I’m not sure if it is the same gnat or just one after another, but for the millionth time, I wave it away and concentrate on what my patient is saying. This clinic will become a record for People For Haiti. We will see 750 patients in one day. I look out at the line of hundreds of people waiting in the hot sun for hours just to have 2-3 minutes of one of the doctor’s time. It is a humbling experience. In America, people will stand in line for concert tickets, Black Friday deals at Best Buy, etc. but no one would tolerate waiting hours to see their doctor. This is just one example of the desperation people feel in Haiti. The basics we take for granted in America are valuable commodities in Haiti. In America, anyone, money or not, can wander into an ER and receive medical care. The access, not to mention very meager resources, is poor in Haiti. This is one for the reasons I keep returning. While I can’t solve Haiti’s health care problem, I can help. I feel obligated to help. These people are just like me – they love their families, they want their children to have a better life, they want to be respected and feel useful. They were just unlucky and were not born in the US. I was. How can I go about my merry way and not feel obligated to help even if it is in a small way compared to the overall problem? If the roles were reversed, would I want someone to reach out to me? Would their gesture seem small to me?
An hour later I look over the crowd again and it looks like there are no less people waiting. I am drenched from my own sweat, tired and realize that the smell coming from me is probably why the gnats won’t leave me alone. And I’m in the shade. My heart goes out to these people. They have next to nothing, but keep pushing forward. Every day is a struggle to find work, to find food, to find water, to survive.
Our treat for a hard day’s work is seeing the kids at the orphanage. They are AMAZING. So full of love and happiness. Wanting your attention, they cannot get enough. It is a surreal picture. Like seeing a rose growing in a pile of garbage. Despite so many things going against them, they laugh, they play, they smile. I see my special boy, Jerry. During the July trip, he ran to the van only to not find me and starting crying. This trip, he did not come to the van when we pulled up. He did not want to have to go through that disappointment again. When I found him, for a few minutes, I hugged him hard and he hugged me back.
Our bond grows stronger and so does my commitment to the people suffering in Haiti. I have to go back. There are people who need me and the care I can provide. And to be the kind of person I want to be, to fulfill the blessing of my own good fortune, I need them. I am going back in November.
Robert J. Ferreira, MD
Co-Founder, People For Haiti