Reflecting on a walk across a village

 

This one is for the current and former FFA members out there, and all those who have poured into the AgHorizons veterinary training center in Haiti.   I drafted these thoughts about a month ago. Hopefully my creole is a little better.  I continue to gain perspective, but I thought I would share with you.  

A couple months back, I had the chance to visit with the Housatonic Valley FFA Chapter in Falls Village, CT.  There was a consideration to dispense with Opening Ceremonies in the interest of time.  I was glad to hear it however, as I always find there is much wisdom in the ceremonies as well as the FFA Motto, and the FFA Creed.  For those of you unfamiliar, the Motto is:

 

    Learning to Do,

        Doing to Learn.

            Earning to Live, 

                Living to Serve.

 

    If your not familiar with the Creed or ceremonies, look them up, they’re short and worth a read.  Today I found my way through the village to the vet agent’s house.  It wasn’t the one two doors away that I had gotten mixed up and thought it was.  As it turns out it was on the other side of the village.  With my limited Creole and a little grace, I found my way there!  Agent Wesley was to operate on some pigs.  Wesley recently completed the first vet agent training series at AgHorizons, a program that seeks to honor the FFA Motto philosophy.  He had his instruments and meds, the owners brought the pigs, and he proceeded to use the skills he had learned and practiced to competently complete the task with care.  A win for Wesley and a win for his village!  He expressed appreciation for my help, but the truth was, he didn’t really need me.  He had invested his time and effort, and others with a desire to serve God and fellow man had invested time and effort, and on this day I got to witness the results.  I admit I am looking forward to being part of training more agents and seeing the addition of a multi-year technical program to provide additional training and opportunities.  We hope you will share more of the joys and challenges along the way.

    People who didn’t know me and who I could barely speak with helped me along the way to Wesley’s.  I did have one reminder along the way that initiated my thoughts on the FFA creed today.  I encountered one quick thinking individual who realizing I was an outsider, rubbed her belly and put her hand out for money.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t my first experience with this in Haiti.  You don’t have to go far here to find real and dire lack or undeniable hunger.  Many here are indeed in need of immediate and basic relief.  Sometimes, however, we get a reminder to be conscious of the difference between a hand up and a hand out - which brought me to the creedthat speaks to “less need for charity, and more of it when needed.”  Applying the FFA motto should lead to both of those, less need and more help when needed.  We all share some responsibility in “doing,” as the ceremony says, “without labor, neither knowledge nor wisdom, can accomplish much.”  So the lines above seem like good words to live by as long as we remember, ultimately we are all serving something or someone, and we each get to choose.

Meet Buddy

 

Meet Buddy.     At least that’s what I call him, because that’s what I tend to call all new dogs that I meet.  I don’t know his real name.  I met Buddy recently when he wandered into a mechanics yard where I was sitting during a brief visit to Cap Haitian, Haiti.  Buddy is obviously part dachshund sporting a bit of a different look than the typical creole dog.  Despite unfriendly treatment by others, he responded to my beckoning andcame to say hello and get a pet and scratch. Buddy was missing a lot of hair, covered in fleas, probably mites which may be contagious to people, and as I slowly realized, he smelled rather badly from secondary skin infections.  Regrettably, I didn’t just happen to have a dose of parasite treatment in my back pocket at that moment.  I gave him what I could, a friendly face and gentle touch. It was after I was visiting with him that the “rational thoughts” came - I don’t have a way to wash my hands.  My clothing will stink to go to lunch.  He is most likely contagious… etc….

    Buddy had gone on his way, and I saw him meet unfortunate rejection on his next human interaction.  I was admittedly thinking double minded thoughts: happy that we had shared some joy with each other, yet wandering how bad I now smelled.  I was convicted of the conflict of my thinking.  I became grateful that this time my heart had determined my actions, butwas left to ponder how often my “wise reasoning” deprives others or myself of joy…

August letter preview- Thoughts from Haiti

Rays  in the Garden

 

Earlier this morning, before collecting some thoughts for this letter, I was pulling water (yes, up with a bucket and rope) from the cistern to fill the drums that will be water for the day for washing and bathing.  I have been thinking a good bit about water lately.  Last month while doing clinics with the Penn students in northern Haiti we had a cow to be vaccinated and dewormed that had was without a rope and needed to be caught.  After she toyed with us in the open field for a bit, someone brought a bucket of water, as we might use a bucket of grain.  She eagerly drank, and a rope found its way over her horns to keep her for the unwanted exam.  A few days later I looked out on Cap Haitian as we left Haiti and a bit later looked out on Miami as we descended from the clouds.  Two cities, a few hundred miles between, but worlds apart.

Returning to Haiti for language study, I’ve seen folks and their livestock living high on arid mountains long ways from the nearest water source side from the rain.  Many of them, both people and animals, live in a state of persistent dehydration.  This is one reason cholera has had such devastating effects in Haiti. 

Here in the central plateau it is common to see donkeys or mules with ten gallons of water on each side in hand woven palm frond saddle bags carrying it from the well to homes.  Sometimes, you see mounds of cane bouncing along, and only as you get closer do you see there are donkeys underneath.  The paths (roads) they are traveling take you past fields of heavy earth plowed by oxen teams sprouting in beans, bananas, or sugar cane. Goats are seen along these roads as well as in the village streets and yards.  So many of the people have animals, not only dogs and cats, but livestock as well.

As someone used to turning on the tap, participating in life here certainly gives new perspective on the importance of animals to so many people and the life giving importance of water to all.  Even though I am used to working with animals and animal people, many of the stories and examples found in the bible are given a new clarity here.

 

With Joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.  Isaiah 12:3

 

We have many blessings to share.  I am excited to have the opportunity to draft this update from the central plateau of Haiti!  I am here spending five weeks concentrating on creole language acquisition.  I am fortunate to be able to share the home of Moussanto, a Haitian veterinarian,  and his family. Moussanto has started an agriculture school with a farm here in central Haiti with the support of his church.  Before getting to my current location, I was able to visit with veterinarian Kelly Crowdis, see our future rental home, and see the ongoing physical progress at AgHorizons Veterinary Clinic and Training School.  What is even more cool is meeting graduates of the first “vet agent” class here in the country side who are excited and finding work opportunities to help provide for their families.

We are so blessed that your support has enabled us to meet our minimum monthly budget to make the move to Haiti!  Thank You!!  For those who may still feel called to be part of this project, your monthly support will help us fill gaps in times where actual support falls below pledged support. And, individual gifts help meet unplanned expenses.  We are so appreciative of all your support and God’s blessings!

By the time you read this I will be returning to NY and am looking forward to reuniting our family.  Please pray our language learning will continue to grow and that I may retain what I learned here.  We will be working on final logistics for the move.  We appreciate your prayers as we travel to the CVM office in Seattle in September for pre-field orientation.  Due to lack of prior availability, we head to North Carolina as a family near the beginning of October for four full weeks of training in working and living in a different culture.  Then the much anticipated move!  Pray that we will be spiritually, mentally, physically, logistically, and financially prepared for the journey ahead.

Distant thunder is rolling along the mountains, perhaps more rain to fill the cistern with roof water?!

Not this time, only thunder, maybe tomorrow.

Black Cheep Cheep - Reflections on a Chicken

Billy and Black Cheep Cheep

Billy and Black Cheep Cheep

Yes, that is our chicken, its actually a barred rock rooster that the kids named Black Cheep Cheep.

Ummm...yes, he is actually in our kitchen...

?

No, it is not the norm, ok, here's the story... 

Oh my

Oh my

       Several years ago, Black Cheep Cheep arrived with a batch of broiler chicks.  He was the "mystery chick" that the hatchery so generously includes with your order of meat type chicks.  It's no longer a mystery that the mystery chick is usually a male of the lighter egg laying persuasion of chicken, and as such, other than a select few, seemingly without a particularly useful purpose.  He stuck out amongst the yellow down covered chicks with his dark colored down.  All of his contemporaries grew at about 7 times his rate and seemed to push him around.  He would run around very quickly cheep cheeping very loudly as he went, fearing for his existence.  Hence the name Black Cheep Cheep.  When his companions moved on and he was alone he got to meet and join our laying hens.  Oh but surprise, there was already a rooster in that hen house and he had to endure his company as well.  Knowing we were preparing for the move to Haiti, we reduced the laying hen flock giving some away to new homes where they could provide eggs.  Eventually he was delivered from his mean and nasty counterpart, when that rooster became so mean and nasty to every living thing that he graduated to soup.  He also survived living with our turkeys.  For those who don't know, chickens and turkeys living together are more prone to certain disease problems, so it is not considered the best idea.  Yes, we were rule breakers. [knowing this was at our own peril]  Eventually his remaining flock of hens succumbed to wildlife and canine predators.   Black Cheep Cheep is not sporting a grandiose rooster tail anymore because he has literally has his backside bitten away on multiple occasions.  I have seen him play oppossum until the attacker found it boring or I rescued him.  He survives mostly on seeds, bugs, and foraging around the horses.  Recently he has figured out that crowing outside our front door sometimes yields treats from Lexi or Ethan.  This morning he was so confident about their kindness, that he marched right in.  He has the distinction of not only being the first chicken to enter our kitchen alive, but to leave on his own feet without ever knowing about terms like soup or pot.  

     Are we crazy?  That answer I'll leave to you.  But I do think there is an object lesson for us in the life of this rooster.  Despite a life with many struggles, he usually has his head up looking for the next good thing or blessing.  He certainly perseveres.  He is perhaps the most pleasant rooster we have had.  And, I can't get in his head, but he doesn't demonstrate negative results of his challenges, and it would almost seem he keeps an attitude of gratitude for the [mostly] free range freedoms he has and each day that he gets to go about being a chicken.  Can I honestly say, every day,  that I live up to the example set by this simple chicken?  Unfortunately, the honest answer is no.  But it certainly should be my goal...

All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.
— Psalm 104:27-28

     If you visit an American grocery store today, it would seem that chicken is the lower cost animal protein.  This was not always the case.  Historically, poultry was the meat of royalty and nobility.  Only those who were wealthy could afford to take grain, that could feed people, and feed it to animals that thrive on grain.  Ruminants, like goats found in Haiti and sheep found in the young Shepard David's flock, ate grasses and plants that are indigestible to simple stomached creatures like man.  The microbes in their stomach turn this plant material into usable protein and energy, which in turn provides a digestible protein source for people.  This is why many traditional dishes on the island use a meat other than chicken, it was sourced from animals that complimented rather than competed with people for food.  Today if you want chicken in Haiti, you have two main options provided you are fortunate enough to have the funds.  One, buy a chicken (a living one) at the market, take it home and do all that is necessary to complete your dish. Or buy frozen drumsticks at a supermarket.  These dark meat drumsticks are almost a by product of the poultry production in the nearby USA where lean boneless chicken breast is the majority concept of the term chicken.

     In the American west, bison grazed the prairies.  The health of the prairie depended as much on the bison, as the health of the bison depended on the prairie.  The Native Americans depended on both, and both needed the stewardship of Man.  From ancient times until today, the health of man, animal, and the "garden" have been interlinked.  Even our pet animals of today affect the health of people and vice versa.  

     These are some topics to ponder another day, for now I need to go keep a certain chicken outdoors where he belongs and learn some more from his example...

      Wayne

 

March 2017 letter

     We wanted to share our March letter.  I have realized that if you are signed up to get an e-mail copy of this direct from CVM, it may get caught in a filter, unless you make PL@cvmusa.org an approved sender in your filter settings.  If you are not signed up, you may do so at www.cvmusa.org/hassinger.

Rays in the Garden

Haiti

March 2017

     “They didn’t say anything about this in the books, I thought, as the snow blew in through the gaping doorway and settled on my naked back. I lay face down on the cobbled oor in a pool of nameless muck, my arm deep inside the straining cow, ...” Some of you may recognize this as the opening of James Herriot’s “All Creatures Great and Small.” Perhaps many of you, having some connection to animals, read it as a child. If you haven’t, it is well worth a read. Few probably finished reading this opening scenario, as I did and decided that it described your dream job. What a blessing that I was able to fulfill that dream. It’s that time of year when calving, lambing, kidding, and foaling season is upon us. For me, the wonder of witnessing the miracle of the birth of new life has never grown old. For a veterinarian, as farms have grown larger and farmers have become more experienced obstetricians, getting a call for a difficult birth has meant that I was likely getting called for the worst of the worst - so I was less likely to witness an outcome that was 100% happy. Nonetheless, for all the things that can go wrong, it is absolutely amazing that it ever goes right, and no less awe-filling to see it when it does! I also recently had the opportunity to do a preventative care clinic for dogs and cats - really, who doesn’t enjoy the chance to meet and play with puppies and kittens?

     He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the labor of man, so that he may bring forth food from the earth... Psalm 104:14 NASB

     This need to eat is certainly common to all humankind and animal kind. Indeed, it’s part of the natu- ral laws common to us all. Less physical things like awe, joy, affection, and love, while being less concrete or quantifiable, are no less real!

     As you see baby animals in the pastures you drive by this spring, take a moment to ponder the miracle of that new life and consider that it is no less amazing than the stories of miracles we learned about in church or synagogue as children. Regardless where our politics are at, how much better off would we all be to reflect a little bit more on the awe, wonder, and truth found in the life of a newborn animal or first crocuses of spring.

Dr. Herriot titled his books based on the Cecil Frances Alexander Poem, which begins and concludes like this -

All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all.

 

He gave us eyes to see them,

And lips that we might tell

How great is God Almighty,

Who has made all things well.

     Besides being just stories about animals, like any good story, they are about relationships. Our col- league, Dr. Kelly Crowdis, recently shared how so many of the blessings that are happening amongst the Hai- tians she works with, and these blessings are not because of the physical work of her own hands (a lot of good results from that too!), but because individuals and groups that wouldn’t ordinarily know each other or collaborate together, are working together through the connection or relationship made via their veterinarian.

     Spoiler alert - if you haven’t read the book - this cow and calf both made it, but there are plenty more interesting tales of both people and their animals. Teaching skills like obstetrics provides job skills that open relationships and provide a tangible help in time of need. We thank all who are generously partnering with us to help send us on our way to help meet physical needs and share hope and joy in Haiti.

Blessings,
Wayne, Lisa, Ethan, and Alexis Hassinger 

Update

 It's been a while since I've updated.  I have just completed 5 days of training on participatory techniques for adult learning to sharpen my education skills. We learned and applied techniques that are quite different than most of us were taught by in veterinary school, but so much more engaging.

These new techniques will be useful here and abroad.  For those of you who are unaware, Lisa, Ethan, Lexi, and I will be serving in Haiti through Christian Veterinary Mission to assist in the establisment of a veterinary technical school to train veterinary primary care providers in a country with no vet school and millions of animals.  This is an opportunity to share skills that can impact the physical and spiritual needs of many.  If you are interested in reading or learning more about this check out our letters at www.cvmusa.org/hassinger

     Please pardon our website as it gets a makeover to relfect our project. 

    For those of you that I see on your farms, hold me to utilizing my new skills to get you more involved if there are techniques you would like to learn instead of just talking my way through them. 

    Come see us this evening at our booth at the Columbia County, NY fair in Chatham.  Look for the Christian Veterinary Mission booth, we'd love to share more with you about the work in Haiti. 

                             Wayne

Last day of Haitian vet agent training in Charye, Haiti.

Training this week was held at a communuty center called the Organization of  Development Against Misery. 

Training this week was held at a communuty center called the Organization of  Development Against Misery. 

This morning included a cat neuter and dog neuter, discussions of physical exam techniques, treating a horse with wither abscesses, vaccinations, deworming, and practicing IV injections.   Then vet agents from both groups gathered for obstetrics practice,

This malpresented goat was successfully repositioned for delivery. 

This malpresented goat was successfully repositioned for delivery. 

Haitian vet agents in Charye, Haiti along with the goat that was successfully delivered approximately 20 times during obstetrics training

Haitian vet agents in Charye, Haiti along with the goat that was successfully delivered approximately 20 times during obstetrics training

Haitian Vet Agent Training in the Artibonite Valley

     Our team traveled from Port-au-Prince to the Artibonite Valley  to do two, two-day trainings with two groups of 11 vet agents.  Dr Kelly, our team leader and creole translator, has been living and serving in Haiti since 2006.  Dr. Lisa is a small animal vet.  Ally is completing her final year of veterinary school and is here in Haiti with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  There are currently no veterinary schools in Haiti.  Despite the presence of multiple schools on the island in the neighboring Dominican Republic, Haitians do not attend these schools as there are long standing animosities and discrimination between these neighboring nations.  At one point, Haiti sent three groups of 25 to veterinary school in Cuba (a 5 year European style program).  Graduates had a three year commitment to Haiti.  Many left Haiti after completing the required service in search of greener pastures.  Much of the available veterinary care is provided by vet agents. These paraprofessionals have had some training by veterinarians along with varying amounts of field experience.  We had the opportunity to work with 22 of these individuals to offer additional training in topics that they requested or identified as needs.  Together we had the chance to cover vaccinations and immunology, infectious diseases, castration and spay techniques, iv injection techniques, dentistry, rabies and rabies vaccine clinics, reproduction, and obstetrics.

     Several of the vet agents personally knew people who had died of rabies.  The domestic dog population is the reservoir of infection in Haiti rather than wildlife.  Research is beginning to suggest the prevalence is very high.  Many other domestic animals and people   become exposed.  Knowledge of proper medical care is alarmingly poor.  Hospitals may give tetanus booster and antibiotic shot giving people the impression they have received the needed "shot" and not communicate the need for rabies protection.  How many of us take this preventable disease for granted here?  Yet, it is all the efforts that do go into domestic animal vaccination that keep it from becoming a bigger problem.

     Cattle, goats, horses, mules, donkeys, pigs, dogs, and cats were all seen as part of our training clinics.  The equine population is relied on heavily for pack work.  Many of these animals spend long hours working and obviously find it challenging to meet calorie needs from the available grazing in there time off.   Much labor is done by people themselves.  Trucks are always greatly loaded with both people and goods.  Goats and chicken, and eggs are major protein sources.  Vaccination of chickens against New Castle disease is also one of the duties of the vet agents along with vaccines against diseases I mentioned in the last post. Vaccines must be kept chilled without refrigeration.  More of the chicken eaten in the country is American chicken drumsticks rather than Haitian grown chicken which is more costly.  Similarly, subsidized white american rice is cheaper than haitian rice grown locally.    

     Charye, the village where we stayed, has no electricity except that provided by generator or solar for a few.  Water is available at specific locations approximately each half mile or so in the village for two hours twice daily (as long as the valve man in the mountain remembers to turn the valve.)  Cooking is done on locally made charcoal.  Charcoal production and lumber needs have left much of the mountains we saw heavily deforested.  Rice, white sweet potatoes, bananas, plantains, and shell beans, ground corn, and millet are important foods.  In the city, fresh mangoes, are one of my personal favorites. 

     Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere.  The material poverty is profound to those of us from the opposite end of the material spectrum.  History, abusive dictatorship followed by a less than stable government, lack of investment and trade, corruption, poverty, disease, and hunger have left Haiti with great needs.  Relationships are very important to Haitians.  Like many areas outside of north america and western europe, relationships are more important than a set schedule, and there is more attention to the group than the individuals.

      Even though our material possessions and conveniences may differ greatly, we all find ourselves facing our own forms of stresses within our homes, work, and culture.  Ultimately, how we steward the world around us, our relationships with each other, and our faith is what we will each have in the end.

 

 

 

Haiti

Evening on the roof in Haiti

Here is a roof top view looking out toward the mountains outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  Darkness has come and it is 75 degrees while the Taconics, Berkshires, and litchfield hills are in the teens and snowing.

Front yard greetes

Front yard greetes

And here are some of the goats that help supply the kid for a kid project started by Dr. Kelly Crowdis, a Christian Veterinary Mission missionary here in Haiti.  Tomorrow we will head out to do some training with a group of Haitian vet agents.  The vet agents provide basic veterinary care to animals here in Haiti. We will learn more about these folks to share with you in the coming days.  So far I have learned rabies is a large problem here with many dogs being infected and human cases still very much a reality.   Veterinary care is limited with less than 100 veterinarians for a country of over 10 million people.  Vet agents help to fill the gap.  Pharmacueticals that are available are often in limited supply.  

We are learning that colic and tetanus are the large problems of horses here.  And about every 5-7 years as a new naive population grows there is a major outbreak of equine respiratory disease.  Cattle apparently experience anthrax, and Hog cholera (classical swine fever) and techens' disease are problems in the pig population.  There was a previous depopulation to eliminate African swine fever and hog cholera, buit the cholera was reintroduced with imported semen.  Vaccination efforts to eradicate it have run into problems because of lack of money, lack of vaccine, political turmoil, and the appearance of Teschen's disease which is currently only active hear and in Madagascar.  This disease ended up spreading because of vaccination efforts for Hog cholera, so efforts have slowed.  More to come...