Today I would like to highlight the amazing work of an amazing young woman. Deandrah Cameron!! She is about to make her second trip to Haiti, to help with aide and relief. A lot of us here in the States have no clue what is going on in Haiti, so I wanted to pick her brain for some firsthand insight.
1. This is your second trip. During your first trip to Haiti, what perception of Haiti did you have before you got there, and how did actually being there change your perspective?
I really expected to see all extreme poverty, that wasn’t the case. What was more shocking were the disparities that I saw. I expected the whole country to be poor, but it varied a great deal, much like the U.S., the wealth of the country is concentrated and experienced by a small percentage of people. Wealth and health exists in Haiti; just not for everyone. While race and socioeconomic status drive inequities in the U.S., and you can readily associate status with race, in Haiti, there is a clear split between those who speak french and those who spoke creole and that realization simplified the understanding of socioeconomic standing. The country is absolutely beautiful! I remember being surprised and saying to myself “you grew up in Jamaica, you should expect nothing less from any Caribbean island.” The reality is, the narratives in the media that drive the negative perceptions of Haiti are very rampant. The country has paid dearly for being the first black republic and unleashing a revolution and still is. It was by design that the land and people were made to suffer taking their freedom. If I can be candid-their colonizers just never got over it and continued their exploits. Being in the space felt like home, I was in a community where many basic needs were a luxury but the community lived in peace and protected each other, they shared everything, that to me is resilience. All I think now is that the country is unapologetic, and if demanding and keeping their dignity meant hardship, then it meant hardship.
2. How did you going to Haiti to provide supplies and help people come about and What exactly do you do there?
To be honest, I had received a scholarship for my summer courses and had some left over money, I wanted to do something meaningful with it so I reached out to few people I knew. NJ4Haiti has been committed to hosting the medical mission trip once a year for a while now. They have a dedicated team of local Haitian doctors. As volunteers we supported the doctors throughout a three day Medical clinic. The year I went it was set up at a school, and we saw children and their families, some of whom only receive this medical attention once a year when the clinic is set up. The money we pay as volunteers go into supporting the doctors who do this work, as well support a small pharmacy on site. Everyone who receives a diagnosis and prescription receives medication as free of cost. As Volunteers we help to triage, record symptoms and diagnosis and support the pharmacy in issuing medication . I worked with a doctor who was multilingual and it was great to have him communicate with residents in the language they understood. This is especially important because many organizations will take foreign doctors to different countries and that is not always the best approach ! The supplies were plus! Each volunteer can decide to take supplies or not and I decided it would be great to share the experience with my friends and family by having them actively participate in the form of donating an item, not money-I stray away from that to maintain integrity and quell skepticism.
3. What can people here in the States, who would like to help but can’t necessarily travel there, do to assist in the aide to Haiti?
There are multiple ways to help: Donate supplies, help sponsor a volunteer, or spread the word if you know that a person or organization is credible. Many people are skeptical when it comes to donating to Haiti because so many organization have committed fraud but the world is full of people who will take advantage of others and we can’t let that deter us from doing what makes us human.
4. Did the task in Haiti ever look to daunting to you?
Yes! For example, when we were there we saw a lot of scabies and other diseases related to sanitation and a lack of clean water. We would hand out lotions for the rashes, shampoo for the scalp and worm tablets and other medicine but at the end of the day, they will shower and swim dirty water because they have no other option; they will also wash their hair and take the medication with that water, so daunting ? yes. The organization I went with is working on getting a pump to solve the water issue and hopefully it will solve some of the medical issues. The lack of health and sanitation infrastructure makes preventative care hard to achieve, so we end up trying to cure and appease the issues we see. Many organizations don’t think the way we do in terms of looking at root causes. Many organization have built home bases in Haiti , the goal is always to address the root causes but many will be out of jobs and so they would rather treat symptoms year after year than address the source. We are trying to change that.
5. If you have any message you want to leave to the readers. Leave below.
I think its important to note that health disparities exist in some U.S. cities that are comparable to the rates in Haiti. Wherever you are, there is opportunity to lend a hand, a little goes a long way get to know your community and find ways to strengthen it, even if that means encouraging those who do the work.
-We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.- Martin Luther King, Jr.
If you would like to help those in Haiti please click the link below. Deandrah isn’t asking for money but for you to buy supplies so she can take them and help with relief.
“It is what difference we have made in the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” –Nelson Mandela
E.O.F Statewide Alumni Association, Vice President
Student Government Association, President
RBHS Financial Aid Office
MPH Candidate – Health Systems and Policy
Rutgers School of Public Health ’20
B.S. Rutgers University 2018
U.S. Army Reserves