Honorable Jacque-Edouard Alexis, prime minister of Haiti from 1998 – 2001, and again from 2006 – 2008, visited Pueblo October 1st through 3rd with his wife Frederika during which he toured the local area, and delivered the key-note address to our 2nd Annual Health4Haiti fund-raising event. They were accompanied by our friend Dr. Roger R. Jean-Charles from Haiti (formerly from Boston), who was the key-note speaker for our event last year.
The City and County of Pueblo declared October 2nd “Health4Haiti Day”.
The trio visited local scenic attractions such as Lake Pueblo, the Royal Gorge suspension bridge (highest suspension bridge in the world, built in 1929, suspended over a deep gorge, 1,178 feet above the Arkansas River) and Canon City, with stops for interviews with 2 newspapers along the way.
During their visit, they commented on how the geography, topography and vegetation of this southern Colorado area reminded them of the part of Haiti in which Gonaives, their childhood home, is located (dry, brown, and mountainous).
In his remarks, he thanked the members of Health4Haiti for our initiative in resurrecting the operating room capability of the Gonaives hospital, the new clinic we are building, and delivering health care to the people after “the disasters” (the hurricanes which devastated the city in 2004, and again in 2008). He for-sees rebuilding the new hospital with stricter standards to sustain hurricane hazards. He also wants to see educational programs to promote a culture of preparedness, i.e. risk management and prevention, to reduce the impact of hurricanes on infrastructure and population.
He also suggested a sister city relationship be formed between the cities of Gonaives and Pueblo, much as the relationships between Ascension Episcopal Church in Pueblo and St Basile Episcopal Church in Gonaives (which began our relationship in 1999) and the subsequent sister relationship between St Mary-Corwin Hospital in Pueblo and l’Hopital la Providence in Gonaives were formed.
“The task awaiting us is immense. It requires strong and effective government to serve the people well. We need a visionary government with clear stated goals and objectives for the future, or the long term. All this, however, can never replace human solidarity and universal humanism that brought us together tonight, despite the distances and personal concerns and preoccupations in our daily living.”
The following morning at breakfast we had an exciting meeting and discussion in which other ideas for collaboration were introduced to the P.M. by various members of the team. Lisa Drew, RN and Brook Richardson, RN discussed how to proceed with our relationship with the new nursing school. Dr Ben Massey proposed a sky-diving event in Haiti to raise money for a new nursing school building. Drs Robert Mclean and Ginger Vaughn presented their proposal to start a cervical cancer screening project in the Gonaives area. This could possibly be associated with Ms. Alexis’ women’s organization, CHRESOF (Haitian Center for Accommodation and Social Reintegration of Women in Marital Difficulties), which has an office in Gonaives. Ben Massey proposed a relationship between a friend of his who is a college professor with graduate students who are eager to do projects in countries such as Haiti and their counterparts in Haiti. They might take on projects such as designing clinics or a hospital, filming documentaries, or anything else graduate students might study. All these ideas were met with great enthusiasm by all, and the interchange of ideas and imagination was heartening and exhilarating.
We were honored to have Mr. Alexis, his wife, and Dr. Jean-Charles visit us here in Pueblo and look forward to a long and fruitful friendship with them.