Haiti Day 3 and 4: Rachel’s Version

Before I jump into Rachel’s post, here is a good story about the pastor that Chris sent me.

Pastor and I went to the bank today and we bypassed the lineup outside and went straight in- pastor saying that we’re just going to ‘information’.  Then inside the bank there’s about 15 people lined up and pastor, after going to information…. goes up and stands beside someone already at a teller and waits for them to finish.   Then he starts doing his own banking.   Just went in front of 15 people… classic.   I asked him about it after and he said ‘the people in line have longer to live than me, they can wait.’

And now I pass you on to Rachel…

The rooster always wakes me up. Early. Earlier than I get up, ever! Even for work at 7am.

Lucky I brought ear plugs because I remembered that a rooster liked to crow in Swaziland as well. Right outside my window it seems, but I’m sure everyone feels that way. The dogs bark too, but they don’t bother me as much.

I am usually one of the first ones up and decide to get a bit of reading for school. Pretty soon the house was bustling with people and the tent city outside my window was singing as they make breakfast.

The past two days we have sorted medications to get ready for distribution at our medical clinic. Outside the music is blaring and Justin Timberlake is bringing sexy back. The children are singing along serenading us as we sort.

The tent city outside has no latrine, so there are current problems with illness as a result of that, no clean water, cooking over fires and a variety of other disaster related problems. It is not easy for the people. And yet, they are strong and resilient.

We went with Emma’s sister, Olange to go check on the mom and her newborn living in the backyard. The baby is so small. I’ve never seen a baby 2 days old before. We were able to do some health teaching with the mom and ask her how the breastfeeding is going. She seems to be doing well. It helps that Emma’s sister is also a nurse in Miami (and speaks Creole!). It made me realize how versatile/flexible nursing is…health teaching in a tent with mom and baby in Port au Prince. Amazing.

The past two days have been Shelter Box setup days. Shelter boxes are these huge plastic containers that hold a 6 person tent, water jugs, cooking utensils (sometimes a stove), tools, sleeping bags, toys for children, etc. We were able to get a substantial donation. Our team was pretty upset to still see over 3000 Shelter boxes sitting in the warehouse waiting for families. They were donated to World Vision. I hope they get out of that warehouse soon!

Once we get word that a Shelter Box needs to be set up and so we jump up and hop into the TapTap to get on our way. (This being said, transportation is a huge issue here. So this is based on the assumption that a TapTap is available.)
It is amazing driving through Port au Prince. Today it seemed to be laundry day for the women and an afternoon of checkers for the older men. Children would wave to us as we drove by and we yell “Bonju” (Creole hello, similar to Bonjour in French). We passed by one house where they are starting to rebuild out of the rubble.

Soon after driving down many dirt streets full of potholes and bumps, we arrive at the intended destination. We jump out and greet the family and ask them where they would like their new tent. One friend of the family who spoke pretty good English told us that their last tent wasn’t that great and that they are so happy to have this one. These two adorable girls come up to me and say in perfect English, you are beautiful. I think they were practicing in the corner and working up courage to talk to me.

We set up a few more tents. But it takes so long to navigate through the traffic that we only get a few up today. But the families are so grateful it makes it worthwhile. The second house we visited is the house of a pastor. The church is still standing and actually one of the biggest (and nicest) we have seen. Then we walk around back and see where the family is living. It’s a house made out of rubble and remains. There is a large cement cistern where they are collecting water. I think it is their drinking water because they ask us for some. We don’t have any to give. I feel awful. Despite the shelter, there is always another important need. I wish we could fill them all.

The next place we visit is a tent community near a ravine. There is garbage everywhere and pigs sleeping in the garbage. There are people everywhere. This young girl with a cast on her leg and arm comes out of a tent. She has no crutches and no follow up appointment. She asks us to take a look at her foot. She has some concerns. We assess her and everything seems okay at the moment, but she really needs to be seen and get that cast off. We do some more health teaching in the tent. I love nursing!

This tent was a bit more frustrating. I guess the manufacturers are having trouble keeping up with the demand so it’s a few different types of tent. I am not a camper, but give me a tent and I could set it up. We’re experts.

When we get back to Pastor’s house, we go upstairs to rest (it is like 95 degrees outside!) We are informed that a family living with Pastor has been trying to set up at tent since we left to go help the others. We quickly run to their aid and get that tent up faster than any other we have set up. You should have seen their children running and jumping through the tent. It was such a little thing but they were so happy to have a sturdy shelter. It almost made me cry.

The UN flights out of Haiti at the Canadian embassy are no longer on a daily basis and Nathan was unable to get a flight until Friday. So that means he is taking a bus to Dominican in the morning to catch a cheap flight home. Which is sad for me, since I just got here. We dropped him off at the “bus station” near the American Embassy and the UN compound. The line at the American Embassy is triple the size at the Canadian one!
It was so weird leaving Nathan in the middle of nowhere (it seemed) to fend for himself. I know he’s fine. But it was still an awful feeling. I may or may not have cried.

We spend most afternoons chatting and getting to know one another a bit better, showing pictures, sharing stories, and helping out in any way we can.

One thing that I have been thinking about is that in Haiti, I sleep on a mattress, wherever they tell me to, eat whatever is in front of me (and am always grateful), “shower” or wash with whatever cold water is available…I don’t care about my appearance, fashion, what’s on nightly tv, etc. I am not trying to compare, just wondering why life is not more like that in North America?! Why are we so spoiled and selfish? I think everyone should try to feel hungry for a day (or two) or sleep on the ground outside (in the rain) and see what it is like for the people. I’ve barely put myself in their shoes…I can’t even begin to imagine.

Sidebar- I’m really thinking and wresting with the social determinants of health this weeks. I might post about this separately when I can collect my thoughts. I want to believe that they should be human rights, but everything seems so political. I’m beginning to understand why people are starting to refer to them as the political determinants of health.

After dinner more visitors arrive and we sit to chat until we’re too sleepy to continue. It has been a hot and sticky day so there is a line up for the showers (trickle of cold water out of a tap in the ceiling, but hey I’m not complaining! It’s the most refreshing shower I’ve ever had!) Then we pile into bed to get ready for the next.

The dogs howl at the rain. I hope the tents we set up with hold up to the elements and I pray for those without. For them, it will be a long night…I think about the Shelterboxes in the warehouse.

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One Comment

  • Hi Darlin’.

    I am feeling for you and am certain that Nathan is as well. Although it is so good to know that you are there helping in Haiti, I can imagine how much this affects you, particularly with the children and mom with new infant.

    Grandpa and I have donated thru’ doctors without borders, but wonder if any of this will trickle down to you. Perhaps we could donate directly?

    It is cold in Panama City Beach……a wretched day actually, so it is difficult to imagine 95F temperatures where you are. I’ll be holding you and Nathan (for his travel home) in my prayers.

    With much love, Grandma.

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