Friends of the Children of Haiti

In May of 2011, my twin sister Erin traveled to Haiti to work as a volunteer pharmacist for an organization called Friends of the Children of Haiti, which is often referred to as the acronym FOTCOH.

When she returned home, she told wild stories about her experience working and hanging out with the volunteer team at FOTCOH medical clinic, and how amazing the founders of the organization, Dick and Barb Hammond, who were working alongside the team during her trip, where – she insisted that I had to go with her the following November.

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The FOTCOH clinic is located in Cyvadier, Haiti near the town of Jacmel in the Sud-Est Department.

I was so intrigued by her adventure in Haiti that I signed up to volunteer with FOTCOH without hesitation. At the time, I had no idea that that decision would be the beginning of a professional relationship with FOTCOH, but a close and personal relationship with Dick and Barb.

 The House of Life

What I ended up finding in Haiti on my first trip was more than an opportunity to volunteer outside of the United States to help bring medical care to the most impoverished population of people in the Western Hemisphere — it also leads me on a professional career path as a writer, and later a non-profit program developer.

At the time in their mid-70s, Dick and Barb Hammond fascinated me from the first time I met them at the clinic. The story of how they came to work in Haiti was captivating— with no medical backgrounds, they decided to build a clinic, and their second home, in a country where progress is slow and corruption and survival tactics often rule, after retirement. I was in love with their personal journey that after getting to work with them for a few years at the clinic, I wrote a book called the House of Life about the more than 30 years they had spent bringing healthcare to Haitians living in extreme poverty.

In the book, I talk about how FOTCOH provides life-saving support to over 15,000 Haitian patients every year. Through an extensive volunteer base, doctors, nurses, EMTs, pharmacists, and non-medical professionals provide triage injuries, treat illness, offer prenatal care, perform major surgery, and offer nutritional support.

Read the extraordinary story of Dick and Barb Hammond building a medical clinic in Haiti.
Bringing WASH to FOTCOH

After seven years of volunteering with FOTCOH, I proposed the idea to Dick and Barb, as well as FOTCOH’s Clinic Manager, Andre Boyer, of expanding the medical program at the clinic to include an educational component— one in particular that involved teaching safe and effective WaSH practices.

What is WaSH? According to UNICEF, “WaSH is the collective term for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene. Due to their interdependent nature, these three core issues are grouped together to represent a growing sector. While each a separate field of work, each is dependent on the presence of the other. For example, without toilets, water sources become contaminated; without clean water, basic hygiene practices are not possible.”

Why is WaSH important? Because more than 3.5 million people worldwide die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes. In 2011 alone, 6,000 people died in Haiti due to waterborne diseases.

Improving the hygiene, sanitation, and management of water could prevent one-tenth of the diseases in the world. One of the biggest problems is that children don’t properly wash their hands or don’t wash them at all.

The FOTCOH WaSH program teaches children proper handwashing techinques.

Additionally, many children also don’t know what water is safe to drink and what water isn’t. Because of this, of the 3.5 million deaths worldwide that occurs each year from waterborne diseases, like cholera, 80% are children.  Five thousand of the six thousand people who died of waterborne diseases in Haiti in 2011 died because of an outbreak of the infectious disease cholera.

FOTCOH expanding its work

I wanted the WaSH program to nurture good hygiene practices, teaches proper hand washing techniques, provides hygiene kits, teaches safe handling and storage of water, and distributes water filters to families, schools, and communities in Haiti.

After pitching my idea, Dick, Barb, and Boyer were enthusiastic about hosting a WaSH clinic as soon as Boyer and I could get it off the ground. I work on recruiting volunteers, securing water filters from the U.S., and collecting donations for transportation costs, Haitian staff salaries expenses, and funds to purchase clean buckets for water collection and storage.

Boyer’s responsibly was to hire two WASH Community Promoters who could work with local community leaders to convince them to let us come into their communities and teach WaSH practice and distribute hygiene kits and water filters.

School children received Sawyer Water Filters and training about how to properly use and clean their filters during the FOTCOH WaSH clinic.

Those two Haitian staff members ended up being Maxeau and Medjine. Cut to six months later, the Boyer, Maxeau, and Medjine were ready for a team of ten volunteers from the U.S. to come to the FOTCOH clinic in Haiti for a week to work in the community. The results: Over the course of 5 days, our team trained in WaSH, 750 hygiene kits were distributed, 507 community members, students, and adults, were trained in WaSH practices, and 147 families and schools were distributed water filters that will provide them with clean water for ten years.




This year, the FOTCOH WASH Program hopes to provide twice as many water filters to families and provide more WASH training and hygiene kits to communities in need.

What do donations to the FOTCOH WaSH Program provide?

Donations towards the FOTCOH WASH program go towards purchasing buckets for our Sawyer Water Filters and paying Haitian staff salaries and transportation costs – I love that not only are we able to provide jobs for people in Haiti by hiring translators and community WASH promoters, but purchasing supplies n the countries also means that we are supporting local businesses in Haiti — an important way to help provide sustainable solutions in a country that desperately needs stability and income generating projects and programs. 

How do I donate to the FOTCOH WASH Program?

You can donate directly to the FOTCOH WASH Program on their website:


 Global Facts about Water, Hygiene, and Sanitation:

-Worldwide, 780 million people do not have access to an improved water source

-An estimated 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation (more than 35% of the world’s population)

-According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, regions with the lowest coverage of “improved” sanitation in 2006 were sub-Saharan Africa (31%), Southern Asia (33%) and Eastern Asia (65%)

-In 2006, 7 out of 10 people without access to improved sanitation were rural inhabitants

-According to the United Nations and UNICEF, one in five girls of primary-school age are not in school, compared to one in six boys. One factor accounting for this difference is the lack of sanitation facilities for girls reaching puberty. Girls are also more likely to be responsible for collecting water for their family, making it difficult for them to attend school during school hours. The installation of toilets and latrines may enable school children, especially menstruating girls, to further their education by remaining in the school system.

Hygiene kits include toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, hand soap, and toys.

Disease & Death

-An estimated 801,000 children younger than 5 years of age perish from diarrhea each year, mostly in developing countries. This amounts to 11% of the 7.6 million deaths of children under the age of five and means that about 2,200 children are dying every day as a result of diarrheal diseases

-Unsafe drinking water, inadequate availability of water for hygiene, and lack of access to sanitation together contribute to about 88% of deaths from diarrheal diseases

-Worldwide, millions of people are infected with neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), many of which are water and/or hygiene-related, such as Guinea Worm Disease, Buruli Ulcer, Trachoma, and Schistosomiasis. These diseases are most often found in places with unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation, and insufficient hygiene practices

-Worldwide, soil-transmitted helminths infect more than one billion people due to a lack of adequate sanitation

-Guinea Worm Disease (GWD) is an extremely painful parasitic infection spread through contaminated drinking water. GWD is characterized by spaghetti-like worms up to 1 meter in length slowly emerging from the human body through blisters on the skin anywhere on the body but usually on the lower legs or lower arms. Infection affects poor communities in remote parts of Africa that do not have safe water to drink. In 2015, 22 cases of Guinea Worm Disease were reported. Most of those cases were from Chad (41%)

-Trachoma is the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness and results from poor hygiene and sanitation. Approximately 41 million people suffer from active trachoma and nearly 10 million people are visually impaired or irreversibly blind as a result of trachoma 12. Trachoma infection can be prevented through increased facial cleanliness with soap and clean water and improved sanitation.


-Water, sanitation, and hygiene has the potential to prevent at least 9.1% of the global disease burden and 6.3% of all deaths. The impact of clean water technologies on public health in the U.S. is estimated to have had a rate of return of 23 to 1 for investments in water filtration and chlorination during the first half of the 20th century

-Water and sanitation interventions are cost-effective across all world regions. These interventions were demonstrated to produce economic benefits ranging from US$ 5 to US$ 46 per US$ 1 invested

-Improved water sources reduce diarrhea morbidity by 21%; improved sanitation reduces diarrhea morbidity by 37.5%, and the simple act of washing hands at critical times can reduce the number of diarrhea cases by as much as 35%.

-Improvement of drinking-water quality, such as point-of-use disinfection, would lead to a 45% reduction of diarrhea episodes

-In order to meet the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to improved drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015:

-An estimated 784 million people will need to gain access to an improved water source.

-An estimated 173 million people on average per year will need to begin using improved sanitation facilities (accounting for expected population growth) 2

-Even if the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal for improved drinking water and basic sanitation is reached by 2015, it will still leave:

An estimated 790 million people (11% of the world’s population) without access to an improved water supply.

An estimated 1.8 billion people (25% of the world’s population) without access to adequate sanitation

* An improved water source is defined as water that is supplied through a household connection, public standpipe, borehole well, protected dug well, protected spring, or rainwater collection.

 FACTS about Haiti

-63% of Haitians are malnourished.

-Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

-A vast majority of Haitians are living below the poverty line, existing on less than $2 a day.

-1 in 5 children is born with a low-birth-weight.

-The lack of access to clean water and sanitation, as well as lack of adequate food and access to basic healthcare, claims most lives in Haiti.

-Haiti has an 80% unemployment rate; a vast majority of Haitians are living below the poverty line, existing on less than $2 a day.

-The lack of access to clean water and sanitation, as well as lack of adequate food and access to basic healthcare, claims most lives in Haiti.

-Malnutrition is the underlying cause of death for many children in Haiti.

-Haiti has the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the Western hemisphere.

-Diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis have ravaged the Haitian population. But it’s really the lack of access to clean water and sanitation, lack of adequate food and lack of access to basic healthcare that claims most lives.

-Deficient sanitation systems, poor nutrition, and inadequate health services have pushed Haiti to the bottom of the World Bank’s rankings of health indicators.

-According to the United Nations World Food Programme, 80 percent of Haiti’s population lives below the poverty line. Consequently, malnutrition is a significant problem. Half the population can be categorized as “food insecure,” and half of all Haitian children are undersized as a result of malnutrition.

-Less than half the population has access to clean drinking water, a rate that compares poorly even with other less-developed nations.

-In terms of health care spending, Haiti ranks last in the western hemisphere.

-There are 25 physicians and 11 nurses per 100,000 Haitians. Only one-fourth of births are attended by a skilled health professional.

-Most rural areas have no access to health care, making residents susceptible to otherwise treatable diseases.

-Due to political, economic, and social instability of the country, there are not enough resources to educate and provide care for women who are pregnant.

-According to the high maternal mortality rates, Haitian women and girls die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth more often than those in any other developed country.

-Acute diarrheal disease, intestinal infectious diseases, perinatal infections, malnutrition, and acute respiratory infections are among the leading causes of infant death in Haiti.

-Infectious diseases and parasitic diseases are the most common causes of death in young children. Adolescent death is often a result of HIV/AIDS, violence, tuberculosis, typhoid and maternal death. AIDS, intestinal infections, and complications during pregnancy are responsible for most maternal deaths.

-59% of the population lives on less than US$2 per day.

-59 per 1,000 born in Haiti die before reaching their first birthday (Ministry of Health 2012.

-Haiti is often defined by what it lacks: a stable economy, high employment, solid infrastructure, and access to quality food, clean water, and universal health care.


Maxeau explains how to a pregnant mom how to clean herSawyer r Water filter. If maintained properly, the Sawyer Water filter can provide clean water to a family for ten years.

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