Betty West’s Haiti Testimonial
Our team arrived in Port au Prince, Haiti on May 20, 2010. We went through immigration control and received our green cards. There were no problems, only a couple of questions. Our luggage arrived very quickly and then we proceeded through Customs. We only had to open one cardboard box, which contained empty plastic containers to be used for organizing the supplies. The officer pointed to one of our duffle bags and asked what is in it. We told him that It contained mostly clothes and shoes. We were then allowed to go through and were met outside the building by the staff from the orphanage. Mike and his staff loaded the van and we were off to Cabaret.
Winding our way through the streets of Port au Prince, the sights were heart wrenching. People are living in make shift shelters, cooking over an open flame on the sides of the road, which were bumpy and still cluttered with rubble from the buildings that were destroyed during the quake. The children came up to the van when we were stopped in traffic, holding out their hands and talking with the Haitian interrupters. I could not understand what they were asking, but I’m sure they needed money to buy food. There was a large mound of rubble at the side of one of the streets and someone asked what building was this and they said it had been a school. No one said anything, knowing there must have been some children killed there. I also noticed a bulldozer just sitting by the rubble with no one around working. The roads were narrow and rough, with vehicles weaving in and out of traffic, blowing their horns, vying for the road right-of-way. We did have a “slight” fender bender with a stopped vehicle, no one seemed concerned, so, we went on our way. Further down the road we stopped to see what damage had been done. The van only had a slight dent.
The country side to Cabaret was very beautiful with mountains on one side and the ocean on the other side. To see this area, you would think that there was not any damage done by the earth quake. As we were driving through this area we saw a very large white area. We asked one young
man what that was. He said that this is where they buried the bodies from the earthquake. He also said “my brother is there”. As we passed by you could smell “the death smell”. How sad it is, for this to be the reminder of their loved ones who were killed. I don’t think I will ever forget this sight!
We arrived in the town of Cabaret after about an hour of driving from the airport. Many of the buildings were damaged, some with the roofs collapsed, some with only a wall or two standing. People gather whatever wood, rocks, palm-fonds, and sticks they can find and put together a shelter. They will use any type of cloth to make a roof. It keeps the sun off of them, but certainly not the rain. We passed quite a few “blue tent camps” which are for the homeless earthquake survivors. The tents were right next to one another. You could not see any type of water supply or toilet facilities. I could not comprehend how the people even exist, let alone survive. I would like to know what the mortality rate might be. I am sure at this point in time no one is keeping the statistics.
In Cabaret, we saw a UN truck giving out supplies to the people. There are still relief efforts going on.
Hopefully, it will continue.
They wash their clothes in the river, they bath there, go to the toilet there, and drink from the same water. I have been to other countries where I have seen poverty, I have seen it in the United States, but this was devastating for me to see.
As we were driving along, we saw men, women, young children leading or riding on donkeys, going to or coming from their shelters. I thought “This is how it was in biblical times.” I pictured Joseph and Mary, pregnant with Jesus, riding into Bethlehem. How humbling this scene was for me.
We arrived at the orphanage, went upstairs to our sleeping and eating area. Mike gave us orientation about our surroundings. We unpacked and starting working. There was a lot of sorting through supplies, and discarding medical supplies that were expired, to be done. Then, we needed to get everything organized. It was so hot! There was no breeze upstairs. I don’t think I ever perspired so much in one day. I was constantly drinking to prevent dehydrating. Food was not my top priority because it was too hot to eat.
I was amazed how fast the word spread that our team was there and we could provide some medical care. It gave me a great pleasure to provide basic care to the individuals who came to the compound. I could see the need for a full medical team to be here and hope these teams will continue to come to Haiti to help the people who are so much in need.
We took a break and went downstairs to be around the children. They were so excited about us being there. They are very happy children, always smiling, running and playing like most children. Your heart goes out to them because they do not have a mother or father to provide security for them. Even so, these children are more fortunate than the children outside the orphanage compound. They have shelter protecting them from the elements, food to eat and a place to sleep, The Nannies who take care of the children provide them with a certain amount of security, but, they are not family.
Our last night there, we celebrated May birthdays. All the children were so well behaved, waiting their turn to get a piece of birthday cake, gift bag, toys and clothes. They are being taught to have good manners, be polite, always smiling. What I found unusual is that you really didn’t hear them crying or fighting with one another. The older children help and take care of the younger children.
I enjoyed the day we went to see the patients whom the previous medical team had treated. To my amazement, they are doing as well as can be expected under the conditions in which they are living. “These people must have an immune system much better than ours.”
I hope that at some future date I am able to go back, with a medical team, to provide treatment, give support and hope to others in need.
Leaving was one of satisfaction and sadness. Sadness, because I didn’t have time to be of more help; Satisfaction that I got to go to Haiti and to help in a small way. I am very appreciative that I was able to participate. I don’t think I can describe my feelings in words, and what I observed in the short time I was in Haiti. We have so much to be thankful for. I give thanks to the Lord for what my family and I have.