Brenda’s Testimonial (April Team)

IMG_0099I find myself walking around not knowing what to do next.  The things I “have” to do here at home to take care of my family of six seem so insignificant now.  I can’t focus and I am angered easily at the conveniences and comforts of home.  I have so much; while my Haitian friends have so little.  To reconcile this leaves me baffled.  I try to stay on task, but find that looking through the pictures from the trip brings me comfort and fills my heart.  I have never wanted to be in two places at one time so badly. This was my first trip to Haiti, but it will not be my last.

I traveled to Haiti with an amazing team.  In such a short time we became family, joined by the common thread of the Haitian people and the desire to serve them.  It is amazing that 14 people can come together, many of us strangers or acquaintances at best, and create what was the beauty of the April team.  We worked hard, and played hard.  We cried, and hugged, and danced, and embraced a new culture.
DSC06875We shared meals, stories, challenges, and encouragement.  We treated over 1100 patients that would have otherwise not been able to receive
medical care.   I think that most of us embarked on this journey in hopes of changing lives; but in the end I am certain it is we that are changed.

The trip from the airport to the orphanage revealed quickly that I had not only entered another country, but another world.  I had read history books about Haiti, watched programs about the culture, and
viewed endless news coverage of the earthquake devastation.  I had seen photos of people in living in extreme poverty,  tent cities as
far as one can see,  and the suffering of the ill in cholera clinics.  But now I was in the middle of it; staring in awe, and challenged to make a difference.  I questioned my relevance.  Can I and this small
team really do anything of purpose for a country this devastated?  It was then that I had a feeling, almost as if God himself had placed his hand on the small of my back leading me forward with the strength and
encouragement that could only come from Him.  I now had my answer, we WOULD make a difference.IMG_0063

Within moments of arriving at the orphanage that would be our home during this trip, the love flowed freely from the people here.  We were greeted with unending smiles and outstretched arms of the most
beautiful children.  Some were partly clothed, some dirty.  Some were covered in chicken pox, and some waited in the background a bit unsure.  Before I could breathe it all in, the arms of team members were filled with children.  Volunteers from previous trips had found “their kids.”  What had I done wrong?  My arms were empty.  I was nervous.  Missing my own four children, I wanted to retreat, certain I had made a mistake.  It was in that instant that I met Jakob.  His arms were reaching up for me, and as if I were scooping up one of my own, he was quickly perched on my hip.  He leaned back to get a good
look at me.  His deep brown eyes pierced my soul. Though I didn’t speak his language, we both knew that we were meant for each other in that moment.  He laid his head on my shoulder, and held on with a grip
that clearly communicated his need.  I wanted to look at his precious face again, but could not break his grip on me.  I began to weep like a child.  My children get held like that every day of their lives. How can it be that there are so many that don’t?  Before the
earthquake, Haiti had over 400,000 orphans, and I wanted to hold each one.  Time stood still for me and Jakob.  He stood there holding onto and clearly loving a total stranger!  If he could do it, so could I. My nervousness vanished, and I was ready!

IMG_0033_2The next three days occurred like a movie in fast forward.  It seems I can remember laying down to sleep on our first night, not able to imagine three clinic days and three more nights of sleep ahead of us, and then I was packing to leave!  Many times during our clinic days I thought to myself, “ This is going soooo fast.  Someone hit a pause button so I can drink it all in!”  I wanted to talk to each person
more intimately and help them express their medical needs.  I wanted to hold each baby longer, and comfort each Momma as she waited in long lines in the grueling heat.  I wanted to scoop up the children that
attended the clinics, only to bring an even younger sibling that was in dire need of medical attention.  I wanted to tell them that they are strong and beautiful and faithful and that it would all be OK.
The field medicine that we practiced during our trip was unlike anything I had ever experienced. It was quite a stretch for my 12 years of exclusive ICU nursing experience to say the least.  There
certainly was no room for, “This isn’t how we do it in the NICU!”

Haiti is simply amazing.  It boasts beautiful mountain ranges, spectacular shorelines, and the same turquoise waters that surround Caribbean destination islands.  It is truly an oxymoronic place.  It embodies extremes that I never thought existed before now.  The garbage lined streets seem to speak a language of laziness, yet there is not a harder working people.  The poverty and oppression that infiltrates the country can be observed in the physical aches and
pains of the people, but not in their eyes and hearts.  They are a nation of survivors.  It is clearly conveyed that they are a proud people and they have faith that tomorrow is going to be better than
today.  With People for Haiti, I had the privilege of being part of that “better tomorrow.”

Along with other NGO’s (non-government organizations) People for Haiti is restoring hope and health to the Haitians we are lucky enough toDSC06928
serve, one village, one clinic, one trip at a time.  Interest in PFH is growing.  Trips are filling faster and more frequent trips are being scheduled.  What better evidence of the success of this medical mission organization!  If you are contemplating being a volunteer for an upcoming trip, I suggest you jump in with both feet.  It will be scary.  You will be nervous.  Travel can be uncertain, and as I learned ALL things Haiti require patience!  But you will never for one moment regret it and you will want more!  Please consider supporting
PFH with all that you can offer.  No amount of volunteer time, money,or talents is too small!

Brenda Tobey, RNC-NIC  BSN

  1. Kerri Strupp
    This brought a tear to my eye Brenda! Those kids were lucky to have you there. I sure wish I could go help!
  2. Fran Miller
    Brenda, I am Alison Gonzalez' mother. She has told me so much about you, a lady I seem to meet only at Halloween time when you bring your children around to the Gonzalez' porch for their candy treats. God Bless you, Brenda, for doing His work among the poorest of the poor. I have been in Haiti, actually several times when I was a child because my father at that time was captain of the Santa Rosa, a wonderful cruise ship belonging to the Grace Line (the company was disbanded during WWII). As an adult, my husband and I spent a few days in Port Au Prince. Both as a child and young adult I I was appalled at the poverty, the filth of a country whose leaders stole and stole from its citizens. It is wonderful to read your report where you tell us the people are optimistic and not in total despair. As a "spoiled" American, I know I would have given up long ago. Thank you, Brenda. You are a warrior angel for your profession and your country. Alison is very lucky to have you as a friend.
  3. Judy tindall
    Thank you Brenda for this beautiful tribute to your team and the work and love you have given. Gods work is never done. Thank you for giving of yourself in his name in this much needed time. You are truly a blessing to us all. I love you
  4. Heather goldstein
    Brenda I am speechless which is very hard to do! What an amazing recount of your trip! My eyes blurred some while reading and I had goose bumps at times. What an emotional journey you embarked on but completely worth it! My hat goes off to you!
  5. Michelle DiNicola
    Brenda, What a wonderful story! So beautifully written- I could almost feel myself walking beside you- yet I knew in my heart I wasn't even close to feeling what you felt! Leaving your 4 children behind and feeling the guilty breathlessness of all the comforts of home I can imagine, but you answered the call of God and what a wonderful vessel you were for His work. Dr.Vieira is my doctor and we have talked quite alot about his wife's trips to Haiti--it is embedded in their hearts--and now in yours. The tears and goosebumps that I had while reading your testimonial is proof that you wrote what God wanted you to write, for those of us that needed to hear His voice. Thank you for answereing His call, putting yourself out there, leaving your family, and providing your skills to those in need. You are a true Blessing.
  6. Danita
    Brenda - Wow! What a beautiful description of your trip. Thank you for sharing your heart. Your words helped me to feel as if I were there with you and I blinked back tears reading your account. I love that you felt God's hand in the small of your back and He led you right to Jakob. I know you will return and will find a way to reconcile your heart being in two places at once. Now you are no longer simply an observer of Haiti's tragedies, as a participant can share your heart and as a connector encourage many to give and go and get out of their comfort zone. Hugs to you my friend.

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