Creating Access Pathways in southwest Haiti
"The people in rural communities, like Petite Riviere De Nippes, live with few services, supports, and opportunities. It is important to inspire the community to advocate for what it cares about. We need to help the most vulnerable members of our communities first and pave the way for others to do the same,” says Ludner Felix, co-founder of You Care. We Care.
In Haiti, children and families struggle to access basic services, including healthcare and education every day. For a family living in a rural Haitian community, like Petite Riviere De Nippes in the southwest, it can take between 2-3 hours by car or motorbike to travel to the nearest healthcare clinic. Most rural community clinics, both private and public clinics financed by Haiti’s Ministry of Health, have little to no diagnostic equipment and often do not have an MD on staff. “After a 3-hour journey to the nearest clinic, you are likely to be sent to the hospital for any medical concern more serious than a common cold,” explains Ludner, who is originally from Petite Riviere De Nippes.
“Unfortunately, it’s enough trouble to find healthcare for a well child in our community. Children with complex diagnoses, like disability and mental health, suffer the most. Parents of these children are provided with little to no information about how to help or care for the child, so they feel completely unequipped and help is not available,” says Ludner.
Challenges are only compounded for families living with a child with special needs. The average cost of a visit to a clinic or hospital is between $1- $5, which is a significant percentage of the average family monthly income of only $140. A specialty appointment, like physical therapy, can cost up to $10, making preventive services for a child virtually inaccessible to most Haitian families.
“The most vulnerable citizens are completely left behind. They are almost always abandoned by their family, stigmatized by the community, and not supported by the system,” proclaims Ludner. As co-founder of You Care. We Care., it is clear Ludner is extremely passionate about inspiring positive change in his hometown and creating access to services for all community members. “You Care. We Care.’s presence has been a great thing for our community and for bringing about change in Haïti,” says Ludner. “The people have nothing here, so it is important for us to help. The most vulnerable children in the community are now going to school, sleeping comfortably, and have access to drinking water, food, and essential healthcare services. We have made a small step forward, but I know we can do better,” Ludner says.
Having lived previously in the US, Ludner moved home to Haïti in 2017 to work toward transforming his beloved hometown of Petite Riviere De Nippes. “Living in the U.S. is an entirely different reality than living in Haiti. I want to see positive progress in Haiti so that our children can be safe, healthy and stand a chance in life.” Since his return to Haiti, Ludner has focused on supporting the work of You Care. We Care. in southwest Haiti in his role as the Haiti Programs Chair. He is diligently working toward creating more opportunities for Haitian people. “We are working to improve and provide the children with consistent access to medical care and preventive services. We have created jobs and educational opportunities. My big goal is to open a small hospital in this community. Through our work, we have seen many improvements so far. It is a ray of hope for us,” Ludner states.
When You Care. We Care. Haiti was founded, Felix remembers he was inspired by the organization’s mission and the other founders. He fondly remembers how much he wanted the opportunity to be a part of the good change in his home community. “I was thinking of doing many things, but I remember the first time the You Care. We Care. founders came to Haiti. This visit made me think deeply about what they were doing. When you see someone from another country who is not from the community, not even from Haiti, and they give you the opportunity to help your community, it inspires you to dream big. Hopefully, the work we are doing can inspire others to help the world in their own way," Ludner concludes.