What You Can See on the Back of a Moto in Haiti


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As much as I travel it is amazing to me that the first time I’ve ever ridden a moto was last week in Haiti. It was my two-wheeled taxi each time I visited L’Hôpital Sainte-Thérèse with Midwives for Haiti.

The short ride over rocky, rural roads with frequent potholes of mud that the driver had to dodge was exhilarating and provided a much-needed respite from the stifling heat that spreads across Haiti as soon as the sun is at its highest. The only thing that could have made the ride better was sunglasses. I forgot mine back home and didn’t buy any while I was in Haiti. Every time a caravan of SUVs or big trucks passed, a tornado of dirt and sand was kicked into the air and made its way into my eyes. I really needed my sunglasses in those moments, but I managed.

What You Can See on the Back of a Moto in Haiti

I took these photos on the way to the hospital. It was one of the few times I had to really be outdoors and close to the roadsides where people live and work in their markets as I was quite busy until after five in the evening.

I loved seeing two women hang sheets out to dry on cactus plants one morning as we rode by.  It reminded me of the juxtaposition of both the simplicity of doing something mundane and everyday and the necessity of making sure the chore gets done.

What You Can See on the Back of a Moto in Haiti
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Postcards From Haiti: Moms and Their Babies


SONY DSCNo matter where I am in the world, my favorite thing to do is spend time with mothers and their little ones. From Tanzania and Ethiopia to India and the Philippines, seeing the interaction between mothers and their children feeds my soul. Mothers are the same everywhere.

This week I spent time in Hinche and Deschappelles, Haiti where I saw vaccine and midwifery programs. It was a wonderful opportunity to spend time with fellow mothers and take photos of their beautiful children.

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Read posts from my trip to Haiti:

My Sweet, Little Friends


I made fast friends with a cute, little three-year-old in Deschappelles, Haiti yesterday at a mobile health post put on by Hôpital Albert Schweitzer. Her name is Natasha. How do I know that? It’s because her mother kept calling her name time and time again telling her to stop getting into things. Although her mother spoke Creole, every mother on earth (no matter the language) understands when another mother is scolding her child. After her mom told her to stand still, Natasha would be good for a split second, twittering her thumbs waiting for the precise moment to break free again. And every time Natasha would sneak away and start getting into things. It wasn’t anything heavy – just being a precocious three-year-old with wide eyes and a zest for discovering new things and having fun under the Haitian sun.

About an hour after I was at the health post interviewing mothers and taking photos Natasha discovered me and my camera! So, of course, I took her picture. This one:

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And then I showed Natasha her beautiful face.

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Initial Impressions of Haiti


This morning I am waking up to roosters in Hôpital Albert Schweitzer’s lovely guest house on its campus about two hours north of Port-au-Prince. The others who are here are medical volunteers. I’m the only writer.

Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti (HAS) is a 24/7 nonprofit hospital serving 350,000 people in central Haiti. This morning I will visit the hospital as well as vaccine programs, then it’s back to Port-au-Prince I go!

Since there is no way for me to upload photos right now I will describe what I saw yesterday. Haiti, for all intents and purposes reminds me greatly of Africa — hot and sunny! The sun-baked, beautiful faces are the same. The way enterprising people set up stalls of foods and goods along the roads is the same. The splashing of Haiti’s primary cell provider is everywhere on road signs, stalls, and painted on concrete. It is the same. Here it is called Digicel. It’s like seeing Airtel everywhere in Africa. Everyone has a mobile phone just like Africa, maybe two!

There are also the ways that the children play in the streets and come up to your SUV looking for something, anything as soon as you stop. Some people were moving fast on the go and others were laying under mango trees with seemingly nowhere to go and nothing to do. And boys sell water to buses of people as they stop in between towns.

As we drove north I saw too much trash everywhere! Too much! But, where are people going to put it but down the mountain or outside of their home or in the trenches? The amount of standing water and sewage you can see in the alleyways where people live is the same, and, of course, all of the motorbikes with two and three people on them…it’s the same.

There are many similarities between Haiti and say, Tanzania, Kenya, and Zambia. Many! But, of course, I have been here less than 24 hours and I have only seen the surface of Haiti. I have spoken to a few people in the little bit of French I know. I definitely don’t know Creole.

I cannot describe Haiti without sharing how beautiful the scenery was coming up the mountain. Around certain bends of the highways the sun shimmered on the ocean just so. It made me feel like I was on vacation in Jamaica, not coming for work in Haiti. The banana tree groves are thick, the mountains very steep, and mango trees are everywhere!

Last night when I went to bed the heat was sweltering. But just like Africa it gets cool at night and everything seems right in the world again.

More when I get to Port-au-Prince! I also will be tweeting today at @jenniferjames.

Somewhere in Transit to Port-au-Prince


These past few days have been fairly intense. First, I spent Thursday and Friday at the SwitchPoint conference in Saxapahaw, North Carolina, then when I was coming home from SwitchPoint I heard about the massive earthquake in Nepal where I actually have friends, all the while readying myself to travel to Haiti today. It’s been a lot!

As you read this I’m on a plane somewhere in transit to Port-au-Prince. I am excited to go to Haiti and although things have been a bit overwhelming nothing can stop me from gathering great stories while I’m there for the first time.

While at SwitchPoint I thought critically about my work as a writer and founder of Social Good Moms and how I can make both better through powerful storytelling. SwitchPoint is a conference for global health thinkers, artists, and communicators. That’s not their full definition, but that’s how I define it for myself. That’s what I like about SwitchPoint: The flow of it hits people in different places. Mine was about telling the best stories we can with the tools and knowledge we have.

Everyone had a story to tell even the freestylers who have traveled the world creating Beat Making Labs for the youth of Africa and Asia…

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… to the husband and wife owners of Haw River Farmhouse Ales who wanted a full-fledged brewery and funded it themselves without any investors (impressive) and could care less if they grow big or not. They are taking it one step at a time and are staying true to the Saxapahaw community. I love that.

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By the way, their ales are fresh and delicious. I tried two: one dark, stout beer and another light, lemony beer. Both were two of the best beers I’ve ever had in my life mainly because of the unique blends and because they were literally brewed 10 feet away.

And with that…I will talk to you when I arrive in Haiti given I have Wi-Fi. Be sure to follow me at @jenniferjames. I may be able to tweet and not write full blog posts.

Talk soon, friends!

 

 

Spending a Day With Smart, Global Innovators


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It’s early, early Friday morning. In a few hours I will be back at the SwitchPoint conference in Saxapahaw, North Carolina, a quaint, small town that is known for the global health innovators summit it hosts every year. SwitchPoint is a gathering spot for global change-makers who work to drive social change through data, or drones, or communications, or photography, among many other disciplines. I wrote a full post, Can Creative Innovators Drive Global Health and Humanitarian Change? about my first day at the conference in one of the most beautiful places in North Carolina on the Haw River.

Tomorrow I will take more photos. I always vow to take more photos when I am at events, but usually I rely too heavily on my phone. I’m putting a stop to that because I don’t want to miss a thing and I also want to share Saxapahaw in photos, not just words. The town is about twenty miles from Chapel Hill and has really grown into a destination of its own. The New York Times  even wrote a piece about the sleepy, little town in essentially the middle of nowhere.

I am attending SwitchPoint as a guest of IntraHealth International who I met last year on a trip to Tanzania where I saw some of their work with male circumcision that helps curb the spread of HIV. The presenter of SwitchPoint, IntraHealth International does innovative work with health workers in 100 countries. Working with IntraHealth International is really a full circle moment. I remember being in Zambia and seeing their offices in Lusaka in 2013. I wasn’t fully aware of everything IntraHealth International did at the time, but I knew I had heard about them and I recognized their logo. I am thrilled to now know more about their work!

I will say that I am excited about all of the talks we’ll hear tomorrow. I am equally excited about a scheduled field trip I am going to take to Saxapahaw’s brewery. If you read me often you know I love beer no matter where I am in the world. It’s my thing. I can’t wait to try Saxapahaw’s beer. And, of course, I will be taking photos.

 

Two Conferences + Traveling to Haiti


1376627_10151669054530838_978630771_nI have an extremely busy month ahead of me and I am grateful for it. I haven’t traveled outside of the States yet this year. It’s time!

Next week I will attend SwitchPoint, a global health ideas conference that’s put on by IntraHealth and is held every year in quaint Saxapahaw, North Carolina about 20 minutes from Chapel Hill. I was lucky to connect with IntraHealth last year in Tanzania when I traveled there with PSI and Mandy Moore. IntraHealth was also a partner on that trip and does amazing work with health workers in over 90 countries. I’ll be reporting from SwitchPoint as IntraHealth’s guess.

At SwitchPoint, I will be able to indulge in the work I love best; that is listening to change-makers who are thinking critically about ways in which to make the world a better place. It’s amazing how small the global health world is. I will get a chance to meet Lisa Russell and see her speak. I have been connected with Lisa online for a few years. Lisa is a well-known filmmaker who focuses on women and girls’ stories and talks poignantly about storytelling and narratives. It promises to be two amazing days!

Right after Saxapahaw I’ll be off to Haiti to visit women and mothers to hear and tell their stories. And, then after Haiti I will go straight to New York for Moms + Social Good. Let me know if you’ll be there.

May is going to be jam-pack as well where my work will take me to France and Africa. Looking forward to those trips! But first, SwitchPoint! I have to take one day at a time to maximize my brain to do the best work I can and stay in the moment.

I’m excited to get back to work and traveling!