We welcome physicians, pharmacists, physical therapists, sign language interpreters, translators (French or Creole), as well as any non-medical personnel who have a heart for listening, learning, loving and serving the children of St. Vincent’s. Be prepared to leave a large part of your heart in Haiti, as you will receive much more than you give.
We recognize that not all of the partners in our West Tennessee Haiti Partnership are able to join us on our medical service trips. However, their contributions of time, talent, and prayer are just as valuable and necessary for the continued success of our service. We are grateful for the ongoing support of these partners who enable us to carry out this important work.
Written by Brittany Jonap and Sherye Fairbanks, Seasoned Haiti travelers, May 2015
Remember that we are guests at St. Vincents. This is where they learn, work and live. We are lucky to be invited into their home, and we must be respectful of that.
Photography. Many kids love to have their picture taken, but other staff, students and team members do not. You should always ask before taking someone’s photograph or filming them.
Visiting the students. It can disrupt learning when a large group visits the school. Always arrange ahead of time before going into the classroom to visit or participate. Someone can help you arrange this.
Language. A little bit of effort goes a long way. Consider investing in a Haitian Creole or American Sign Language dictionary to help you.
Be prepared to say no. You may get asked for money or food at some point. Realize that giving “handouts” to one student and not every student will create significant disruption either in the yard or later in the dorm. Please do not do this.
Food. Be cognizant of your surroundings while you are snacking. Do not eat in front of the children. And do not give away your lunch. Nourishing yourself throughout the day is important.
Attire. The people of Haiti dress very nicely. You may want to take this into consideration.
Be flexible. Plans will change so it is best to be prepared to go with the flow. Keep an open heart and an open mind.
Make this a learning opportunity. If you don’t know anything about the culture or history of Haiti, consider reading a book or watching a documentary before visiting the country. You will not regret that decision.
Find someone. This may be an emotional experience for you. Many of us have been there and there are team members that can guide you through those emotions. If you ever need help or assistance, do not hesitate to ask.
Enjoy the experience.
Check with your insurance company to see if any of these are covered. Generally, they are considered immunizations “for travel” and are not covered. Some insurance companies will cover the Tetanus ONLY if it is given during an annual exam or after if you need it for an injury, etc. Just a note: My insurance company did not pay for any of them, but they assured me if I came back with Malaria, it would be covered under the terms of my policy!!
The following information and prices are from The Shot Nurse in Memphis, TN. Immunizations required are:
1. Hepatitis A and B (or Twinrix)
3. Tetanus booster within last 10 years (get with Pertussis)
4. Malaria medication
1. Hepatitis A—total of 2 injections, 6 months apart
Hepatitis B – total of 3 injections
Second injection is 30 days after the first one
Third injection is 5 months after the second one (you can get this after you return)
This vaccine series is good for life.
Twinrix (which is Hepatitis A and B combined)—total of 3 injections
Second injection is 30 days after the first one
Third injection is 5 months after the second one (you can get this after you return)
This vaccine series is good for life.
2. Typhoid – can get this with an inoculation or pills
1. Inoculation—1 required, this does not contain a live virus. This lasts for 2 years.
2. Pills – 4 pills, take 1 every other day for 8 days, these do contain a live virus. This lasts for 5 years.
You must start taking the pills at least 14 days prior to travel date.
3. Tetanus – total of 1 injection, if you have not had one in the last 10 years, get with Pertussis. This lasts for 10 years.
4. Malaria Medication – Haiti has recently had a few cases of Chloroquine resistant malaria. Get a prescription for one of the following from your physician:
(2) Malarone, or
Take as directed.
Cost for this varies with your insurance company and the pharmacy you use.
Also ask your physician for a prescription for Ciprofloxacin, 500 mg, #14, to have with you in case of diarrhea.
Other medications to bring with you:
1. Personal medications and vitamins
2. Pepto-Bismol tablets
3. Advil or Tylenol for personal use
For the most reliable information please use the link below.
The virus is mosquito borne. Recent news about the virus was issued because it was previously seen only in Africa. As of Jan 2016 there have been cases reported in Mexico, Central/South America
The illness is mild in most adults. However it MAY be linked to birth defects in pregnant women who are infected during their pregnancy. Therefore, pregnant women are advised by CDC- NOT to travel to the endemic areas at this time.
For our Haiti team members of child bearing age, I recommend that you either use contraception during the month before, during and after travel to Haiti, or else cancel your trip. In other words, make sure you are not pregnant during your travel to Haiti and for two weeks after your return.
During our trips to Haiti, Dr. Susan Nelson and her volunteers serve both children and staff at St. Vincent’s School for Handicapped Children in Port–au–Prince. The children are given wellness assessments, and we provide enough vitamins for every child to receive a vitamin every day. That’s 30 bottles of 250 vitamins each, every month!
The children are also treated for issues like ear, skin and respiratory infections. The adults are screened and treated for high blood pressure, diabetes, and arthritis. We purchase most of our medications at local pharmacies in Haiti because we feel it is better to use local sourcing and to support the Haitian economy.
Here is a list of important ways you can support us in this valuable ministry:
$1 will provide blood pressure medication for one Haitian for 1 year
$5 will provide vitamins for all the children for 1 day $30 will treat 10 kids’ bronchitis or ear infection
$150 will provide one month of vitamins for all the children
$2000 will support the cost of one limb correcting surgery to help a lame child walk
Any amount of syringes, gloves, or alcohol pads are welcome
Any amount of soap, shampoo, or toothpaste are welcome
$420 will support one volunteer with room/board for 1 week
$1000 will support one volunteer with a plane ticket to Haiti
$60 will feed one child 3 meals per day for one month
$360 will feed one child 3 meals per day for six months
Education at St. Vincent’s
$250 Support a teacher at St. Vincent’s School
Please make checks payable to:
The West Tennessee Haiti Partnership
c/o The Diocese of West Tennessee
692 Poplar Ave
Memphis TN 38105
Or you may visit our donate page and donate online.
We appreciate your continuous prayers for those who devote their own time, talent and resources to this ministry, and we welcome all who wish to join us in this work.
For more information, please contact:
Rev Drew Woodruff at firstname.lastname@example.org
by Mark Wm. Radecke
Mark Wm. Radecke is a chaplain and associate professor of religion at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. (Christian Century Magazine, May 18, 2010.)
SHORT-TERM MISSION trips continue to rise in popularity. In leading such trips and researching their impact, I’ve found that they can have a profound effect on the faith and life of participants, and good work is often done: people living in poverty have their need addressed by energetic and caring people.
But the liability of badly implemented mission trips far exceeds the missed opportunities of staying home. Poorly conceived trips can distract hosts from their primary ministries, use up significant sums of money and energy on low-priority tasks and create unreasonable expectations for visible results in a short period of time. These are familiar criticisms; it’s well known that short term mission trips can be done poorly or well. Here is a brief inventory of the worst practices that can undermine the best intentions.
“Here to ogle”: Participants in short-term missions routinely report that what affects them most profoundly is getting to know their hosts, enjoying their hospitality, hearing their stories and witnessing the vitality of their faith. Hosts and partners are not like animals in a zoo. We visitors do not go to observe them; we go at their invitation to enter into their world and to experience—however briefly and incompletely—their realities—their realities. Dean Brackley writes eloquently about the potential impact of nortenos’ encounter with the campesinos of El Salvador:
“If we allow them to share their suffering with us, they communicate some of their hope to us as well. The smile that seems to have no foundation in the facts is not phony; the spirit of fiesta is not an escape but a recognition that something else is going on in the world besides injustice and destruction. The poor smile because they suspect that this something is more powerful than the injustice. When they insist on sharing their tortilla with a visiting gringo, we recognize there is something going on in the world that is more wonderful than we dared to imagine.”
This is the sort of encounter we want for short-term missionaries. But taking photos of makeshift dwelling and ill clad children without permission—and without inquiring into the conditions that compel human beings to live in such circumstances in the first place—turns a mission trip into socioeconomic voyeurism.
“It’s all about me”: Martin Luther described the essence of sinfulness with the phrase homo incurvatus in se: the person curved in on himself or herself. Of all the potential ironies of the short-term mission trip, objectifying people is perhaps the most spiritually damaging. When we fail to become acquainted with our hosts and their communities, we not only forfeit rich opportunities for accompanying them but inadvertently commodify the very people we intend to help. We take interest in them only insofar as they can help us achieve something else—which, too often, is feeling good about ourselves and what we’re doing. With our culture’s values as part of our baggage we treat the mission trip as a thing to be consumed for our entertainment, edification and enjoyment.
If this is 2010, then we must be in Tanzania: Tanzania this year, Bosnia next year, Nicaragua the year after that, and the Philippines in year four: a different country on a different continent every year! Changing the mission trip location each year may provide variety for participants, but it subverts the goal of establishing deep and last relationships. Better to make a commitment to one community.
Naturally, team members will change from year to year. Different leaders may take turns. Reciprocal visits by members of the host communities may or may not be possible, given the ever-tightening constraints of border controls. The goal, however, should be to establish meaningful, mutual and ongoing relationships.
“Ethnocentrism, or ‘that’s dumb'”: When the teams I take to Central America complete their home stays, they give each host family a small gift. Their hosts often react in a way that seem unappreciative to Americans—which has prompted more than a few participants to take offense. But that’s simply the way people in that culture respond to gifts.
They regard the way we gush at the mementos they give us as peculiar, even childish. This is ethnocentrism; each is judging the other’s actions by the standards of his or her own culture.
The gifts we take on these trips often have to do with time: an engraved clock, a photo calendar of Pennsylvania. But punctuality is not valued in Latin America the way it is in North America. “Where’s the bus?” a participant might ask. “The driver said she’d be here at 3:00. It’s already 3:15!” I encourage participants to turn their perturbation into a question, to suspend judgment and simply ask why things are the way they are. Maybe a friend stopped by as the driver was preparing to leave home and pick us up. In her culture, it would be unthinkably rude for her to abbreviate that visit just to pick us up at three on the dot.
Ten Worst Practices of Misguided Missions
“Who am I to judge?”: On the other hand, it’s false sense of multiculturalism that suggests that it is always inappropriate for participants to form any moral judgment about another culture. This cultural relativism is the flip side of ethnocentrism: both preclude actually taking another culture seriously.
To be sure, two weeks is far too short to understand another society’s complexities. But that doesn’t mean that participants must suspend all moral judgment. If the goal is to promote global awareness, then we need to equip short-term missionaries with the tools required to think critically about what they experience abroad.
“I see what your problem is”: Having an engineer on your mission team can be a mixed blessing. Engineers are trained to diagnose and repair problems; it’s part of their professional DNA. They will typically go to a service site and immediately begin to calculate the most efficient approach to the tasks at hand—most efficient, that is, in their world of meaning and reference. This won’t always work in another culture, and it may even be offensive.
When we enter into our hosts’ world, we do things their way
A team I led a decade ago agreed to help lay the foundation for a modest new church. I sent a check ahead to hire someone to dig the foundation trenches before we arrived—a half a day’s work at most, with the proper equipment. When we got there, there was no such equipment to be seen, the job was less than half finished, and I was less than half thrilled. But as my Costa Rican friends saw it, it would be crazy to give the money to someone already rich enough to own a Bobcat; there were six unemployed adults in the community who were eager to do the work with picks and shovels for the same sum, even though it would take all six of them three full days to do it.
When we enter our hosts’ world, we do things their way.
“I have, you need”: A truck pulls into a poor community, and visitors open the back door and begin to distribute whatever it is they’ve brought: vitamins, food, toiletries, clothing. This may be a good model for first responders to a natural disaster. It is seldom if ever an acceptable one for mission teams. For one thing, it is undignified. For another, it casts the norteamericana in the role of beneficent givers and the recipients in the role of charity cases.
A better model is to give the donated materials to a local congregation or social-sevice agency and ask that local leaders distribute it. They may know the people of the community and their degree of need; they may also be familiar with unscrupulous individuals who might attempt to exploit the opportunity. What’s more, this approach feeds two birds with one crumb: along with getting the donated materials to the intended recipients, it enhances the local group’s ministry.
“Let’s see some results”: Noel Becchetti of the Center for Student Missions tells of a local pastor in Mexico who tries to get visiting teams to help with his mission of outreach to men. Some teams, however, are dead set on building something: they want to see some (literally) concrete results. So the pastor has a wall that he has such teams work on. He has no idea what the wall will ever be or become, but building it keeps the visiting teams busy and out of his hair, and at the end of their time they can rejoice and be glad that they accomplished something tangible.
I have the privilege of seeing projects grow over the years. Team members, however, have only the perspective of their two weeks, and it isn’t wrong to see results. When I send photos of the church that was eventually constructed to the team members that did the foundation work described above, they were delighted and got a new perspective on the value of their labors. I now try to manage expectations, so that team members know if they are likely to begin, advance or finish a project; few are the projects that can be begun and completed in a week or two. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “I planted, Apollo watered, but God gave the increase.”
“Where did you go to grad school?”: It is certainly appropriate to draw on the expertise of local professors, pastors and others with advanced degrees. Some of our most powerful learning experiences, however, have come through presentations by Nicaraguan refugees and the immigrants living in Costa Rica, only one of whom has completed high school. These friends told us powerful stories of civil war and unemployment in their native land, and they have eloquently explained to us what Christ and his church have meant to them in the midst of tragic, trying and life-altering experiences.
Irritations can be turned into questions about why things are the way they are Carbon footprints in the sand: The apostle Paul describes an irony that lies close to the heart of short-term mission trips: we want to do what is good, but various forms of evil can compromise our efforts. The air, bus and boat travel for one Central American trip may generate more than 41 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Contributing to the degradation of the environment is hardly consistent with the Christian faith. In an effort to offset our carbon emissions, we have made tree-planting—directed by local officials—part of recent ventures. (We’re aware, however, that experts disagree as to how effective this is.)
Or consider the practice of purchasing T-shirts for team members. How ironic would it be if such purchases supported companies that operate sweat-shops exploiting the very people whose lives the mission team seeks to improve? It requires only a little research to make sure you’re buying sweatshop-free materials.
“They’ll figure it out”: When I began leading missi0on trips, I assumed that participants would naturally come to new understandings and integrate them into their faith and life. What I failed to appreciate was the importance of reflection—so critical that some practitioners refer to it as the “hyphen in service-learning.” When reflection is minimal or missing—when those involved in short-term missions do not ruminate on their experiences, ponder the situations of those served and relate them to their own faith—a precious opportunity is lost.
Often because of time constraints or the simple disinclination to expend mental and spiritual energy, we complete each day’s work, say a prayer and go our separate ways. Like the servant who buries the master’s treasure, we play it safe. We know we have encountered something that can challenge our conventions, deepen our discipleship and shape the contours of our own and others’ lives. Such encounters disturb our spiritual status quo. It is one thing to work alongside people living in horrible circumstances; it is quite another to ask why the prosperity of a relative few is predicated upon the existence of a permanent global underclass.
We often consent to dispense with reflection or at least keep it superficial, preferring the comfort of knowing that we have done a good work—which, in most cases, we truly have—and that those we have served are at least a little better off. Their need is addresses, our guilt is assuaged, and all can return to life as we know it. But this is not transformation, it’s deformation.
Short-term mission teams travel down roads paved with good intentions; it’s important to avoid these wrong turns. Instead, those of us who lead such trips can foster solidarity and Christian friendship with the partners alongside whom we serve, and we can create space in which all participants—guests and hosts—can ponder, reflect and grow.
Check out www.onebag.com for many helpful hints on packing light and effectively in one bag. It is worth the time.
We are each allowed 1 suitcase and a carry-on without paying extra. We ask each team member to bring two suitcases, and the WTHP will pay baggage fees for the second suitcase. They each must weigh LESS than 50 lbs. Both suitcases will be filled with medical supplies (as much as possible) and your personal items can hopefully be fit into your carryon. Liquids (shampoo bottles, etc) over 3 ounces must be in one of your checked bags (not the carryon). HINT: If you can find a really old, ugly, but sturdy suitcase (at a garage sale, thrift store, etc.) that is best.
1. A passport holder that hangs around your neck is very helpful to carry your airline ticket, your passport, identification, and a small amount of cash.
2. Some people prefer a backpack for a carry-on instead of a handled bag or purse. Whichever you bring for your carry on, remember that you have to juggle that and a suitcase in the narrow airplane aisle.When we arrive at the airport in Haiti you will be in control of both pieces of luggage, your carry on, and your passport! Also, you might want to carry your backpack back and forth with you to St. Vincent’s.
3. We highly recommend that you put your toilet articles, your personal medications, and anything else you might need the as soon as we arrive in your carry-on in case your checked baggage does not arrive the first day.
Before you pack:
Check out http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/prohibited/permitted-prohibited-items.shtm and look in the column on the left labeled: For Travelers. Under this you will find a great deal of helpful and necessary information.
NOTE: It is very HOT and DUSTY in Haiti. Bring cool, comfortable clothes to wear. Be sure your shoes are comfortable and can get dirty, because they will! Don’t forget any personal medications, including an epi-pen if you might need one. They are hard to find in Haiti.
Everything you bring should be comfortable
Shirts, blouses or tops
Pants, long walking shorts, or skirts for daily use–a skirt is appropriate if we go to services on Sunday or for the Feast of St. Vincent’s.
Shoes and socks or very sturdy sandals
Sleepwear – we have fans in the bedrooms, but no air conditioning
Travel pillow, the Guesthouse provides pillows, but in case you are particularly attached to yours and you can fit it in your suitcase…
Flip-flops to wear in the shower and around the Guesthouse
It is not a good idea to go bare-footed
Lightweight laundry bag
Bandanas or scarves
Toothbrush and cover, toothpaste, floss
Comb and/or brush, hair bands, etc.
Shampoo and soap (liquid must be in 3 oz. containers or less)
Things you might want to carry with you to St. Vincent’s:
Hand sanitizer (3 oz. size or less) – ESSENTIAL
Sun Screen, #30 or more – ALSO ESSENTIAL
A water bottle that can be refilled – ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL
Lip Balm or Chapstick
Prepackaged snacks – chocolate does not travel well (it melts!), but granola bars, nuts, mints, gum, dried fruits, juice boxes, pre-packaged cookies, 1-serving containers of peanut butter, crackers with cheese or crackers with peanut butter, and packaged snacks are what we have for lunch every day. Bring enough to share.
Camera – with charger or batteries
Documents to bring:
Driver’s license or other picture identification
Health insurance information
Photocopy of your passport, picture identification and health insurance information in case they are lost. This should not be packed with the originals.
Flashlight and extra batteries
Insect repellent with DEET (3 oz. size)
Journal or notebook and writing utensils
Playing cards or other games to play in the evening
$10 for entry fee required at the Haiti Customs desk upon entering the airport
What to bring for St. Vincent’s: (bring these to the packing event in Memphis)
2 boxes of sandwich sized Ziploc bags
1 box of gallon sized Ziploc bags
Several grocery plastic bags to use as trash bags
Electric appliances, such as hair rollers, hair dryers, electric razors – these can overload the electrical system at the Guesthouse.
Jackets or heavy clothing – it is HOT in Haiti.
Sheets, towels, washcloths, etc. – clean linens are provided for us at the Guesthouse.
Precious personal items or clothes that you really care about. Not because they will be stolen, but because (1) things get lost, and (2) clothes will get very dirty and sweaty.
You can bring your phone and computer with you.
Packing the medicine:
We will have a packing party, usually the Sunday before departure. We will send out exact date and time as we get closer to the trip dates. Bring an large empty suitcase. The best thing to do is visit a thrift store and get something cheap that has plenty of space and (preferably) wheels.
Farmer, Paul. (1992). AIDS and Accusation – Haiti and Geography of Blame. Berkeley, CA: University of Cal. Press.
Aristide, Jean-Bertrand. (1992). In the Parish of the Poor – Writings from Haiti. Maryknoll, New York, NY: Orbis Books.
Regis, Marc Yves. (1996). Haiti through My Eyes: The Poems of Marc Yves Regis. East Hartford, CT.: Regis and Ransom.
Regis, Marc Yves. (2003). Two Good Feet: A Photographic Documentary of Physically Challenged Children. New York, NY: Lantern Books.
Regis, Marc Yves. (2011). Haiti After the Shock. Newington, CT: Down Home Publishing.
Jean-Louis, Daniel and Klamer, Jacqueline. (2016). From Aid to Trade: How Aid Organizations, Businesses, and Governments Can Work Together. Fresh Strategy Press.
Cadet, Jean-Robert. (1998). Restavec: From Haitian Slave Child to Middle-Class American. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
Farmer, Paul. (1994). Uses of Haiti. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press.
Dubois, Laurent. (2010). Haiti: The Aftershocks of History. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company.
Danticat, Edwidge. (1994). After Breath, Eyes, Memory. New York, NY: Vintage Contemporaries.
Temple, Frances. (1992). Taste of Salt. New York, NY: Orchard Books.
Louis, Liliane Nerette. (1999). When Night Falls, Kric! Kric! : Haitian Folktales: Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
Greene, Graham, (1966). The Comedians. Geneva: Edito-Service.
Dash, J. Michael. (2001). Culture and Customs of Haiti. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.
Corbet, Steve and Fikkeert, Brian. (2009) When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty without Hurting the Poor. New York, NY: Holt and Company.
Farmer, Paul. (2004) Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World. New York, NY: Random House, Inc.
When we travel to Haiti with the West Tennessee Haiti Partnership, we make very careful arrangements ahead of time to meet someone at the airport whom we know and trust. All transportation in country is arranged through the local Episcopal church in Haiti, or through our guest house. The guest house chosen for each trip depends on convenient location as well as good references from others who have stayed there previously. Months of planning and correspondence go into making arrangements for our accommodations as well as our transportation in country.
Our Haitian hosts are very particular about the safety of their American guests. Because of this, we insist that each team member observe the following rules. Always travel in groups, never alone Do not leave the guest house grounds or the school facility without a Haitian escort. Do not offer money to anyone in Haiti. Individuals may approach team members asking for money, and we ask our team members Please Do Not Give Money or gifts to any individuals at the school or on the streets. There will be a time and place for gifts and donations, coordinated through the priest in charge of St Vincents school.
With these careful plans, we have never had any of our team members in any personal danger while travelling in Haiti, including two visits during National Elections and one shortly after the earthquake in 2010. All team members are invited to register with the US Embassy including our local contact information while staying in Haiti.
Using these measures gives us the best protection against personal dangers, including kidnapping or robbery.