The underserved rural community of 20,000 in southern Haiti, Fonfrede (45-minute drive from Les Cayes), is now receiving some essential community health services from CapraCare, an organization started in 2009 by Jean Pierre-Louis, a son of Haiti and Brooklyn.
Founder Pierre-Louis spent his childhood years in the Fonfrede community, leaving at age nine for the U.S. He remembers the inadequacies of mental and preventative health services in his hometown.
Now, with an undergraduate degree and Masters in Public Health from Brooklyn College, Pierre-Louis takes his experience of working in public health in New York City and applies it to community education and outreach in the community of his birth.
First initiatives started simply before the earthquake (from 2007-2009, Pierre-Louis first sent and distributed 5,000 condoms to the area), post-quake direct responses expanded its scope.
CapraCare, now, brings physical therapy, supportive mental health services, training for community health workers, and leadership and health education for youth and adults to the community. It also organizes dental and medical missions.
At Brooklyn College, annually, the very popular Miss Haiti Pageant helps raise funds for the organization’s work. Additionally, individual donors and other fundraisers held during the year fund CapraCare’s programs.
This past Saturday, volunteers and supporters gathered in midtown Manhattan to show continued commitment, raise money, and mark the five-year anniversary of the organization.
Following the earthquake, CapraCare trained 20 community health workers in how to provide psychological first aid. “We continue to provide mental health support,” Pierre-Louis says. Training includes how to recognize and respond to warning signs of anxiety, depression in post-traumatic stress disorder and also how to interact with a person in crisis and connect the person with a professional, peer, or other help.
CapraCare also targets youth. Its in-classroom School Health Education Program works with children in local schools and teaches a variety of preventative and general health topics such as personal hygiene and clean water education.
Adult residents in the community also learn the importance of washing hands, boiling water, and using water purification tablets. Parents and youth participate in education groups related to sexuality, HIV, and prevention.
CapraCare’s Community Health Workers (CHWs) are Haiti’s only CHWs who are professionally and certified-trained by an interdisciplinary team from the City University of New York (CUNY), University of Les Cayes (UPSAC), and Les Cayes’ Ministry of Public Health and Population.
CapraCare is also a Clinical Site for the City University of New York’s Doctoral Nursing Program for candidates to conduct medical field services in Haiti.
Recently, some major foundations helped provide financial assistance to sustain CapraCare’s Computer and English Learning Training Center (CELTC) that serves the community.
The organization is also in the process of completing a health information database called CapraCare Health Information System to track all medical services offered in Fonfrede, Haiti and to provide better health outcomes.
From training by professionals to on-the-ground implementation, the backbone of the work is done by volunteers. The Community Health Workers receive a small stipend for transportation.
Scheduled for November 2014, Director Pierre-Louis says, “We are currently recruiting and planning our next trip/mission to Haiti.” Elaborating, he explains that medical services, strategist planning and professional development are on the agenda.
“We aim to bring medical doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, mental health and public health professionals among the 20 on the up-coming trip.”