Violent Protesters Call for President's Resignation

Chaos in Haiti is nothing new, but the recent level of public frustration and anger with the Haitian government over fuel and food shortages, a weakening currency, double-digit inflation and accusations that officials stole public money, are boiling over. Thousands have taken to the streets in protests that devolve into arson, random shootings, looting and violent clashes with police, all on a level not seen in over a generation. For two weeks much of the country has been on “lock-down” with banks, schools and most businesses closed.

The current problems in Haiti are complex and have been decades in the making, but basically stem from political mismanagement, feuding and corruption. These protests were initially sparked in July of 2018 when the Government, led by the current President Jovenel Moïse, announced it would end subsidizing gas and diesel prices causing an estimated 35% to 50% increase in prices at the pump. At that same time multiple reports from journalists, human rights groups, and a Haitian state auditing body revealed that up to $2 billion that was part of a Venezuelan fuel assistance program PetroCaribe, was missing, believed to have made its way into politicians’ and their friends’ pockets. Tension has been building since.

 Simply put, the PetroCaribe program was initiated by Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chávez to provide low-interest oil sales to nearby countries facing expensive imports. Haiti is one of the 18-member countries that signed an agreement with Venezuela, requiring that member countries pay 60 percent of the bill within 90 days. The remaining 40 percent could be financed over 25 years at 1 percent interest, should oil prices stay above $40 per barrel. Financing considers the current cost of oil, allowing for improved value when the cost of oil is higher. Countries may also offer goods and services to pay off oil shipments, ranging from food commodities to human capital such as doctors. The idea was to help financially struggling countries such as Haiti, forward-fund in-country infrastructure projects and support for the population. However, in Haiti such projects were never fully realized and the government owes over $100 million to petroleum distributors who are now refusing to deliver to the island. This is all in addition to the missing $2 billion in funds.

 Implicated in the PetroCaribe scandal were President Moïse’s business from before he won the election, as well as several previous and sitting political figures. Political activists and opposition parties to President Moïse’s ruling party have created the “PetroChallenger” movement, which has expanded beyond the PetroCaribe scandal to expose other rampant political corruption. In recent weeks several senators admitted publicly to taking $100,000 bribes in exchange for a “yes” vote to approve the president’s proposed prime minister, Fritz-William Michel, also among the accused. These senators also publicly accused all of their political colleagues of openly accepting bribes as part of the status quo of politics in Haiti. And on September 23rd, a Haitian Senator fired a handgun near parliament to disperse a crowd of protesters, injured a AP photojournalist in the process.

 These violent protests across Haiti have called for President Moïse to step down immediately. For his part, President Moïse has been avoiding public engagement, surfacing only last week to give a rare speech on Haitian television calling for national unity but making no concessions. One must wonder how serious the president was as he chose to give that address at 2am on Wednesday. This stalemate continues.

 Many people ask us how Haiti will survive this latest chaos and violence on top of the crushing poverty, lack of infrastructure, food and clean water insecurity, the culture of corruption, and whatever natural disaster strikes next. Honestly, we don’t know. What we do know is that for 20 years HAM has made a life and death difference in every Haitian community we have worked. These communities have not only endured, but flourished because of their access to healthcare, education and clean water programs run by Haitians and funded by HAM, always in partnership with the communities we serve. Fortunately, our programs continue to function throughout the chaos. As long as the local populations continue to want a working partnership with HAM in their communities, we will continue our commitment to serve them as we always have.


Empowering Haitians

Jean Herard Charles was born and raised on the north coast of Haiti near Port-de-Paix, where he still lives and raises his family. In his late teens and early twenties Charles lived in Florida, where he learned English. Back in Haiti, Charles met Dr. Tracee and Dr. Janine Flood in the early 2000’s and began to work as an interpreter for visiting Healing Art Missions (HAM) volunteer teams.  It didn’t take long for doctors Tracee and Janine to realize that with his intelligence, work ethic, and trustworthiness, Charles was the perfect candidate to be trained as an eye technician.  Dr. Janine, a Granville, Ohio based optometrist who created HAM’s eye clinic began his intense training.  Charles now travels from his home in Port-de-Paix to Dumay one week a month to open the eye clinic and for vision screening and fitting of glasses as well as screening infections, cataracts and glaucoma.  He consults with an ophthalmologist one day a month.  He continues to work as an interpreter when HAM volunteer teams come to Haiti, and also serves as HAM’s in-country Project Coordinator.  Charles is always interested in improving his own education, and just this fall completed a Haitian leadership training course.

By the mid 2000’s Charles was using his HAM paychecks to purchase land and build a home for his growing family in the neighborhood of Baudin-Gros Sable on the outskirts of the Port-de-Paix. There were no schools in the neighborhood so he sent his children to a private school in Port-de-Paix. Charles saw that many of the children in his neighborhood were not in school because of the lack of accessibility and cost (up to 80% of Haitians lack steady employment; therefore, the ability to pay for school.) Realizing that without an education or anything productive to fill their time, many children in his community could easily get into trouble, be recruited by gangs and eventually threaten the safety of the community. So, Charles decided he would start his own school in the neighborhood in 2008, and the Charles Salomon Primary School (CSPS) was born.

Funding the school through his own paycheck and a modest tuition from the students, by 2009 the school was holding classes from Pre-K through third grade and was running out of space. Having demonstrated his abilities and commitment to his community, HAM began investing in Charles vision and assisted in funding both the physical expansion of CSPS and teachers salaries. Today, through Charles continued hard work and personal investment, along with regular funding from HAM, CSPS, is a Haitian certified primary school offering Pre-K through 9th Grade classes with annual enrollment of around 350.  In addition, CSPS offers adult literacy classes for parents of their students.  One Hundred percent of the 9th Grade graduating class of 2019 passed the Ministry of Education National test, demonstrating the effectiveness of the CSPS education.

By 2017 Charles was able to purchase land in the Baudin-Gros Sable neighborhood and build a rudimentary two story building for the school, but the exposed cinderblock construction was unfinished, and the only light in the classrooms was from venting in the cinderblock construction. With grants from the Larson Legacy Foundation, over the past two years the school has undergone major improvements with wall plaster and paint, as well as electric lighting and outlets in all classrooms, powered by a brand new rooftop solar system.

CSPS is a perfect example of how HAM empowers Haitians by providing the resources to help themselves.

Fuel Shortages and Doubling of Prices Exacerbate Haitian Troubles

Unlike Florida, Haiti was fortunately spared the wrath of Hurricane Dorian. Similar to Florida before Dorian threatened, Haiti is suffering from a fuel shortage, a rapidly worsening fuel shortage having nothing to do with hurricanes. The recent doubling of fuel prices is making travel within the country even more difficult. Gasoline, which normally sells for about 224 gourdes ($2.33) per gallon, has increased to 500 gourdes ($5.20) in some areas. As reported recently in Agence France-Presse (AFP), “`The Haitian state does not have the economic means to pay its debts to the companies that import gasoline to the country,’ the source said on the condition of anonymity. `And for us, when we don't have money, we can't place orders.’” The AFP report continues, “Venezuela's PetroCaribe program, plagued by allegations of corruption but which had allowed Haiti to buy petroleum products more cheaply and on credit, has been suspended for more than a year…”

This most recent struggle in Haiti affects virtually everyone there. Daily transportation relies on cars, trucks, busses, and motorcycles. All travel in Haiti is agonizingly time-consuming given traffic congestion, especially in urban areas such as Port-au-Prince, and extremely poor road conditions. To get from the Airport in Port-au-Prince to the Dumay Clinic, a distance of under 7.5 miles as the crow flies, takes from 45 minutes on a good day to over an hour and a half on bad ones. Due to the wretched roads and long drive times, HAM’s 2014 Toyota Hilux truck purchased new in Haiti has required on average over $1,000 per month in repairs for well over a year.

Fortunately, both the Dumay Clinic and the Charles Solomon School in Port-de-Paix are entirely powered our from solar collection and storage systems.  Haiti’s electrical grid is expensive and unreliable on a daily basis so any group requiring a reliable source of power in Haiti must be able to produce their own, most often from a generator.  At HAM, we planned from the beginning to never rely on fossil fuels for our daily operations – they are costly, often difficult to obtain, and contribute to climate change.  Solar power fills our needs reliably and cost effectively.  Unfortunately, our operations in Haiti require ground transportation for most supplies and some personal, so for that we remain dependent on the instability of the fuel pump. 

Now let’s hope Haiti makes it through hurricane season without a new disaster to address.

More Surgical Services in Dumay

Healing Art Missions (HAM) is double blessed. First by having Dr. Jean Fritz Jacques as our Haitian Medical Director overseeing all medical related operations and second, because his specialty is general surgery, one of only about 100 general surgeons serving in Haiti. Born in Petit Goave, about 45 miles southwest of Dumay and educated at Faculté de Médecine at L'université d'État d'Haïti (UEH) in Port-au-Prince, Dr. Jacques has worked for HAM since 2008 and became our medical director in 2010. While the Dumay clinic functions as a primary care clinic, Dr. Jacques’ skill set has allowed us to provide minor surgical procedures to the community. Over the past two years, we have been working to upgrade our facilities and equipment in order to expand surgical services.

In 2018 we began remodeling a section of the clinic used for surgeries, adding new partitions and sealed doors and windows to help maintain a sterile field. We also upgraded our solar collection and storage system to be able to support an air-conditioning system we had installed in the surgical room. Air conditioning helps doctors and nurses avoid dripping sweat into the surgical field, as the sealed room can reach temperatures in excess of 90 degrees. This year we have continued the upgrades adding a scrub sink, electrosurgery cautery and suction machines, improved LED surgical lighting, an anesthesia machine, and instruments for general surgery, gynecological surgery and obstetric procedures. These improvements were made possible through generous grants from First Community Church in Columbus.

Dr. Jacques has wasted no time in putting these improvements to good use. In addition to the increased number and variety of surgical procedures we now offer the community, he has also been using the clinic’s surgical facilities and equipment for training medical residents from UEH.  Dr. Jacques is a hernia repair expert and a member of HRFU (Hernia Repair for the Underserved), has studied under U.S. based hernia surgeons and has been invited to participate in an annual Hernia Conference in New York City in September 2020.

Expansion of our surgery facilities and capabilities is but one of several programs HAM has improved or added over the past few years in our ongoing efforts to provide resources and funding to rural communities that lack access to basic resources, such as healthcare, education, employment, and clean drinking water.

Haiti Update from Dr. Tracee Laing, Founding Director HAM // June 2019

Dear Friends,

In case you haven’t seen or heard in the news lately, Haiti is struggling with some of the worst civic unrest and violence in decades. Daily manifestations, protests that all too often turn violent, are occurring all over the county. Political opposition parties call for the resignation President Jovenel Moise over allegations of his involvement in the Venezuela aid corruption scandal that reports claim over three billion dollars as unaccountable. The national police force has been unsuccessful in quelling the violence and many poor neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince are being ruled by Gangs running protection rackets, too often in collaboration of corrupt police and politicians. Inflation is skyrocketing and there is a rapid deterioration of the domestic currency with food insecurity growing. And the United Nations presence is minimal with only a small special political mission in place after ending a 15-year presence of its large multinational military presence in the country in 2017. HAM’s Haitian medical director, Dr. Jacques, and our in-country operations coordinator, Charles, have each independently told me Haiti is worse off than they have ever seen it in their lifetimes. Dr Jacques is concerned about the possibility of Civil War. He said it feels like a soccer game is being played out in the streets with no referee.

Throughout all of this HAM’s programs continue to operate while many businesses are closed down. I am so very proud of our staff. Staff doctors, all of whom live in Port-au-Prince, cannot get to the clinic most days, but the staff within walking distance is keeping the doors open. We have a stable source of power, so phones are charged. Dr Jacques has arranged to be available for phone consults during clinic hours. Our midwife is still delivering babies, and the clean water programs continue. We have been able to take advantage of days when the violence is down to get supplies to the clinic.  People know HAM is reliable; therefore, employees continue to work, those in need continue to come for services, and the community protects our property and people, while most everything else shuts down. The Haitian banks continue to operate so fortunately we can send money for payroll and needed supplies.   

It is too unstable for me to do anything effectively in Haiti this summer, but I plan to return to Dumay in October. HAM remains committed to provide the resources necessary so our Haitian staff may continue serve their communities. Thanks to all of you who sent donations from our June letter and update, your contribution will make a difference.


 Dr. Tracee Laing

Improvements to Charles Salomon Primary School


Last year saw the completion of plastering and painting of the Charles Salomon Primary School in the of Baudin-Gros Sable neighborhood of Port-de-Paix, where Healing Art Missions supports teacher and administrative salaries. This project was generously funded by the Larson Legacy Foundation and we are delighted to announce that this year the same foundation has funded a project to provide the school with electrical lighting powered by a solar array on the school’s roof. The K through 9th school was founded in 2008 by HAM’s long-time translator, eye technician and operations coordinator Jean Herard Charles, when he realized so many children were living in his neighborhood without the opportunity for an education. The school is built of cement cinderblock, and there has never been electric lighting in the classrooms which are only lit naturally by a few small windows. Connecting to the electrical grid in Haiti is very expensive and notoriously unreliable.  Just like HAM did with our primary care clinic in Dumay, we are installing a solar array collection system on the school roof which will power lighting and electrical outlets in each classroom. Thanks so much to the Larson Legacy Foundation for their leadership and generosity in funding this important project! 



OCHA, the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for the United Nations, is responsible for bringing together humanitarian actors to ensure a coherent response to emergencies. Since the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, OCHA has been providing leadership and coordination for all humanitarian and development actors with a physical presence in Haiti. Nine years later, Healing Art Missions remains an official non-governmental organization working on the ground in Haiti delivering trusted health and medical services. Here is the 2019 map and list of OCHA’s official partner organizations working on the ground in Haiti. We are proud that Healing Art Missions remains a trusted partner of both OCHA and the Haitian Ministry of Health. Click on the first image below to view a high resolution version of the infographic.

Our new intern

Our new intern, Dr St Louis, we are so grateful to have her with us in Dumay.  When doctors graduate for medical school in Haiti, they are required to do one year of Social Service work in the country. We are assigned a new doctor each year in Dumay.