As Konbit Sante’s community health program manager, Josaime Clotilde St Jean has one of the most important roles in the organization. Community health outreach—providing healthcare education and services in the field—is an essential component of strengthening the health system in Cap-Haitien.
Known fondly to her friends and co-workers as “Tijo,” Miss St Jean was born in Grande-Riviere-du-Nord, a community located about 17 miles south of Cap-Haitien. Her mother operated a childcare center and her father was a school director, so she was raised in an environment that highly valued education. At her father’s urging, she pursued a career in nursing.
“My father wanted me to become a nurse,” she said. “He admired nurses very much, and liked to watch them take good care of patients. It was a dream for him to see his daughter like that.”
After receiving her registered nurse certification from the School of Nursing at Our Lady of Wisdom in Cap-Haitien, Miss St Jean worked for 12 years for the Haiti Ministry of Public Health and Population in the Artibonite Department. During this time, she collaborated with various nonprofit organizations such as Project Help Haiti, Doctors Without Borders, and the Haitian Association for the Autonomous Development of the Population.
In 2011, Konbit Sante hired her as a public health nurse to organize mobile health clinics for prenatal and postnatal care, also known as “mothers’ clinics.” She was promoted to program manager a year later.
“Miss St Jean’s work is extremely crucial to our organization,” said Ruddy Adeca, finance manager in our Cap-Haitien office. “We rely on her to manage community health care in the field, and she has great leadership skills.”
“Miss St Jean has a non-nonsense attitude and speaks her honest opinion, something I always appreciate in colleagues and friends,” said Ben Doller, Konbit Sante’s operations and logistics manager. “On a recent trip when I felt ill, Miss St Jean was genuinely concerned about my well-being, and checked in with me several times about how I was doing. That meant a lot.”
Miss St Jean supervises 25 employees at the Fort Saint Michel Health Center, one of our healthcare partner facilities. Nine of them are community health workers (CHWs), who are employed by the Ministry of Public Health and Population to provide community health outreach throughout Haiti. Konbit Sante supports their salaries and sponsors their training.
For many Haitians, especially those who live in remote areas, the CHWs represent the first point of contact for health care. They host vaccination clinics for infants; educate the public on general health, sanitation, and nutrition; provide prenatal and postnatal check-ups; conduct home visits; make referrals to healthcare facilities; meet with community leaders; and more. During public health crises, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, CHWs represent the first line of defense by disseminating educational materials, conducting public information meetings, and setting up and maintaining portable hand-washing stations.
In 2020 alone, CHWs supported by Konbit Sante vaccinated 1,756 children ages newborn to 11 months and spent an average of 180 days—15 days per month—in the field.
Coordinating all this and more is no easy task. But it’s one that Miss St Jean welcomes.
“It’s a pleasure for me to be helpful to my community, especially when we find someone in the field who could die without our contribution,” she said.