This is my fifth trip to Haiti….It will not be my last. I have formed a special bond with one boy in particular, Jerry. On my last trip, I asked Jerry if there were something small I could bring back for him. He requested a skateboard or a Nintendo DS. Thinking of all the orthopedic complications of a skateboard, I opted for the DS. The night I gave it to him, he played the same game, Mario Olympics, downhill skiing for 2 1/2 hours. Every so often, when he made a good run, he would throw up his hands, do a little dance with that million dollar smile on his face. It honestly breaks my heart that I will not be able to see him in July when the next team goes. I have barely been back a week and I miss him already. He is such a good boy.
So, let me cut to the chase; I go to Haiti because of the children. To be sure, the people of Haiti have suffered more than their share of tragedy and continue to suffer deplorable conditions. They wake up each morning just wondering where they will find clean water and enough food for their family for the day. It is sad to see any human suffering. Seeing children suffering from illness, starving, filthy and being alone is something very different. Imagine being born into a world that has already pre-determined that you will grow up nearly starving, living in a place where you can die of malaria, cholera or a host of deadly infections, ensure you will likely never have any higher education let alone know how to read, be resigned to perform hard manual labor in the broiling sun, only to try to raise a family knowing they will suffer the same fate as well. Now multiply that by a several generations and add in a few natural disasters…..THAT is life in Haiti.
After being there once, I have been compelled to return. I cannot live my life the same way knowing there are children that I have, actually, seen, held in my lap or examined that are suffering while I enjoy a big screen TV, sushi dinners and luxury vacations. No, I cannot save all the children of Haiti. I cannot provide them all with food and water or give them all schooling. People For Haiti is not about that. Over one-seventh of the population of Haiti is still homeless over a year after the earthquake. The unemployment rate is presently almost 41% with about 80% of the population living below the poverty line and about 54% in abject poverty. What can you, a single person, do for Haiti? Maybe not much. The multitude of problems seem so huge. How can one person make a difference? Think about a single bee trying to thwart a bear. It has little chance of making a difference. However, a swarm of bees, working together, can overcome the bear and drive it away. There is power in numbers. That is People For Haiti. We are a group of individuals, coming together, combining our talents and caring for others to reach out to help in any way we can. And we are growing. Our focus is medical mission trips, but we spread hope, kindness and our love. With each trip we find people in which we DO make a difference in their lives, especially children. We have brought hope where there was none, spread our smiles to bleak faces and formed personal relationships with strangers that will last for years to come. There is nothing wrong with saving the world one life at a time. It just takes caring and perseverance.
Robert J. Ferreira, MD