Founded in 2008 by Sarah Wallace (pictured, right), Olive Tree Projects was created to serve and save the children of Haiti. Although orphanages and schools are typically recognized as children based programs, OTP has also recognized the effect maternal care can have on a child’s life.
Sarah moved to Jacmel in 2008. She knew it would be important to live in the community, building relationships and establishing her reputation. In the first year, Sarah instituted educational classes on nutrition, hygiene, and information on pregnancy for the people of the community. She was the midwife for numerous mothers in the area, providing prenatal care and assisting in the delivery of their babies. Sarah maintained contact with these mothers with postnatal care and baby wellness check-ups. Throughout the year, Sarah also took in some very malnourished babies and, after setting up a nutritious feeding program, was pleased to be able to hand them back to their mothers in good health. Sarah also started craft classes for a small group of teenaged boys in the community. They learned a variety of different crafts using recycled plastic bags, bottles, and coconuts.
The Olive Tree Projects’ maternity centre is situated just outside of Jacmel, Haiti. The public hospital only has the capacity to deliver a quarter of the births in Jacmel and its surrounding communities and, therefore, many women deliver at home. We provide a safe, clean place for labour and delivery, as well as offer prenatal, delivery, and post delivery care. We believe that by providing complete prenatal care we can reduce maternal mortality in our community and help keep children with their families.
We recognize the importance of first trimester prenatal care, but realize that there is no way of enforcing that women receive care in their first few months of pregnancy. In response to this, we’ve connected with a group of men and women from our community who hold monthly meetings. We speak at their meetings each month about the signs of pregnancy, risks of pregnancy, and the importance of prenatal care. If men and women in the group understand the importance of early prenatal care then the hope is that they will encourage their friends, family, and neighbours to come to us in their first trimester.
We offer weekly education classes on nutrition, hygiene, sexual health, and pregnancy for the community. We have started to branch out to cover other topics such as sustainability and agriculture. The attendees, who are mainly men, are actively involved in discussion each class.
OTP has also become a safe haven for a number of pregnant teenage girls who have nowhere else to turn. They are given a friendly place to stay, healthy meals, quality prenatal care, and support during and after their pregnancies.
Although we are working to prevent malnutrition, by strongly encouraging breastfeeding and through education about proper nutrition, there are still times when we encounter children who are in need of nutritional support.
Children born to HIV positive women advised not to breastfeed due to risk of the virus transferring to the infant. However, it is unlikely that the mother has the resources to provide infant formula. These infants are often only given tea, sugar water and from young age they’re fed rice and beans.
Through our nurse-midwife, who also works at the hospital, we are able to connect with families of women who have died in childbirth at the hospital, leaving a newborn behind.
In these cases we are able to offer infant formula, counseling on proper preparation of the formula and finally, education on what foods the child may start eating when he/she is old enough.
The cost to provide formula from birth until the child is 6 months old is $700.