Arriving in Port Au Prince, conditions were still deplorable but I saw small signs of change. Stepping out from the airport a local man wearing a tropical print shirt and a big grin put a glossy travel magazine in my hand and said “Welcome to Haiti, Sir”. Outside there were other ‘tell tale’ signs of progress. The dusty roads were lined with vendors and people appeared less beaten down. Seeing the children at the orphanage was wonderful. I was especially moved when one of the girls showed me a picture she had kept that I had drawn for her a year ago.
Each clinic day has a different feel but the patients are always eager to be seen, sometimes waiting for hours for their turn. They often have ailments they’ve been living with for much longer than most of us in the U.S. would ever tolerate. People were more willing to talk, sharing stories not only about medical concerns but also about their daily lives. Over the course of the trip I was reminded many times of how important our trip was to the patients we were able to see. On the second day I treated one middle aged lady that had travelled for three hours to be there. She was a teacher and was able to speak english with surprising eloquence. After helping her with a variety of complaints, she took time to explain to me how so many of the people at the clinic were grateful for our help and anticipated us coming long before our visit.
As on my first trip, the whole medical team was great. Everyone was selfless in their attitude with a ‘can do’ spirit and despite being focused on such a serious task there were many moments that made us stop and smile. It makes me chuckle, to think of Mark waking me and Dilip, at the crack of dawn to witness the night sky or to remember Willy giving his appraisal of Haitian cuisine.
Traveling with People for Haiti gives me a sense of accomplishment that extends far beyond the good feeling you get from helping people less fortunate than yourself. I am glad to have the opportunity to be able to work with a caring group of people who want to make a difference in the world.