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For 2 decades, this Maine nonprofit has been tackling about the toughest challenge imaginable

In a country gripped by poverty and lawlessness, Konbit Sante works to save lives.

PORTLAND, Maine — There’s a school of thought that says charities should sometimes tackle social problems that are so difficult, so immensely challenging, that the likelihood of success is slim at best. Konbit Sante, a nonprofit based in Maine, is familiar with that type of struggle.

For more than two decades, Konbit Sante has worked to “support the development of a sustainable health system” in and around Cap-Haitien, a city on Haiti’s northern coast. Viewing its Haitian colleagues as “full and capable partners,” Konbit Sante works directly with two hospitals and two health clinics that offer care to 300,000 people.

Much of the news Americans hear from Haiti comes from the capital of Port-au-Prince, a city gripped by violence, kidnappings, poverty, and a near-total breakdown of government. Although conditions in Cap-Haitien are less dire, they reflect Haiti’s status as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Dr. Maudelin Mesadieu is a Haitian physician who came to Maine this month to talk about the work his health clinic is doing with the support of Konbit Sante, support that is changing lives. “People are happy with our services,” he says. “We make a big difference.”

Nate Nickerson, who is from Maine and has worked for Konbit Sante for many years, has already visited Cap-Haitien twice this year and will soon be returning. He knows from experience what a long, grinding, exhausting battle it is to improve Haiti’s health care system. But he does not succumb to despair.

“I don’t consider myself optimistic. I consider myself hopeful,” he says. “Hopeful, meaning, that if you do something about it, maybe it will get better.”

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