Once again, I was blessed with the opportunity to spend a week with the biggest hearts and hardest working hands one could imagine. July 2011 marked my third trip to Haiti. Each trip opens my eyes and my heart to new experiences, things that just can’t be explained with words.
Day One started off with everyone bright eyed and bushy tailed at Tampa International Airport. This is the cleanest we will all be the entire trip! Once we performed our usual “airport photo shoot” we all boarded the plane, next stop: Miami. After a near miss, we sprint from one terminal to the next in order to get all 12 of us onto our flight to Haiti. Quite a sight to see for bystanders I’m sure. We all made it to Haiti safe and sound but we couldn’t say the same for our luggage. All the ladies headed to the Children’s Home while the guys stayed behind to wait for our bags. As soon as we set foot out of the van we were greeted with hugs and kisses. There is nothing more welcoming than 50 kids running up to hug you. I immediately made a beeline to find little Leo. He was barely crawling during my last visit in January and now there was no slowing him down. The doctors arrived a little later and went to work checking up on all the children.
Day Two would prove to be one of the most physically demanding clinics we would experience. A partial van ride up the mountain until the road ends then hike the rest of the way. We set up in a covered area on the mountain. After we all take a minute to soak in the view, everyone gets to work setting the stage for a big day ahead. I was in awe once again by the amount of people that came from miles away to visit with a doctor. I saw some friendly faces that I had met at that same clinic in January. This clinic seemed to have the most babies and I was determined to hold each and every one of them! As the day went on we started running short on water. Two ladies stepped up and volunteered to make the hike all the way down and back up the mountain with water for the rest of us. This was no easy feat in the extreme conditions we were in but nothing was going to stop these two amazing women. We end clinic number one with a group picture underneath a very symbolic, perfectly-placed tree. The group gathers our supplies and head back down the mountain. Most of us spent the rest of the evening playing with all the eagerly awaiting kids.
Day Three was something new for all of us. This day we all learned that hard lesson that Haitian time was way different than American time. What should have been an hour and a half trip with a few medical students turned into a three hour ride on a bus packed with 54 adults and all the supplies needed for our clinic. Yet, there was not much complaining. We all knew we were there to help and that’s what we were going to do. Somehow we were one bag short and the pharmacy had to make do with the supplies we did have available. Though this clinic the doctors had the worst conditions. A small dark room with little ventilation turned into almost an oven when patients started passing in and out. But still no complaining from anyone. After all the patients had cleared we had a little time to kill before our ride home arrived. We played with babies, talked to locals and even had our police escorts cracking a smile. Our bus arrives and we all pile on unaware of what was to come. Our bus ride back to the Children’s Home was very emotional for every single one of us on the bus that day. We passed through Cite Soliel, one of the most impoverished and densely populated communities in Haiti. What we saw will never be erased from our minds. As tears fell, our group grew closer. Hands were held and backs were rubbed. The remainder of the ride was considerably quieter.
Day Four was supposed to be our short day. We had plans for a hike and a trip to the beach after we saw the last patient. The community had something else planned for us. We started the earliest that day and ended the latest. I was able to hand out the rest of the glasses I brought along on this trip. It was amazing to see how old reading glasses and sunglasses that probably would have otherwise been thrown out made such a big impact on their life. Once again I am reminded of all the things we take for granted in life. We see a few hundred more patients, ranging from four days old to 90 years old, and close up shop on our third clinic. The team gathers and collects a bunch of kids from the orphanage to go for one last hike up the mountain. The view is breathtaking. Bad weather cuts the hike a little short but could not stand in the way of a little game of rock skeet shooting. I’m not sure who enjoyed it more, the kids or the adults.
Day Five our trip comes to an end. We are up early and loading the van. All of us scramble around to hug each and every kid one last time. We take turns signing the wall in the clinic and one more hug to each kid. A few more pictures, ok a lot more pictures, and we are crammed into the van headed for the airport. This is the hard part for me as I know our journey has come to an end. I miss everyone already and haven’t even been gone for an hour.
Each trip I meet so many beautiful souls and am reconnected with those I’ve already made this journey with. I have never experience anything even close to what People for Haiti has to offer. From the minute I heard Leo and Guiga speak about it I wanted to be a part of it. Each person I take this adventure with becomes a part of my family. To see people give so generously of themselves becomes so uplifting. These are the people you want to surround yourself with. I am eagerly awaiting my next opportunity to make a difference. People for Haiti will always be a part of my heart and I am so grateful for everything it has opened my eyes to. Trip number four…. Just say when!