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: