An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I was once in Haiti

When I was a senior in high school, one of the teachers at our school was part of a medical mission trip to Haiti. I was one of five students chosen to go along with this team of doctors and nurses. Here are some of my memories...
After arriving in Port-au-Prince, we boarded one of these trucks (called a tap-tap) and traveled 18 hours through desert, jungle, and mountains to reach a small village called Jean Rabel. Along the way, long after the sun had gone down, our tap-tap got stuck in mud. We unloaded much of our equipment in complete and total darkness, and between rocking and pushing the truck we managed to get it free.

Inside the tap-tap. Believe me, after 18 hours of being jostled, not only were we incredibly sore, but every crevice (eyelids, ears, etc.) was filled with a fine layer of sand and dirt. We were crunching on sand for days.

Jean Rabel. This hut was typical of housing. We slept and held clinic hours in a church.

The first morning was spent sorting supplies: medicines, vitamins, and baby formula.

By the second day, word had spread throughout the area that we were holding a week-long clinic, and before sunrise there were over a thousand people waiting outside the doors.

Anyone who wasn't seen that day spent the night so they could be the first in line the next morning.

A man with elephantiasis. There was nothing we could do for him.

As a student, one of my duties was to wash infants and toddlers, getting them ready to be seen by the doctor. This baby was suffering from pellagra, a vitamin diffeciency...

...and I fell in love with her.

Afterword: My trip to Haiti was the first time I witnessed extreme poverty. I didn't think things could get worse than that.

Then came the 2010 earthquake...


GrandmaK said...

Incredible!!! God bless you!!! Cathy

Suburban Correspondent said...

Have you read Mountains Beyond Mountains? That was my intro to Haiti. How lucky that you actually got to go see it.

Just finished gathering up all the loose change in the house and emptying the kids' charity jars for another donation - I feel so helpless sitting here and doing nothing. I'm trying to convince my kids that they want to grow up to work for Doctors Without Borders.

Wendy said...

My brother-in-law is there now, assisting with the Sal. Army's relief efforts (having worked through hurricanes Hugo, Andrew and Katrina, he comes with great experience in disaster work). Also, my friend Steve and his wife, worked at the Army's children's home there in Port-au-Prince. They had only recently returned to an appointment in the States when their one year old son was born. Steve is on his way back right now and I'm sure the children (all safe, despite structural damage to their building) will be thrilled to see them. It is all I can think about these days.

Tiziana said...

Cara Maria, mi ricordo benissimo di queste foto e dell'impressione che ci avevano fatto. La tragedia che ha colpito Haiti ha scosso tutti noi profondamente. Ammiro quelle persone meravigliose, che in silenzio, stanno aiutando da sempre questi poveri paesi in tutto il mondo e mi fanno sentire piccola, piccola.
Perchè devono servire tragedie così grandi per farci capire quanta ingiustizia c'è sulla terra?

Anonymous said...

I never new you were that brave!!
Ha Ha!
Christopher K.
(your nephew)

Ellen Stewart (aka Ellie/El) said...

When I went to Tijuana on my first of three trips there, I was stunned that that much poverty was so close to the poshness of San Diego (an hour north). I have seen poverty near my own home and in Chicago, but not like this.

At the end of that first trip, because I am a teacher, someone invited me into a school, and that is when I cried. My pastor saw me, and he said, "You think this is bad, go to Haiti." I thought that was a rough response to my watery eyes, but even then I got it (as much as I could for not having gone there.)

Thank you for sharing this photos. I cannot imagine what life is like there now because I could not imagine it prior. I take great hope that God is still at work there, as he was when you were there.

Damiano e Irene said...

Thank you for sharing these pictures with us. We think that everybody should have this kind of experience at least once in the life to see and touch what does poverty mean. Our prayers are for those innocent people.

Kathryn said...

Wow, those pictures really help bring the extreme poverty into a clear hearts view!
My heart is going out to the Mothers in Haiti, I can't imagine their suffering and worry over their children!

Nonno said...

Bia, I was very proud of you then, and I am Still very proud of you..
Love, Dad

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