NOVA Hope for Haiti celebrates 15 years of service

It was breezy on the Olgivy & Mather penthouse as Joseph Nuzzi, president of NOVA, long-time volunteer Jocelyn Lamour, Solanges Toussaint, board member and logistics coordinator in Haiti, and Vice President Jan Mansley stand in front of Haitian cut-metal for sale during the cocktail fundraiser.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

A clear sense of mission and overwhelming commitment describes a small, dedicated local organization with a miniscule budget that can point to actual achievements, works accomplished — unlike other organizations with multi-million dollar budgets. NOVA Hope for Haiti is one such organization.

Marking its 15th year with a primary focus providing access to medical care, NOVA has even expanded its response to other urgent needs, helping rebuild and repair 16 Hurricane Mathew destroyed houses and replenishing destroyed crops by providing rice and beans to replant and 15,000 plantain tree bulbs.

Last week, supporters, board members, and medical mission participants braved a cool, breezy evening on Olgivy & Mather’s site-donated penthouse to raise money for the work of this model non-profit.

(A summer flea market and winter casino night are the only other two fundraisers, along with individual donors, contributing to the mere $140,000 yearly budget.)

NOVA’s work began in 2002 by sending medical missions to Cavaillon, a rural town located in the South department of Haiti.

Having started as a Catholic parish-twinning project with Church of the Presentation in Upper Saddle River, NJ, more autonomy was needed for the work; it soon spun off. A permanent medical facility became the goal of NOVA, formally created in 2005.

Meanwhile, twice-yearly medical missions continued. Twenty-five volunteers — doctors for adults and pediatricians, nurses, translators, and non-medical support — bringing all the medications and equipment, set up clinic in a Cavaillon church, treating 600-800 Haitians per visit. All volunteers pay their own way.

In 2005, a donor’s generosity helped NOVA buy some land in Cavaillon that had a building on it. It took a long eight years of fundraising to renovate it into a clinic. Additionally, top floor residences were built to house the twice-yearly continuing medical missions. (They are also rented out to other visiting groups in the area — the income going into the operating expenses.)

In 2004, Haitian-born Jocelyn Lamour found NOVA in its organizational infancy. “They were very welcoming,” she said, and doing work on the ground. For Lamour, here was an organization she can put her heart into and subsequently use her professional skills. Since then, she has been on almost all — 18 or 19 — medical missions and is getting ready for the next one-week mission leaving Oct. 22.

Volunteer Lamour oversees the lab as a professional lab technician and serves as a translator. “I am usually assigned to a primary care provider. The most common illnesses are hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, and urinary tract infections,” she said.

“I see I can help,” explains her dedication. “We are helping the community.”

The clinic officially opened in Borleau, Cavaillon in 2014, and NOVA having partnered with another organization, runs a Martineau clinic, about five miles away with 15 full-time Haitian staff including two doctors, one at each location, nurses, a lab technician, gardeners, cleaning staff, and three security guards. “We’re also providing jobs,” Lamour points out.

She also notes that in addition, NOVA, having dug a well, provides water to the community, who previously got their water from the river, open to them early in the morning and in the evening. “People love NOVA,” she said.

Lamour emphasizes that NOVA is officially recognized as an ONG (non-governmental organization) by the Haitian government and works in conjunction with Haïti’s minister of health and monthly, the clinic staff nurse takes reports to the health ministry in Les Cayes.

Haitian percussionist Okai beats the drum on the penthouse during the fundraiser.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

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