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Some Things I Don’t Understand, Some Things I Do

December 8, 2011

Some days it seems it doesn’t pay to get up in the morning.

Late this morning I was walking into Pierre Payen to get some roofing nails so that Jean could repair my roof.  Just as I got into town I witnessed a man being hit by a moto.  He fell in the middle of the highway; the moto didn’t bother to stop.  Some people dragged him off the road as he was at risk of being run over; many Haitian drivers will stop for nothing.

As I reached the man, a crowd had gathered around him.  No one seemed to know him.  Many were poking and probing his injured leg.  I pushed them aside and announced that I was a nurse.  His shin was bleeding, but that was of no immediate concern.  A quick assessment revealed that his right tibia was fractured about mid-shaft, and the broken ends were displaced.  Although he was obviously in great pain, he remained intensely stoical.

I told people that we needed to get him to the hospital, only about half a kilometer away.  No one wanted to help.  Everyone was telling me that I should take care of the man.  I approached the driver of an empty tap tap that was parked nearby; he growled at me that it wasn’t his problem.  When I turned away he jumped out of his truck and told me he would take the man for eighty Haitian dollars, the equivalent of sixteen fares from Saint-Marc to Montrouis, a distance of over 20 kilometers.

Molet, the young man who regularly drives me around on his motorcycle to bring home materials to work on my home happened to be going by and stopped.  He volunteered to help me.  A couple of men tried to be of assistance, lifting the man to his feet but expecting him to bear weight on his broken leg.  I pushed them aside and showed Molet how to carry the man and put him on the bike.

When we got to the hospital, I went in to get assistance.  I was told I would have to bring the man in myself.  Molet and I got him inside, where a staff member told him to sit on the floor.  I insisted they at least bring a chair.  Someone came to examine the man and told him to get up on a gurney, but no one would assist him.  Again Molet and I stepped in.  After a very brief examination the staff person told me the man would need an x-ray, and if I wanted him to have one it would cost me 750 gourdes, about $19.  I was not about to have the man left unattended, so I paid.  Again staff would not help him to get to radiography.  The x-ray revealed what was evident.  I was then told I could leave.

I went to get my nails.  One of the young men at the construction materials store had seen what had happened.  I told him I had paid for the man’s x-ray.  Could I give him some money too, he asked?

As I was walking back past the hospital, a young man chased me down to tell me that if I wanted the man to get something for pain it would cost me a further 100 gourdes.  But when I returned to the hospital and paid for the medication, I was told the man would have to be transferred to Saint-Marc, and his treatment would cost me a further 500 Haitian dollars, about $62.50.  I didn’t have that much with me, and besides I was not going to submit to extortion based on my caring.  As much as I hated to do so, I walked away.

So I was not exactly the Good Samaritan.  I only went half the distance.  But I was appalled at the callousness of nearly everyone involved.  No one would help the man.  The hospital staff was totally without compassion.  People saw the situation as an opportunity to pocket some money.  When the young man who had chased me down before caught up with me again to try to convince me to pay more, I had had enough.  I was extremely upset, feeling violated, and asked him what was the matter with people.  Why wouldn’t they help one another?  Why did it always fall to a white to pay for what they needed?  He just shrugged.

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I had a lengthy conversation with Dr. Felix about the incident, telling him I was having trouble understanding what I had experienced.  He told me that one of the biggest problems that must be addressed if Haiti is to move ahead is the lack of concern people have for one another.  The doctor is a Christian and we discussed it in that light.  He explained that very few Haitian Christians apply Christian principles to their behavior.

I talked about how the staff at the hospital in Pierre Payen showed no compassion.  I have made a point of insisting that part of what our students learn is to be caring.  I am indebted to Leslie Rolling for her insights and encouragement after I discussed my views on this subject at some length in Sacred Care, (November 2nd). The doctors are in total agreement with me and our instructors restate again and again to our students the absolute necessity of being caring.

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Now I’m going to shift into full business mode.  I have already emailed some of you concerning the undertaking I am currently considering, and the responses I have received so far have been encouraging.  Therefore I deemed it prudent to broaden my approach to include all who read my posts.  It is hoped that perhaps some of you will express your support for me by advising me or assisting me in some way, or putting me in contact with someone you know who might be able to do so.

I am very grateful for those who have already declared themselves to be part of my “team” and it is my hope that more of you will do so.  The work is large, far beyond what I envisioned when I first felt my call to Haiti, and I need all the help I can get.  You obviously already have an interest in what I am doing considering you are reading my blog posts.  You may not think you can be of assistance, but every one of you can in some way.  I urge each of you to search your heart to find that way.  Your prayers, your comments, your correspondence and your practical support all contribute to the success of my work here in Haiti.  God will bless you all for you involvement as He has blessed me here.

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My work at the COPSA-Haiti Nursing Institute and Laboratory is going very well.  In recognition of my contribution to date, the doctors have installed me as a board member of the organization.  I believe both COPSA-Haiti and its school have the potential to play a very significant role in improving the level of healthcare in this country.  But training nurses and technicians to international standards is expensive.  To charge tuition fees that would reflect the true cost of such training would make it impossible for many of our students to attend.  We are looking to move in the opposite direction, to lower tuition so more worthy candidates can attend.

COPSA-Haiti gets no financial support from the Haitian government.   We are, however, registered with Haiti’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour, and the Ministry is enthusiastic about our school and has offered to issue nationally recognized diplomas to our graduates.  But the reality is that the government continues to struggle with a myriad of problems and has no money available in their budget to aid us.  I am in contact with members of the Haitian-Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Port-au-Prince who have indicated a strong interest in our school; the Chamber is presently considering whether there is any way it’s members can be of assistance.  My discussions with the doctors have led me to conclude that there are few other sources within Haiti to look to for funding assistance.  Consequently, we, like many in this country, must turn to the international community.

Understanding that of all the members of COPSA-Haiti I am in the best position to do that, I am intending to look into establishing COPSA-Haiti Canada and registering it as a Canadian charitable organization with the stated purpose of, but not limited to, assisting the ongoing development and operation of the school.  I would like to leave room within the application to allow us to eventually proceed with our medium-term goal of establishing a free hospital.  Charitable status would provide a vehicle whereby I and others could fundraise in Canada, and provide those who assist us with receipts for their donations.  To quote a Canada Revenue Agency publication, “Being a registered charity evokes a positive image in the minds of most Canadians.”   Many have the perception that registered charities are better managed and more tightly controlled than non-registered charities, and registration inspires a greater degree of confidence that encourages support.  In addition, the prospect of a tax receipt makes many Canadians more willing to give.

There is considerable support from Canada for healthcare in Haiti, particularly from the medical community.  I believe we could be successful in finding support for COPSA-Haiti.  At this juncture, to accomplish what we envision for the school would not require huge amounts of money.  Our current annual operating budget is in the vicinity of $100,000.  With this we are able to deliver to over 300 students who are pursuing studies toward careers as Nurses, Nursing Assistants, Laboratory Technicians and Pharmacy Technicians a curriculum recognized as being in most respects equivalent to that of the Haiti National School of Nursing in Port-au-Prince.  However our current funding deficit will not allow us to purchase medical equipment for a full practical training.  We would also benefit greatly from being able to retain a larger compliment of high-caliber instructors at the school.  A few thousand dollars would go a long way toward meeting those needs.   We are confident that with modest additional funding we could match and perhaps exceed the program of the National School and could comply with international standards of training.

Incorporation and application for registration as a charitable entity in Canada is no small undertaking.  Since we would be seeking to assist in funding operations outside Canada, the requirements are somewhat more detailed.  We will need to draft a formal agreement with COPSA-Haiti that will satisfy the requirements of the Canada Revenue Agency.  This will be made somewhat easier as COPSA-Haiti is a registered NGO.  We need to choose a board of directors, draft a clear statement defining our purposes and proposed activities, set out our governing documents, and appoint auditors.

To accomplish some of this I believe we will unquestionably need to engage the services of a charity lawyer familiar with the applicable legislation and the requirements of the application process, as well as experience with international charities.  Any errors or omissions in the application process would result in delays and possibly denial of our application.  I hope I would be able to find a lawyer competent in this area who would be sympathetic to our cause and assist us for either a reduced fee or pro bono.

The application for registration needs to be initiated as soon as possible as the process takes six months or more.  The Canada Revenue Agency asks that a number of things be documented as being in place before the application is made.  Therefore much needs to be done in a short time; time is of the essence.  As I am needed at the school for the foreseeable future, I am looking for a few people who have enough interest to do a lot of the legwork.  They would likely stay on as members of our board of directors.  Once we are registered, their duties would not consume much time.  I hope to find these people and get things underway while I am in Canada over the holidays.

This is a very significant undertaking, but as the saying goes, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”  This is given great emphasis in the parable of the talents. The sooner I can pull this together, the better it will be for our students, and the better it will be for Haiti.   God will empower the work for the kingdom of God is at hand.

I can be contacted as usual at brprocter@gmail.com

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