The Haitian Health Foundation relies on volunteers to travel to Haiti to supplement current staff with skills and resources, including volunteer medical professionals, electricians, plumbers, diesel mechanics, computer experts, and general maintenance personnel.
Volunteers travel to Jérémie from America, Canada, and Europe, at their own expense, to share their skills and resources with the poor. The third floor of the HHF clinic is a volunteer residence capable of housing visiting volunteers. The average length of a trip to Jérémie is one week. Volunteers are encouraged to join an already scheduled group. Individual visits are difficult to arrange and will be accommodated only under exceptional circumstances.
If you are interested in a longer stay, we have one-year volunteer opportunities available—it is very helpful if you already speak French or Haitian kreyòl. Please send a letter of interest and resume to: hhf@HaitianHealthFoundation.org.
More than Volunteers…
No matter your skill… no matter your talents… we will find a way for you to help in Haiti.
** But your most important job starts when you come back and share the story with your friends and colleagues. If you fail to help the poor upon your return to the USA, you’ve failed the meaning of the trip.
We have a very small fundraising staff in the US and HHF depends on previous travelers to Haiti to return and become part of our ‘supply line.’ When you come home, your role shifts to Ambassador—the poor have no one to speak for them, only you.
We know that you will not forget those whom you’ve seen and the stories you’ve heard. You’ll remember the needs of the children and the successes of the clinics. And your role as Ambassador will include fundraising at home. Click here for fundraising resources.
What to Expect in Haiti
There is no such thing as a “typical pilgrimage.” Every journey is unique, depending on the interests and skills of the participants. We often travel hours into remote villages on eroded roads. It is a trip for those who are in good health and able to withstand bumpy drives over treacherous roads and through rivers. Since Haiti is so mountainous, good hiking/running shoes are a necessity. The temperature is HOT – usually high 90s to 100.
Things work more slowly in Haiti than they do in the US, and often plans change from minute to minute. Power outages, water shortages, and transportation delays should be expected, so it’s important to have a spirit of adventure and a lot of patience.
Frequently Asked Questions—Preparation for the Trip
Q: Do I need a passport?
A: Yes. At times, applying for and receiving a passport can take two months or more. Plan accordingly and consult with the U.S. Department of State if you are a U.S. citizen.
Q: What currency is used?
A: Haitian gourdes are the standard currency. US currency is also accepted.
Q: Should I get any immunizations?
A: Please consult your personal physician for his/her recommendations. Many visitors choose to update their Tetanus and Hepatitis immunizations, and some choose to take pills against malaria. Some also bring medications against “traveler’s diarrhea.” Please visit the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at: www.cdc.gov or call 800-331-3435 for the latest health advisories and guidelines to consider when traveling outside the U.S. Should you have any special medical problems or have questions regarding your health requirements, vaccinations, etc., please consult your personal physician as early as possible prior to your departure.
Q: Can I drink the water?
A: You cannot drink water right from the taps or brush your teeth with it. We will have plenty of filtered, safe water available for you at the clinic. Showers will be cold, and we ask that you please conserve water when bathing—it is a scarce commodity!
Q: Will there be electricity?
A: The clinic residence has electricity (USA-style plugs and voltage)-however, it usually runs low, and there is the likelihood of losing it for several hours at a time. We ask visitors to conserve power as much as possible—no hair dryers, electric curlers, etc. Keep in mind that there are often fluctuations in power, so you should consider bringing a surge protector if you are concerned about your equipment.
Q: What is the food like?
A: Our cooks are excellent and will create a variety of dishes—we haven’t received a complaint yet! They are able to accommodate special dietary needs (diabetic, vegetarian, etc.) if we know the needs in advance. Basically, you will be eating familiar foods, such as chicken, rice, beans, pasta, oranges, and soup. Local foods such as avocados, coconuts, goat, mangoes, breadfruit, etc., are sometimes offered as well. The food is safe to eat at our clinic dining room—it is not safe to eat foods from street vendors. Remember, your volunteer capabilities are needed, and to be laid up with avoidable stomach ailments in a foreign, hot, and humid country is no fun for anyone. Think twice before you bite into unknown foods outside of the Clinic!
Q: Do I have to speak French?
A: Though it is helpful if you speak a little French, we will have translators available. The universal language in Haiti is kreyòl, which is based on French, so even knowing “un peu” will help you to communicate.
Frequently Asked Questions—Expense
Q: How much does it cost to go on a pilgrimage to Haiti?
- 1) Round trip airfare (American Airlines) from your city to Port-au-Prince varies anywhere from $500-$800. We do not arrange this flight—you book it personally, through a travel agent or online at www.aa.com. Please do not book your flight until you talk with us about your itinerary. For safety and ease of travel as a group, we encourage volunteers to travel together. Some flights get into Port-au-Prince too late to catch the same-day flight to Jérémie. Sunday flights usually require no overnight stays in Port-au-Prince; however, if flights are delayed or there is bad weather, the group may have to stay one night in Port-au-Prince (approximately $100 US), leaving early the next day to fly to Jérémie.
In-Country Expenses: Bring personal checks and about one hundred dollars in cash. You can pay for your expenses in Jérémie with a personal check. Alternatively, you can prepay your estimated expenses with a credit card (we accept VISA and MasterCard); you may prepay online (please leave the “Program Area” blank and describe this as “Volunteer Prepayment of Estimated Expense” in the Comments section of the online form). OR, please call our Norwich Office to process credit card prepayment of estimated expenses over the phone.
- 2) In-Country Transportation and Flight to Jérémie: Once we pass through customs in Port-au-Prince, our drivers will bring us to the small airport for our 45-minute flight to Jérémie. About $400 per person is sufficient for this round-trip flight and in-country transfers to and from Haitian airports. We will make these arrangements. Air transportation in Haiti is very limited, and there are usually no afternoon flights to Jérémie unless we charter a plane. Smaller groups may need to fly out a day early and overnight in Port-au-Prince. Again, consult with our Norwich HHF office before making flight arrangements!.
- 3) Room and Board: $65 per day. This includes room, meals, water, and laundry. You are on the “honor system” for other beverages (Soda/Beer/Rum)—we ask for $1 per beverage.
- 4) Tip for Haitian Staff: There are 3 women on staff to make your stay a comfortable one—cook, housekeeper, and laundress. The staff is a great group of people who work hard. We ask for $5 per pilgrim per day—they are so good, most people leave more.
- 5) HHF Craft Store: We will make time on the trip to visit the HHF Craft Store, which helps support local artists, embroiderers, and other craftspeople. Paintings, baskets, jewelry, clothing, etc., can be purchased with personal checks or cash. There are also crafts available at the international airport as you depart Haiti, but they tend to be much more expensive than what you will pay at the HHF store.
Frequently Asked Questions—Miscellaneous Travel
Q: How much luggage may I bring?
A: Please travel with only one carry-on. Bring important medications, glasses, etc., and enough for one night in the carry-on (just in case). We will ask you to bring a bag in for us as well, with needed supplies, and with only one free bag we want to ensure that these most important materials are able to be transported on the plane. If traveling on American Airlines, consult with AA’s baggage information pages for their limitations, including more strict seasonal limitations.
Q: What should I wear/bring?
Females: Summer/light clothing —medium/long skirts, light pants, modest tops. Sundresses are also comfortable—”scrub” outfits are also fine —we have some available in Jérémie for you to wear
Males: Summer/light clothing—thin long pants, thin shirts. Long pants or “scrub” outfits are fine in town and in the villages. Again, these are available at our Clinic.
Everyone: Pack lightly! We have an excellent laundress who will get your clothes back to you quickly— usually the next day. Pack sturdy walking/hiking (closed-toed) shoes. Modest shorts are acceptable when relaxing at the clinic residence (we ask that you wear long pants in our clinics). You should also bring a camera, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, a second pair of shoes, a large water bottle, and insect repellent. Do not bring expensive jewelry, rings, or gold chains. Wear an inexpensive watch. The goal is to not draw attention to yourself in either Port-au-Prince or Jérémie and its surroundings.
Q: How do I keep helping the poor of Haiti once I return home?
A: It is our hopes that you return to your home energized and ready to become an “Ambassador” for these poorest neighbors. Many travelers organize slide shows (or we have one that you can use) or inspirational speeches at their churches, schools, and civic clubs. Many people have returned from Haiti to do fundraising parties for HHF (e.g., give money in lieu of Holiday presents) or “tuna/Spam® drives”. Our staff is eager to help you start a fundraising campaign wherever you live. Ask us for ideas!