The view out of the airplane window as we approached Haiti was tranquil. The beautiful bright blue Caribbean waters with hues of green lapping up on the shores of a golden land. As I soon discovered, this peaceful scene was a dream for the people on the ground. Rubble, dust, disease and daily suffering were their reality.
During my trip I was touched by so much that I saw. One such moment came under the hot sun in ‘Bercy’, at one of the clinics that Guiga had arranged. A 10 year old girl had waited in line for more than two hours. Carefully holding her 18 month old baby brother she explained that her Mother washed clothes at the ‘cholera clinic’ and so she was responsible for her brother. The baby boy had been crying and had otitis media ( an ear infection). It was plain to see that this innocent girl had nothing, maybe not even food in her belly but the strength and dignity with which she spoke would inspire anyone. She should have been playing with other children or going to school but her childhood had been taken over with responsibilities that she should not have seen at this young age. I saw that she was a sweet child, who just wanted to the best for little brother and to help her Mom in any way she could. On another day we had brought a young boy down from the hills. He bore telltale signs of his hard existence. Having no shoes, his feet bore scars from walking bare foot on the stony ground. The skin on his arms was disfigured from some childhood affliction. He had collapsed in the clinic in this remote location. Moribund with meningitis he needed treatment with antibiotics and hydration. I wondered where we could take him. Without hesitation Robert and Guiga arranged to set up an isolation room where we were staying. Caring for him as if he were her own child, Karen nursed him back to health. Each day the boy’s mother, now eight months pregnant, would make the difficult walk down the steep hills to see her son. Karen left her own shoes for him before we left the orphanage. I was really happy to hear that he was able to return to his family the day after we arrived home.
Caught up in living our hectic lives it’s easy to forget how others live, and how they may be suffering. Joining ‘People for Haiti’ on a mission trip profoundly affected me. Arriving home and holding my own two kids I could not help but tear up remembering the faces of the children left behind at the orphanage. It brought me comfort to know that we were able to bring them some hope and that another team would be with them again in the coming months.
This trip was a very rewarding experience for me. Back in the ‘States’ it means the world to me when a patient thanks me, but I cannot fully explain how moved I was when dozens of patients from a clinic in a desperately poor area wanted to thank us for what we had done and began to pray for the team because they said that was all they could give.
The team I traveled with was incredible. Guiga is the most organized, amazing person with the biggest heart. Tammy and Cathy brought so much joy to the children. It was beautiful to see them having so much fun with the kids, all dancing to Justin Bieber’s song ‘Baby’. I’ll always remember Rob and Lydia’s dedication to the cause, Mark’s friendship, commitment, and ‘boot camp’ training for the kids, Karen’s complete devotion to our little boy with meningitis, Jill and Elainey’s loving way with the kids and Maria’s care and concern for the patients. I have the utmost respect for everyone on the team and for Guiga, Leo and Robert, the leaders of ‘People for Haiti’. They are undertaking the noblest of acts in the selfless service of others.
Dr. Vakesh Rajani