Leading through Crisis: Young Woman Forges Ahead with Health Work in Haiti
In October 2009, Ernancy Bien-Aimé was eager to address health challenges within her community of Cité Soleil, Haiti. She had just finished a USAID-funded Leadership Development Program (LDP) targeted to youth. Working with her LDP team, she launched a community-wide initiative to educate young people about HIV & AIDS prevention, and reached out to community leaders to enlist them in her cause. Then on January 12, 2010, Haiti was struck by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake and Ernancy was suddenly faced with new, bigger challenges.
The powerful earthquake left Ernancy with a broken arm, but more damaging was the enormous loss of life and destruction of infrastructure around her. She was especially shaken by the death of one of her young colleagues from the LDP.
“Now my team and I are facing other challenges, because people have many imperative needs like shelter, food, drinkable water, access to health care, psychological support,” said Ernancy. “As youth, we can’t satisfy those primary needs and we kind of feel powerless.”
Ernancy and her fellow youth leaders found support and strength through MSH’s Leadership, Management and Sustainability Program, which had created and organized the LDP for youth. Since the program provides coaches to help sustain the results beyond the initial program period, youth and coaches came together to evaluate what they could do, post-disaster. Meeting again as a group spurred Ernancy and her team to continue the work they had already begun.
Back in October, Ernancy’s dream was to start a mobile pharmacy to reach members of her community who were sick and could not afford medicines. Now she has expanded that vision, saying “My goal to help create a mobile pharmacy to improve access to medicines is not different today even though the population may have several different needs, like food, water and shelter... Now we are looking forward to getting sponsors and donations to make this dream a reality.”
“The tools and approaches I learned in the LDP are very helpful and they are allowing me to better cope with these challenges,” says Ernancy. “I know that I have to do something to contribute to alleviating the burden of the disaster. I strongly believe that we are going to get out of this bad situation.”