why volunteer with chi
Learn more about what it is like to volunteer with an organization committed to Haiti and values.
Many can identify Haiti as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, but few can speak to its history. Between geography, slavery, debt, and bad luck, Haiti has been faced with many tragedies. Sitting atop the major fault line between the Caribbean and North American tectonic plates and along a popular path for hurricanes has caused many natural disasters in Haiti. Yet, the country’s poverty is more deeply rooted in its history. In the 18th century, Haiti (named Saint-Domingue then) was one of the richest islands in the French empire, producing 60% of all European coffee imports and 40% of all European sugar imports. To achieve such economic success, the French imported approximately 40,000 slaves per year. However, in August 1791, slaves in the northern plains began a rebellion. Although the uprising led to a brutal 12 year civil war, Haiti declared independence on 1 January 1804. However, freedom came with a price - 150 million francs in gold to be exact. While this price was reduced by half in 1830, this debt devastated Haiti’s economy as it had to borrow from American, German, and French banks to pay its reparations until 1947.
Given the prevalence of malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, infectious disease, and other disease, practicing medicine in rural Haiti can be quite different from practicing in the US. Our providers receive a case definition and treatment guidelines book, which should be read prior to arrival in Haiti to create continuity for our patients in their diagnoses and treatment procedures. We encourage collaboration between providers throughout the week in Arcahaie; providers new to Haiti will practice alongside physicians experienced in the region.
Haitian Kreyòl (or Creole) is the primary language spoken throughout Haiti. With roots in French, English, and languages from the pre-colonial Haitian population, most French speakers can understand the basics. We work with some of the best translators around. They speak English very well, if not fluently. Our translators love sharing Haitian history and culture with our volunteers. Volunteers tend to pick up Haitian words and phrases from our interpreters as well! We employ enough translators during clinic that all volunteers should have the chance to interact with patients.
Our teams will typically stay in a hotel or resort, where breakfast and dinner is prepared. Volunteers will have access to electricity, cold-running water (including toilets and showers), and intermittent Internet access through their lodging. Local Haitians cook for us and are very careful cleaning and preparing the food to ensure it is cooked properly.