Monday, July 11th
The group met in the lobby of the Miami Hilton at 6:30 AM. Once assembled, we assessed our equipment and divided up the pest control products and equipment into everyone’s luggage. We stuffed boxes of glueboards, bottles on residual insecticide, pails of rodent bait, cases of rat snap traps, saws, drills, and other pest management equipment into suitcases, backpacks, and bags of every shape and size. In addition to the tools and equipment we prepared a large roll of vinyl screening for the two hour trip to Port Au Prince. Fitting the equipment into our suitcases wasn’t nearly as challenging as cramming it all into the hotel shuttle for the quick trip to the airport. Luckily the driver was sympathetic and helped us jam it all onto the bus.
Once we arrived at the airport, we learned that there was a box embargo which prevented us from using a large plastic container that we had carefully packed at the hotel. Undeterred, we quickly divided up the contents of the boxes into bags and luggage so that each person’s bag tipped the scales at the maximum weight. With our first hurdles behind us and significantly lighter loads, we breezed through security and grabbed a quick bite of breakfast before we boarded for Haiti.
We touched down on time at 11:00 in Port Au Prince, to begin our adventure. The customs and immigration areas were chaotic, but we managed to locate all of our luggage and navigate through with very few questions. Things that we expected might arouse suspicion (like nail guns) were treated as commonplace by the Haitian officials that inspected our packages.
Once outside of the airport we quickly spotted Terry Boucard of Boucard’s Pest Control, who had arranged for a driver to pick us up. We quickly loaded the bus, and sank into its cool air-conditioned comfort. Our cool, comfortable environment was a stark contrast to the reality that we experienced outside of the vehicle. Although the members of our group who had worked in Haiti on previous trips noted that a vast improvement had been made in the city since the last trip, the conditions were still terrible. Piles of rubble and trash lined the edges of the street and people were everywhere. Traffic swarmed with no apparent rules to the road. Many buildings were still in ruins and abandoned as a result of the earthquake, and tent cities still filled the parks.
We traveled slowly to the hotel to check in, have lunch and drop off our luggage before heading out to inspect the children’s hospital and orphanage where we would be working over the next two days.
We arrived at St. Damien’s Hospital and were greeted by Sister Judith, we had a short meeting to discuss what we would like to do and what our goals for the project were. Sister Judith remarked to us that the recent addition of rat control services that had been provided by Boucard’s Pest Control had resulted in a great reduction in rat populations with approximately 100 dead rats being removed from the grounds each day. We observed that very few rooms had screens, and those that did had missing or damaged screens. Flies and mosquitoes were able to access the rooms through the missing or damaged areas. We devised a plan to repair the torn screens and consolidate them on the upper windows, then construct new permanent screens from lumber and vinyl to protect entire rooms from the disease carrying mosquitoes and flies. We agreed that we should focus our efforts on the areas where we would have the greatest impact: the maternity and delivery rooms, neonatal care, emergency rooms, surgery areas, isolation and radiology.
Our next stop was to inspect and assess a neighboring orphanage. St Anne Orphanage cares for approximately 135 boys and girls ranging from 6-14 years old. The children slept in 17 converted steel shipping containers and spent their days at a nearby school and playing in the dusty, rocky courtyard that was surrounded by the shipping containers. We quickly determined that the best use of our time would be to install rodent and fly control bait stations around the outside perimeter of the facility. Rats were burrowing under the sleeping quarters and invading the kitchen and food storage areas of the orphanage. More to follow on Day Two….