Interview with Ellen Powers, former Executive Director
Project Medishare is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year! What better way to commemorate this special occasion than to hear from our founders and other instrumental people who helped form our organization.
Ellen Powers first developed a deep love for Haiti and its people as a Peace Corps volunteer in Haiti in the 1990’s. When she joined the Project Medishare family in 2000 as the Executive Director, a role she filled for 11 years, she was the first full-time, paid staff member. Ellen was instrumental in developing numerous programs, and throughout her time with PM escorted hundreds of medical volunteers to Haiti and filled many roles needed over the years, including securing crucial funding for Project Medishare.
Ellen was also the one responsible for hiring PM’s first County Director in Haiti, the late Marie Chery. Marie, a Haitian-American nurse, was deeply loved and respected by her patients and peers. She was very dedicated to helping humanity and is truly a symbol of integrity and courage. Marie is remembered as someone who never backed down or gave an inch when “doing right” was at stake.
When Ellen joined PM in the year 2000, there was little to no healthcare facilities, much less roads, in the Central Plateau department of Haiti, located 3 hours north of Port-au-Prince. Project Medishare founders Drs. Barth Green and Arthur Fournier, with Ellen’s help, changed this. This part of the country was selected by the founders to begin their work because they believe this to be one of the country’s areas of greatest need, as it is one of the most rural and remote places in the country.
In the beginning, the first volunteer medical teams, most from University of Miami, focused their work on treating people with tuberculosis and HIV. Over time, however, the needs in the area changed and Project Medishare began providing much more than just treatment. The word quickly spread and soon both medical students and doctors from all around the US wanted to start volunteering with PM, which allowed PM to start focusing on broader healthcare, including community health, prenatal care and education.
Ellen remembers this time fondly. “Anytime we did construction or infrastructure, it was a huge milestone. It meant we were growing,” Ellen said. She helped start many new programs while she was with Project Medishare, most notably the Orphans and Vulnerable Children’s Program, in 2008. The program continues today, with over 350 students enrolled in this program that provides school tuition and supplies, as well as activities and spiritual guidance for the most underprivileged children of this area.
The organization experienced the biggest changes after the devastating Earthquake in January 2010. Among the most significant are Project Medishare gaining a more nation-wide presence and establishing a permanent presence at Hospital Bernard Mevs.
When asked how Haiti has changed in 25 years, Ellen said you have to look at health indicators and as a whole they have improved. Project Medishare has had a big impact on improving the number of people who receive vaccinations and maternity health care in the Plateau.
“Each day is a new day…and we, as people, keep growing” Ellen said.
Ellen said “25 years is exciting,” and she said she is even more excited to see the impact Project Medishare continues to make in the lives of thousands of Haitians.
Thank you, Ellen, for making such a big impact and being part of the Project Medishare family!