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Partner in Health

In just the first week of her summer internship with Olive Tree Projects in Haiti, Kelsey Capron ’12 got to witness the births of two babies. The biology major, who is in Haiti pursuing an interest in maternal health and education with the support of Haverford’s Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, says the experience was “absolutely incredible.”

Olive Tree Projects, which is located in Jacmel, a three-hour drive over the mountains from Port Au Prince, is a small organization that runs a maternity center. “There are two midwives (both Canadian), an advanced student midwife (Haitian), and a few nurses (all Haitian) involved here,” says Capron. “They provide prenatal care, postnatal care, assist with deliveriesboth in the clinic and in their clients' homes, whichever each client prefersprovide community education about health, as well as lots of other topics. The midwives in particular get very involved with their clients' lives and sometimes end up helping them with their children's nutrition, or with starting a small business.”  The midwife who started the organization also helps to care for a few children (some full-time, some part-time) whose parents are unable to provide for them.

Capron says her varied duties as a volunteer with Olive Tree Projects involve lending a hand in the clinic, helping plan out and design some of the community education classes, taking care of the children and helping a young man learn enough written English to pass the GED. “Meanwhile, I have already been able to learn so much, both about maternity and birth and also about Haiti's culture and language,” she says.

Capron, who received CPGC funding through its Senior Bridge program, which aids graduating seniors in further exploring scholarly and career directions, says her interest in public health issues in developing countries was inspired in large part by the work of Dr. Paul Farmer.

Farmer is the co-founder of Partners in Health, which first launched a hospital in rural Haiti and has now grown into a global health organization.  He was also the subject of Tracy Kidder’s best-selling book Mountains Beyond Mountains.

“In my freshman writing seminar at Haverford, with [Professor] Judy Owen, we read Mountains Beyond Mountains,” Capron says. “From then on, Paul Farmer became my idol and I got very excited about global health. Coming to Haiti to do health-related work seemed like a far-off dream, but when I realized I could apply for CPGC funding, I threw all of my energy into it.”

Capron found Olive Tree Projects on Idealist website and sent an email asking the founder she wanted a volunteer for 10 weeks this summer. The answer was yes.

Capron arrived in Haiti already prepared for some of what she would see in the maternity center. Towards the end of her senior year at Haverford she spent about 30 hours shadowing physicians at Lankenau Hospital, focusing on OB/GYN, Labor and Delivery, and other related departments. “It seems like I may be headed towards a career in international OB/GYN doctoring,” Capron says. “We’ll just see!”

—Eils Lotozo

Read Capron's blog about her experiences in Haiti

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