Health Special Section

Friends of Haiti create trips to set up medical clinics


Navya Kartha and Kayla Mai said FOH’s possible next trip in May 2017 will include setting up medical clinics in Port-au-Prince, Lilavois and Delmas along with sessions to educate locals about health care. | Nguyen Le/The Cougar

The name of the organization designates them as friends, but the work they do makes them saviors.

For the past three years, Friends of Haiti have taken UH students and medical professionals to the country in the summer to set up mobile clinics and sustainability projects. Supplies for each trip are all self-prepared and donated from students, Project C.U.R.E. and local doctors.

“It’s really just us reaching out, telling people our story and hoping that they will want to contribute,” said biomedical sciences junior Navya Kartha, the FOH internal vice president.

Most recently, the country is reeling from Hurricane Matthew.

Kayla Mai, the FOH president, said that the trips are funded through fundraising events or campaigns on GoFundMe. Mai said these annual visits are important to — in any way — alleviate Haiti’s hardship after various hurricanes and a devastating earthquake in 2010. Mai visited last summer.

“There’s not only the destruction (financially), but also people’s psychology and health,” Mai said. “We pass out medication to at least provide them with basic health care. We also teach them how to take care of themselves, like, we give them toothpaste and toothbrush.”

The last time Kartha visited Haiti was two years ago and she has been assisting with trips since.

Mai said the main diseases in the Haitian community are scabies, vaginitis, heart diseases and stomach pains. Other major concerns are water contamination, cholera and STIs.

Kartha said FOH doesn’t handle patients with severe cases, like those with stroke or heart disease.

“We don’t necessarily have the facilities to take care (of them),” Kartha said. “We provide them the funds to go to a hospital and get the care that they need since we’re only there for a day.”

Mai said six clinic days for each trip cover a lot of areas around the country. Of course, memorable experiences tend to surface in each visit.

“My hand is like this,” Mai said while revealing her palm’s modest size. “But five hands of five children fit in that — it’s really a touching moment. At that time, I think that if my hands can heal, it’s a great thing to help them.”

Mai said this happened back in June.

Kartha said her best memory was in May 2015 at the New Life Children’s Home in Port-au-Prince. She said a lot of kids there were found in the mountains after they were abandoned.

“Her name was Princess,” Kartha said. “She asked me, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’” I said, ‘I want to be a doctor.’ Then she’s like, ‘If you want to be a doctor, then I’m gonna aspire to be a doctor.’ Just having conversations with people can change their lives.”

That said, Mai and Kartha said FOH’s exposure on campus remains light. Both said that there will be a fundraising and recruiting event soon.

FOH is planning to visit Haiti in May 2017.

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