Our short-term volunteers contribute many valuable skills and qualities to our life and work here at COTP. Of course, there are also some irritations that come with the territory (perhaps another blog post?). One thing short-termers are infamous for is proposing ridiculously simple solutions to complex problems our organization has been facing for over a decade and other lifers in Haiti have been facing a lot longer than that. One question I have often heard on the introductory tour is “Why don’t you just give out birth control?” It’s not the idea that’s absurd, just the way they think it’s so easy to implement and will solve all of Haiti’s problems. But, not to diminish the worth of people’s ideas (we really do love our volunteers, by the way!), I’ve been thinking more about this in the last few months. How could family planning help the multitude of problems in Haiti? What barriers are there? What cultural considerations are there? Did you know that many Haitians believe that if you do the deed in the ocean, you will neither become pregnant nor share diseases? What other misconceptions are out there? Are people even looking for family planning solutions? Where would funding come from? And who at COTP has time for Another program?
Well, it just so happens that part of my new role is networking with other organizations in our little corner of Haiti. And probably a hundred times, I’ve driven right past this sign on the way to the hospital we use. It says “Family planning clinic – Community of Milot.” I thought I’d do a little investigating since two common complaints I hear from Haitian women are that birth control is too expensive and that they only give the injections which have too many unwanted side effects. I have to say—to say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. The man I spoke with, twice now, is named Wilson. There’s just something about that name! 😉 But this Wilson is graying a little and very passionate about providing the community of Milot with an array of family planning options. He invited us (I went with Carla) in immediately, offering chairs and a wealth of information. He was knowledgeable, he was personable, and he was excited. They didn’t offer only injections, though they were indeed available. They also provided condoms and two different types of oral contraceptives. He was excited about the prospect of working together and made sure we knew to call before we brought anyone in so he could be well-prepared and well-stocked. He talked about the reasons for choosing each method, the risk of side effects, and the normal trends he has noticed in the women who come to his clinic. But I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet! This service (which, by the way, also provides vaccinations for kids) is completely free! Yeah! I know! It’s a program run by…drumroll…the Haitian government!! What?! I can barely believe it myself but I’m so excited I couldn’t help but share the news!
So what does this mean? In the grand scheme of Haiti, not much. They’ve already been doing this for a while it seems. For COTP, a new partnership has been formed and we are capitalizing on the opportunity. We are talking about orphan prevention here!! This aspect of our care will be as Haitian-run as possible. I’ve done some legwork but will soon be stepping out of it completely. Our Haitian social workers have already made a list of some women who could benefit from a program like this. They will be responsible for contacting the women, making the rendezvous, communicating with Wilson, and then COTP will provide the transportation for these women to regularly visit the family planning clinic. I’m still figuring out the education component that will be included and we will develop a simple way to track the women we are helping, but those things will be implemented by Haitians as well. It’s simple. It’s genius. It’s God.