I looked at the thermometer of the orphanage where the People For Haiti Medical Mission team stayed. It read 98 degrees. Not 98 degrees in the sun, nor in the shade. 98 degrees in our living quarters, where we eat and sleep. Why would anyone subject themselves to five consecutive days of heat and humidity like this? I already know the answer.
At 7:30 each morning we cram ourselves into the back of a two and a half ton truck, filled with so many people and supplies not one of us could be comfortable. Sweat trickled into my eyes as we headed out on the 45 minute journey. The dust from the dirt road we traveled was so thick many of the doctors and nurses wore bandanas or balaclavas to keep from gagging. Why would medical professionals subject themselves to this? I already know the answer.
Our makeshift medical clinic is on the side of a mountain in a remote village. The dirt floor is not level. I am setting up the pharmacy, where I will work, on a slant! Bottles and pens roll off the tables. Cinder blocks and rocks have been strewn on the floors, for some reason I cannot comprehend. We risk twisted ankles every time we walk. Just standing on the slanted ground for an hour strains my back. We will all be aching by the end of our ten hour day. Why would anyone work in conditions like this without getting paid? I already know the answer.
I look out the glassless windows and see a little boy going to the bathroom in the outhouse that is really no more than a hole in the ground with no walls. It is the fourth time I’ve noticed him going. He looks to be about three years old and cannot stop squatting over the hole to relieve himself. He is in pain, yet his eyes are big and round and inquisitive. Occasionally he wanders over and peeks inside the window of our clinic. He smiles and waives, but does not speak.
I look past him at the shacks and tarps on sticks and realize one of these hovels is that little boy’s home. He has no indoor plumbing. He likely has no electricity. No cable. No computer. He is living in the most impoverished nation in the western Hemisphere.
His mother brought him to the People For Haiti clinic and waited six hours in the heat to find out why her son had such a bad case of diarrhea. Six hours. No complaining. Just gratitude for the doctors and nurses who helped treat her son. She left with a bag of medicine, children’s vitamins and a smile on her face. Her boy has a chance. The boy was one of 1,500 patients we saw that week, in the heat and the dust and the dirt.
That is the answer. That is why People For Haiti volunteers suffer through an very uncomfortable week five times a year. We are making a difference. We are helping to save lives and change lives. I have completed my second medical mission to Haiti and am planning on a third. When people question why I would pay good money to travel to Haiti again, I know the answer.