Finding Our Mission
In the year before they began medical school, CEO & President Jordan Place and Chief Revenue Officer Tom Taugher took part in a seven-day work camp through their church that took place in Haiti. Jordan was moved by the living conditions of Haitians living in the aftermath of the earthquake, and frustrated by the misuse of resources and seemingly minimal progress being made by their government. Both understood that a mere seven days of supporting an ongoing project, while better than nothing, would make no noticeable change to the larger issues at hand and they deeply desired to be part of something more sustainable.
During those fateful seven days, Tom and Jordan served with a small grassroots medical organization that was making a small but genuine difference in their communities. Jordan remembers being inspired by their progress in the face of an insurmountable challenge. This project, while started by an American physician and his father, was run entirely by skilled Haitians on the ground, empowering them with the resources they needed to make change in their communities. This stood in stark contrast to other “medical missions” Jordan had experienced where the service was primarily carried out by visiting volunteers who were surely well-intentioned but would soon leave the community and take all of their expertise with them, ruining any chance of sustainability in their efforts. This little grassroots project, the Haiti Medical Project (HMP), was entirely different and intriguing to them. They were inspired to learn how they could continuously support such ventures while living thousands of miles away, and thus, with the help of Jordan’s husband Jesse as well as other medical students and friends from church, the non-profit Project Piti Pami (or 3P) was formed.
The phrase “piti pami” is Haitian Creole and translates roughly to “the least of these”. When deciding on a name for the organization, Jordan and Tom kept returning to a passage from the Bible that was written on the wall of the guesthouse in Haiti where they stayed, namely Matthew 25:40, where Jesus says to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Inspired by their faith in Christ and their desire to live out that faith in the service of marginalized people, Tom and Jordan felt the namesake of this non-profit should serve as a constant reminder of why they chose to start a non-profit in the first place. Although 3P finds its roots in Christ’s teachings and a majority of its members identify as Christian, it exists today as a diverse family with members from all walks of life and faith backgrounds.
Taking Our First Steps
3P was founded as a way to advocate for Haiti, to educate US citizens about the issues as well as Haitians about healthcare, and to serve communities in need. Through our initial work with HMP, we noticed that their primary focus was prescriptive care instead of preventative care—most of the doctors were doing their best to simply put out fires and meet the staggering amount of needs. As a result, there was less energy and resources left over for any efforts towards prevention efforts. This was the first gap we chose to fill.
Currently, our primary goal as an organization is to bring preventative health and hygiene practices into the common language of the people in those communities we serve, primarily through education programs. We carried out our first series of programs in March 2018 during the mobile medical clinics run by HMP. We gave a presentation in layman’s terms on germ theory and the importance of hygiene practices to prevent disease, followed by examples of various products that can be used to accomplish these purposes (hand sanitizer, soap, clean water sources, etc.). We then supplied the mobile clinic pharmacy with these items so that each community member who visited the clinic had the opportunity to receive at least one hygiene item of their choice.
The programs we develop are guided in part by our Research Committee, whose first project involved surveying each community we serve on their general health and hygiene habits (whether they have access to clean water, how often they wash their hands, etc.). The answers to these questions have given us the opportunity to assess not only their practices but also any knowledge gaps that exist, informing our ideas for education programs.
Another gap we chose to fill involved the methods by which the pharmacy dispensed medications. Patients who attended the clinics were given pills in disposable plastic bags which would litter the streets and exacerbate an already looming community issue with waste management. They also often brought in used, dirty soda bottles with them in order to receive liquid medications. As an effort to remedy these issues, we began a pill bottle drive at home, where we encouraged our communities to save their old prescription bottles, clean them out, and donate them to us so that we can supply the HMP pharmacies with a clean, reusable receptacle for their patients and simultaneously cut down on waste. This has been one of our most successful projects as far as donations are concerned—we have received hundreds if not thousands of bottles to date and are looking to engage in quality control measures to assess the effectiveness of this particular project.
As we are only able to visit our friends in Haiti once or twice a year, the majority of our time home in the US is spent fundraising and otherwise advocating for the ongoing projects run by HMP. We have recently begun carrying out Public Education Nights at local libraries, churches, and community centers where we educate the audience about our non-profit as well as on Haiti’s history, culture, and the various social and political events that have caused their nation to suffer such extreme poverty. We also make a point during these presentations to emphasize the dignity and humanity of the people we serve, to highlight the truth that the only real difference between us and them is that, by happy accident of birth, we were born into a nation of abundant resources and opportunities for its citizens, and they were not. Haiti, we assert, is not a charity case. They are not a vague distant place of suffering for us to pity but a community of vibrant individuals who, when given proper education and resources, are equally as capable and competent as any one of us. When we advocate for Haiti, we aren’t simply highlighting the very real needs of its communities, but also the very real dignity and worth of its people.
Looking to the Future
When we think about the future of our organization, sustainability is key. The next phase of our goals in education are to train and employ community leaders as 3P Liaisons to present education programs on our behalf, in order to remedy the lack of employment opportunities as well as empower local citizens to take ownership of the situation and work alongside us to develop solutions. This is our first step towards establishing a system to elevate people out of poverty by leveraging our resources for their growth and development as agents of change in their communities. Our greatest hope is to someday work ourselves out of a job—to create a system that is entirely self-sustaining and Haitian-operated. Only then will be know that our work is done. And until that time, we press forward.