Director’s Statement

Dear Friends,

  Ophelia Dahl
 
Ophelia Dahl

We take deep pride and are profoundly grateful to be able to share with you Partners In Health’s accomplishments over the past year. In broad strokes, they include more than two million patient visits, major infrastructure investments, extensive training, and significant expansion both of our programs and of the geographic areas where we work. This year, as in years past, we have grown dramatically, greatly extending the reach of our work.

Perhaps more exciting than these quantifiable measures of our achievements, however, are the transformations we can see in the people and communities we serve. In late 2007, I visited Haiti for the first time in almost a year. Returning after such a long absence, I was struck more clearly than ever by the results of what we consider both a partnership and a long-term investment. At our first site in Cange, once a destitute squatter community of landless peasants, I saw a population that is overwhelmingly healthy. Infants whom we vaccinated 20 years ago are now healthy, confident young adults who, unlike most of their parents, have gone to school, learned to read, had enough to eat, slept on beds instead of dirt floors, and had access to medical care when they were sick. Now their overriding concern is finding work.

The task of creating jobs for an educated young workforce represents a new and difficult challenge. More than a challenge, however, we regard it as an inspiring measure of progress in a community where two decades ago children died routinely for lack of clean water and rarely attended school because they could not afford the fees and uniforms. Even more inspiring is the evidence that many of these young people have embraced a spirit of solidarity and a commitment to health and social justice. At a moving ceremony this past August, hundreds of people packed the Bon Sauveur chapel in Cange to celebrate and give a rousing send-off for seven students who are going to medical school in the Dominican Republic and Cuba. All of the students have pledged to return to the Central Plateau to serve the destitute sick after they complete their training.

Stories like this give us the confidence to respond frankly when people ask whether we have an “exit strategy.” We don’t. But we do have a transition strategy. Our goal is not to see how quickly we can leave a community but to rebuild public health systems and infrastructure, provide training and support for local medical staff, and employ community health workers as agents of change to break the vicious cycle of poverty and disease. Over time, our success in achieving these goals reduces our role in providing direct service but not our commitment. We continue to provide valuable technical and financial support, to bring more resources to bear on the problems we see, and to focus on filling the gaps in services where we are needed most.

 

Sincerely,

Ophelia Dahl signature

 Ophelia Dahl