not have a trace of the abscess left. When I felt that my reassurance that it was OK to put the baby back on her breasts did not work, I asked Jinpa in his fancy monk robes to do an impressive prayer on her body, which he ended with a ritualized tying of a blessing string around her arm, at which she sighed in relief and left, gratefully thanking him.

Foreground: Handing out homeopathics
Background: Consulting whole families

Everett worked on a four-year-old girl who had been trapped under the rubble of her falling house, and whose heart was racing as if the event had happened today. This is a symptom we found consistently in the children trapped under debris. A very delicate child of nervous temperament, she was more seriously affected than some of the other children. Everett said, “When I worked her lung points (LU 1), she suddenly relaxed all over her body and took such a profound in-breath as if she was going to lift off of the mat. It was as if under the influence of the shock, she had held her breath for 1-1/2 years and this was the first deep in-breath she took since.” He went on to work the shock points and those that aid in letting go. She left the session more relaxed, and with her heart beating more peacefully.

Jinpa treated a delightful young woman who has been mute since birth. The door guardian almost did not let her through, considering her a waste of time. “It was amazing for me to see that she could communicate with me with her face and hands, and that I was able to figure out what was the matter with her and treat her for it. That was a beautiful experience of melting barriers of communication!” Such a blessing for us to have a native speaker on the team!

The traces of the earthquake

One year ago (i.e. six months after the earthquake), most parents denied that even very obviously traumatized children had been harmed in the national disaster. To my current surprise, 1-1/2 years after the destructive event, parents very readily say that their children were emotionally traumatized.

Everett with a little girl who was trapped under rubble after the quake

How come? I think this is because the catastrophe is long enough ago for the adults to process some of their own shock and trauma, and only now can they admit how much it has affected the little ones. We see a whole generation in which every second or third child got hit by falling debris, had to be dug out from under the rubble, watched injured people die, has recurrent nightmares and jumps at every noise.

Interestingly, this does not apply to the children conceived after the earthquake; however, the now-toddlers who lived through the event in-utero, regularly start shaking all over their bodies. Most of the many many children who got hit on the head by the debris or fell head first are now having serious learning problems, due both to impaired memory and eye trouble. I always pray that the one time we get a chance to treat them homeopathically for head trauma at the clinic will give them a better chance for the rest of their lives.

Ripple effects

One of the first college students who helped in the clinic as a medicine preparator, making essential oil blends etc., won a scholarship and is now studying medicine in Brazil. My kind French Creole translator Carole, who has been in all three clinics, was inspired by the experience to become a nurse. Naturally gifted in handling fussy children, she will start her nurse’s training later this year. As Everett pointed out, I trained her not just in basic naturopathy and what wild local plants to eat for anemia etc., but also to know her own people in their misery, to know her own country.

Weedline worked as our medicine preparator and as Jinpa’s right hand

Pierro, the clinic’s driver and medicine preparator, has in our absence continued to give out essential oils and herbs to people. He gave an essential oil mix for digestion and flatulence to a lady from a town far from Port-au-Prince. Not only did she use it herself, but she also rubbed it on everyone at home, and the story goes that she and everyone back home got healed. To illustrate: Yesterday during a clinic for a tent camp, held in the local church, Jinpa overheard a man who had already been treated loudly proclaim to everyone: “I can’t believe it! I just received this oil to rub on my belly for the cramps and flautulence, so I went and did it, and I am already cured!” (What do we put into those magic blends? Usually fennel, anise, rosemary, thyme and the like…)

Weedline, our 17-year-old medicine preparator who has helped since she was 15 (during our first trip): “I like that the remedies we give are efficient. I like to hear the people say that the doctors here know what they are doing because the remedies are working so well. It makes me want to become a nurse. It gave me confidence in natural remedies, that they work.”

Behind the scenes

Everett treats a little boy whose ribs were broken by falling debris in the earthquake

A woman I had just treated walked unhappily to the massage room and inquired with Oliama, the Haitian healer: “How can this be? I told her what diseases I have, and all she gives me is this tiny sachet with six minuscule granules [homeopathic pellets]! How is this supposed to heal me?!?” To which Oliama replied “Darling [this is how Haitians address one another], believe me: I have been working with these doctors for 1-1/2 years, and their medicine is powerful stuff! It might look small, but I have seen all the healed cases come back — it looks different to what you are used to, but you have no idea just how powerful this medicine is!” This satisfied the lady and she walked off reassured.

Jinpa overheard a group of women in Carrefour come up with all kinds of excuses to brush by Everett to touch his hair as if in passing. They schemed to feel it so they could see what straight hair, called cheveux sirop, feels like. Syrup hair, as it is called — I guess for looking like the stringy threads syrup makes when being poured — is considered extremely beautiful. Bernard later told us that he observed people last year do the same with Cynthia’s hair — she had her hair open flowing down to her waist. We call this cross-cultural communication!

Here is Everett’s experience of being a shiatsu practitioner for the clinic:

I’m very thankful for the opportunity to work with the Haitian people. Working in the clinic was a heart-opening experience, being able to share my work with those in need at this time in their lives, and to learn what it means to have true courage in the face of desperate circumstances.

My love goes out to Julia and Jinpa who are both exceptional healers and beautiful souls, their work has helped so many.

Thank you, love,

Everett

Making our own remedies

Since we have such a high output of remedies, we constantly run out of things. This time we started to hand-succuss homeopathic remedies to keep things going. I was surprised I had forgotten I knew how to do that, and we were all glad to remember how resourceful one can be once left with little.

Planting food

Here it is! The baby moringa tree.

In our eternal efforts to create independence and resourcefulness rather than dependence, I had ventured to take three small moringa trees with me onto the airplane. Moringa trees are tropical plants with about the highest vitamin and mineral density of any known green, a true superfood. While the Haitians last year were not very motivated in sowing the seeds donated by Moringa Farms, Sandy had taken some back to Vermont, where Jeff Carpenter of Zack Woods Farm had grown them into baby trees. I stumbled across those trees at the International Herbal Symposium in Boston in July, when Jeff let me have three. They spent the summer in a friend’s back yard in Brooklyn, and were a hit as a carry-on going out to Port-au-Prince: the American air hostess hung them into a special cabinet so they would not come to harm, and the African air host exclaimed “I know those! We eat the leaves in my country! We call it muguru [or whatever it was]” to which an Indian passanger shared “We eat the pods in India – they are high in protein. We call them drumsticks.”


Petionville seems to be built on a garbage dump

As I had hoped, the customs guy in Haiti said, intrigued, “Are those natural?” and when I confirmed, he sent me to a bored-out-of-her-mind plant quarantine lady who lamely fumbled around the foliage and said, “Take them!”. So there I was with the moringa trees, whose seeds had originally come from Hawaii. My highest dream had been to plant them in the slum, but in hindsight it was maybe not so bad that the people there had no interest, since most shacks are built on layers upon layers of compressed garbage, on what appears to have been a garbage dump. Scary to think what residues would have wound up in the leaves! So they have now been planted in three private gardens in a way that the branches (once big) are accessible to the public.

It is remarkable to me to know that in the 30 years between my friend’s childhood and now, the Port-au-Prince population has lost touch with nature to the degree that although starving, they no longer pick up and eat local fruits and nuts when they are ripe, while this is still done in the surrounding countryside. The same holds true about knowledge of using herbs as home remedies — all it took was one short generation, and the knowledge is lost.

Rebuilding the country

So how far has the country been rebuilt 1-1/2 years after the earthquake? I never saw Haiti before the earthquake, but I was here about one month after it hit. One year ago, all the rubble had been removed from the streets, but even now most of the buildings that fell are still in rubble. In the last year, I would say that only about 5% of the building sites have been cleaned up and rebuilt. The percentage might be a little higher for the small houses in the poor areas, but it seems that cleaning up those large multistory rubble heaps costs too much for the owners. So by now, the vegetation is starting to move in.

A good amount of the people whose houses and shops were not destroyed — and who therefore did not lose their sources of income — redecorated their facades, so the overall picture of the street is now speckled with the odd beauty. The streets are just as dismal, flooded, “holy”, rubbish- and rubble-filled, and blocked with traffic as ever. It’s the rainy season, and every night the heavy rain and floodwaters wash tons (literally) of rubble from the fallen houses onto the roads.

The one thing that seems to have changed for the better is the water supply — it appears that the broken water pipes are, for the most part, repaired, and people have tap water again. We see many fewer dust-clad slum inhabitants and much less severe skin infection. Electricity still breaks down, more often than not. Some of the major thoroughfares are slowly being repaired and upgraded to modern standards with roundabouts (traffic lights don’t exist in Haiti – it’s more a “whoever pushes most wins” approach).

Political situation and President Mickey

Everyone made fun of the popular singer Mickey Matelly when he ran for president, and no one thought he could actually win, but win he did. In the second-ever democratic election in Haitian history, he won by the power of the people. Even before ever getting involved in politics, he would go to the ghettos and give the poor money and food. The roadside posters show him hugging an elderly poor lady and the message says “Victory for the people.”

He is having a tough time, because he refuses to be corrupt. The entire Senate boycotts him and refused to accept his nominees for prime minister (the next most powerful person under him), because he had suggested only non-corrupt people. In the end he put forward Bill Clinton’s choice, who was accepted by 100% of the votes. Bernard’s commentary: “Did they have to be that obvious? They could not even have three people vote against it to pretend that they were acting out of their own volition, and not just to please Clinton?”

What troubles me is to find out that Clinton does not have all that much of a humanitarian concern. He owns many companies in the neighboring Dominican Republic, and he’s just waiting for the situation here to get stable enough to move in and take over economically. As the air hostess said, “I am so ashamed of my own country to see how since the earthquake all those businessmen fly to Haiti and buy everything.” It’s a modern coup of colonialism.

So President Mickey, who loves to sing at the end of the interviews, is planning a fundraising concert, with tickets costing $1,000 each. He hopes to raise $100,000, the amount needed to get the Haitian school system back up and running properly. God bless Mickey the Singer. If he can accomplish nothing except for staying non-corrupt, what a gift that would be for his country. Papa Doc, the only president democratically elected before him, turned Haiti into a dictatorship the moment he seized power. So far, Mickey prefers to sing. I prefer songs over guns.

President Mickey is called tet kale (shaved head) lovingly by his people, who wear bracelets and t-shirts with his name, whereas the local graffiti read things like “[name of former president]+[name of former president’s son-in-law whom he tried to make next president] = cholera.” Public opinion is clear: The poor like Mickey, and the rich and influential prefer the former rich and corrupt president and politicians like him who favor the rich and corrupt.

President Mickey still lives the house he owned before he came to power, unlike all the other presidents before him who demanded to have a mansion built for them (as their private porperty, of course). He intends to stay there, and despite his pop-star past and the typical Haitian machismo he has always stayed true to his wife. He is also known for treating his housekeepers exceptionally well and humanely.

So how did this happen? How did an actual human being become president of this extremely corrupt country? The tale goes that the political establishment made sure to eliminate all serious opponents before elections, and did not at all take him seriously. So he slipped past their radar as this crazy guy who strips on stage and won’t ever win anyway. And luckily the UN oversaw the corrupt elections. Continuously blocked by the senate who is insulted by a non-corrupt president, he called them to battle the day before yesterday in the national stadium for a match of soccer. Entry free to the public, President Mickey and his cabinet played against the Senate: the Haitian kopa musician and his team won.

Sweet Mickey, as he is called by his fans, started his career as a really wild and crazy young singer with extremely provocative lyrics. As he matured he started playing more calm and beautiful Latin music. Now president, he wants to be called properly Joseph Michel Matelly. He says “If I met (the early) Sweet Mickey now, I’d arrest him!” This is good Haitian humor.

It feels part of this new face of Haiti to find big advertisement billboards raising the public awareness about violence against women. One shows a young, well-educated man (a Haitian yuppie if you wish) saying “I want to be a free man. Therefore, I am against violence towards women.” Wow!

The general situation of the country continues to degenerate. Armed UN troops in tanks continue to secure the most dangerous roads. Since after the upheavals during the election period, kidnapping has become rampant: anybody might kidnap anyone for any amount of possible or imagined payment. The hostages get killed at random, whether or not the ransom was paid. In other words: even if you and your entire family is poor and there is no chance in the first place to receive a ransom, you might still get kidnapped. Or else: although your family paid the ransom as asked, you might still get killed.

Apart from that, too many people have guns, in part from the previous dictatorships, and the criminals who escaped from the prisons during the earthquake are still at large. So mugging, robbing, ambushing, and kidnapping is armed. No one will drive around after dark in most of town if they have to, especially not in a private car. Bernard, who got ambushed twice in the streets of Port-au-Prince in his car, says that if you drive and a person stands in front of the car, you need to keep driving even if that means hitting them. And there are entire areas of town where the rule is “Don’t drive through after nightfall.”

Thanks

We wholeheartedly and in the name of the Haitian people thank the following companies and individuals for their donations which made this third trip possible (not in order):

We could not have done it without you!

Kathleen Gildae of Woodland Essence, Vivien of Sun Essences, the Flower Essence Society, Michael Friedman N.D. of Restorative Formulations, Lata Kennedy of Flower Power herb store, Tristam Coffin of Whole Foods, Ainsworths homeopathics, Zack Woods Herbs for the moringa trees, Michael Gordon, Lili Chopra, herbalists Matthew Wood, Robin Rose Benett, Leah Wolfe, Catherine Wing, Sally Tamplin of Homeopaths without Borders, Abby Ludowise, Josie of the Mat, Vens Thupten Puntsok and Thupten Jinpa’s students, Ven. Akasha, Bernard Guiteau and all the other donors, great and small as well as Gabrielle Simon, Sandra Lory, and Marguy Gerton of the second clinic’s team.

Read about our other trips to Haiti: