For You Haiti Provides Education and Life-Saving Medical Care to Residents of La Gonave

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For You Haiti is one of five nonprofit organizations SUCCESS magazine is spotlighting during the week of Giving Tuesday. Early in November, we posted on our social media accounts asking followers to nominate a charity they felt was making an impact in their communities. We tallied up the nominations and are pleased to highlight the hard work these organizations are doing behind the scenes to better the lives of others.

Alana Kaye was an Australian-based international flight attendant in 2015 until she decided to visit her sponsored children in Haiti through an organization called World Vision. She flew to Port au Prince and took a boat to the island of La Gonave, which is home to 130,000 people living with extremely limited medical care. One of the patients Kaye met during 2015 was a 3-year-old boy who had an omphalocele and needed surgery. She also met a baby with Treacher Collins syndrome who needed urgent medical care. When Kaye returned to Australia, she couldn’t stop thinking about the island and planned to return to help the patients she just met get the care they needed. 

Building a team

Back home, Kaye connected with another Australian woman, Ada Neilson, who had also sponsored children in the same region in Haiti. The two women didn’t know much about the Haitian medical system, but they were willing to learn together. They reached out to hospitals across the world looking for support for the patients they met who needed surgery. Eventually, at the end of 2015, a surgeon from Los Angeles agreed to help, and he flew to Port au Prince for the operation.

For You Haiti becomes an official nonprofit

At the time, Kaye and Neilson thought they would be helping only one or two patients, but the families continued to come from all villages in need of medical attention. Kaye decided to leave her full-time job in Australia and move to Haiti where she, Neilson and another individual from Haiti, Samuel Michel, worked together to help patients from La Gonave. 

Soon, they helped a 9-week-old baby with spina bifida, then a 1-year-old boy who had hydrocephalus and needed VP shunt surgery. As the Haitian children’s needs grew, so did the team helping them. They added more staff, offices and a medical clinic. Finally, in 2016, they registered the operation as a nonprofit, For You Haiti. Today they have 21 full-time Haitian staff including a pediatrician, nurses, medical coordinators and translators. 

Partnering with other organizations

For You Haiti partners with quite a few international organizations. The World Food Program sends a boat once a month with rice, legumes and oil so the For You Haiti team can prepare 3,000 much-needed hot meals per week. Childspring International, an Atlanta-based medical organization, generously partners with For You Haiti for all orthopedic surgeries. 

For You Haiti tries to keep surgeries within Haiti to keep costs at minimum, but for the children who need to travel, Kaye and the team work with organizations such as Chain of Hope to bring the patients to countries that can provide those services.

Barriers and challenges

For You Haiti is based in the town of Anse-à-Galets on La Gonâve, which is home to a couple thousand people. The 11 communities surrounding the town are extremely remote; it can take two hours to drive just five or six miles. Aside from the rugged terrain, Kaye explains that it’s difficult to plan trips in Haiti because 90% of the capital is run by gangs. The only way they can transport critical patients is by helicopter, which is supplied by additional partner organizations, including Haiti Air Ambulance or The World Food Programme.

Kaye travels with patients who need care that can’t be provided in Haiti. Recently, Kaye was in Barcelona with a patient who has heart disease and three big holes in his heart. He has just successfully undergone his fifth surgery overseas. 

Expanding beyond medical care

Aside from medical care, the team at For You Haiti also realized that the kids need an education. So, in 2016, they collaborated with the local community to open a school. Once a student receives medical care, they can enroll to attend classes, which are available for kids from kindergarten through grade six. Today, enrollment is around 550 students. 

The team also ensures the school is as accessible as possible. Since some children aren’t candidates for surgery and/or they have an ongoing medical condition, For You Haiti has an inclusion classroom that has accessible bathrooms, wheelchair ramps and teachers who are trained to work with children with disabilities.

Support For You Haiti’s plans for the future

To date, For You Haiti has helped organize more than 750 surgeries and provides medical care to approximately 2,000 patients per year. The team plans to continue serving everyone who needs support.

“We’ve never had to say no to a single patient since we opened our doors in 2015, regardless of the complexity of their medical case,” Kaye says. “Our goal is to continue doing the same important work again next year and to serve every patient in need.”

Photo courtesy of For You Haiti.

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Jaclyn Greenberg writes about her experiences parenting as well as challenges related to accessibility and inclusion. She has written for The New York Times, CNN, Parents, Wired and other publications. Jaclyn is currently querying a memoir about advocacy and finding her voice.You can connect with her on Twitter at jl_greenberg or Instagram at JaclynlGreenberg.

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