After returning from my April medical trip to Haiti, I truly needed time to decompress and absorb all that I had seen, done, smelled and witnessed. The dichotomy of emotions I experienced from one end of the spectrum to the other is honestly very difficult to describe.
There was sadness when I look at the children at the orphanage, many of whom have no family or whose family no longer wanted them or could care for them but at the same time happiness for those same children who smile, laugh and play as if their world in Haiti is the same as any other place on earth. Riding in a truck thru Port Au Prince brings another set of emotions…disbelief that after a year, the place appears as if an earthquake hit yesterday, yet then I see two ladies sweeping their little section of the sidewalk area to make it look nice and there is a glimmer of hope and pride of the residents. As we drive thru the city, I watch the water in a drainage ditch filled with garbage and sewer…then pigs, dogs, children bathing and women doing laundry. I am ashamed to have ever complained about anything at home and embarrassed that my children have it so good. We visit a mass grave where thousands of unknowns are buried…the group is shunned into silence and some tears. It is truly a mind altering place….the contrast of mass death, yet when my gaze shifts up the hill, there is a huge beautiful cross and draped, flowing purple fabric… a sign of true respect and utter love from those who can only hope that their loved one lies beneath.
The clinic days seeing patients was incredibly rewarding on one hand, yet so challenging on the other. People desperate for medical attention line up early in the day and stand there all day long awaiting their turn. At times, not only did the weather get hot, but also so did tempers as people so protected their space in line that a single move of another cutting ahead of them seemed to shatter their personal opportunity for care. We saw them all….everyone who lined up was seen, no matter what the complaint, time of day or weather. In all, 1,125 persons received medical attention plus 7 surgeries…some may say a drop in the bucket but to those one thousand people, it was a lifeline and to those of us that cared for them, an opportunity to give back. The medical problems varied from the routine cough, cold, fever to more complex issues that really need constant medical attention and routine care. As I write this now, tears stream down my face as I think of the seven year old boy whose fingers were chewed by a rat as he slept, the five year old whose face was cut on the playground, then sewn up with fishing line, the five year old girl who carried her eighteen month old brother all the way to see us…by herself. The baby, unresponsive and full of infection. But the smiles came too as that same baby later laughed and left our clinic following treatment, the boy with the fishing line had his wound cleaned and stiches replaced by Dr. Lonnie and the boy with the rat bite…he has changed my life forever.
As a matter of fact, this trip has changed my life forever. I have always financially donated to other organizations, but was upset knowing those monies go to running the “business” of the charity and only a small portion of those donated monies actually reach the needed. People For Haiti is different. All the monies go directly to help the people and children that need it the most. I see where my monies go and I am able to participate in the organization directly and make the trips to Haiti.
People for Haiti is a true family, a team of dedicated people all with the same goal. I made friendships that will last a lifetime. I know that those other team members will always be there for me, as I will be for them. We have a bond, a friendship and camaraderie from experiencing life in Haiti together. They were there as I held that young boy with the rat bite, tears pouring down my face but I couldn’t let go. I felt his helplessness, his pain and his sadness. I didn’t want to let him go to return to that same place. My team understood and they were right there with me knowing what I was going thru and again later at the team meeting, as again, I could not even talk about it without crying.
I am thankful for the team I traveled with, the friendships I have made, and the opportunity given to me by the group. Guiga, Leo, Robert and Tammy….thank you for allowing me the opportunity to experience an aspect of your lives that you all are so passionate about. You have given me the experience of a lifetime that I will forever be thankful for and will never forget. I look forward to giving People For Haiti my volunteer time and cannot wait to return to Haiti again.
Christine Robson Hashim, CRNA, ARNP