When Rosalind went into labor on January 21, she knew whom she needed to find—her neighbor, Genevieve Joubert. After all, it was Genevieve who had been there for her in the immediate aftermath of the devastating earthquake as she had endured a mother’s worst nightmare—the death of a child. So it was only fitting that it was Genevieve who helped her bring a healthy baby into the world less than two weeks later.
Rosalind’s gratitude towards her neighbor isn’t unique. Since January, Genevieve has delivered 165 babies in the area known as Dadadou, a soccer stadium currently taken over by a spontaneous settlement camp for displaced earthquake survivors.
Like many of the over 10,000 people now living in the settlement, the 41-year-old nurse and had lost everything in the earthquake—her house in Port-au-Prince and all her possessions, save for the clothes on her back. She and her husband and their two children joined many of their newly homeless neighbors at Dadadou because she knew that the growing settlement would need her 20 years of nursing experience. “I came here because that’s where people were coming,” she said simply.
She immediately began treating the injured. With sutures and other medical supplies procured from a pharmacy she used to work with, she singlehandedly dressed 1,100 wounds and sutured 300 patients in just the first three days following the earthquake. She worked around the clock. Word of her services quickly spread through Dadadou, as well as around Port-au-Prince. Near the end of January, the Zanmi Lasante team learned of her efforts. They found her and asked her how they could best support her efforts. Under her leadership, Dadadou soon became one of the four settlements around Port-au-Prince now served by ZL clinics.
Today, the ZL clinic sits facing the hundreds of camping tents and makeshift shelters of sheets and tarps that completely cover the Astroturf soccer field. Logging thousands of patient visits each week, the clinic team provides a full complement of primary health care services, including programs for mental health, pediatric malnutrition, HIV testing, and of course maternal health.
“As I began to get more and more support from ZL, I started to feel less devastated because there was a sense of support, a sense that things could continue,” says Genevieve, through a translator. “Now I can say, it’s not really a clinic that we have here, we have a hospital!”
During the day, Genevieve oversees the clinic’s activities. But at night, when the clinic shuts down, she remains on-call—essentially a one-woman ER. “During the day, I work for ZL. And during the night, I work for myself,” she says with a gentle smile.
Her home, a four-person camping tent erected next to a makeshift structure of canvas and wood, sits just a few yards to the right of the clinic entrance. At night, she sets up her supplies in the dark green tent next to her home, which during the day shelters nursing mothers and women seeking care at ZL’s Proje Sante Fanm (women’s health project). After dark, the green tent houses mostly trauma patients, mothers in labor, and victims of violent crimes.
As she’s one of the only sources of medical care in the area between the hours of dusk and dawn, it’s not unusual for her to receive patients from other nearby settlement camps. Local police also know about her (her husband is a policeman), and often bring victims with knife and gun wounds. For the most serious cases, she’ll wake up one of her neighbors with a car to take the patient to the city’s General Hospital. She usually pays for the gas out of her own pocket.
If providing medical care around the clock weren’t enough to fill every minute of Genevieve’s day, there’s also the large gray military-style tent in front of her home. It shelters many of the 64 abandoned or orphaned children that she now cares for. Off to the side, a lean-to covered with a blue tarp shades a small stove and several large pots—the kitchen where she cooks meals for her family and the children. She’s hoping to set up another tent in the near future so that there will be separate spaces for boys and girls.
With so much responsibility, it’s not unusual that she sometimes feels incredibly discouraged with what she’s up against in her day-to-day work. “I have to take a step back and take a little time, and I find that it passes,” she says. “It’s really just the knowledge that I’m here and I have things to offer [that keep me going],” she adds.
For Rosalind and thousands of others she’s stitched up, diagnosed, treated, and cared for over the past six months, Genevieve being there for them has literally kept them going.
Learn more about PIH's work to help Haiti's people build their lives and their country back better following the January 2010 earthquake in our STAND WITH HAITI Six Month Report.