As I sit to write you about my recent trip to Haiti, I am not sure where to start. The devastation I saw from Hurricane Matthew was huge but the picture that immediately comes into my mind is of the young mom with a 12-month-old babe and a three-year-old boy whom I met.
These were the first children that had come to our mobile clinic and so I pulled them out of the line and brought them inside. We had water purification to offer, a tarp and a small food bag and water bottle, and I had a granola bar in my backpack that I dug out and gave to the little boy. He looked at it and then at me and just sat there with big wide eyes. His mom nudged him and was telling him to say “mesi” (thank you) but it wasn’t until I gestured for him to eat it that he did. Marcela, a team member, remembered that she had a muffin in her bag from the plane and gave it to the mom. The babe on mom’s knee devoured that muffin with both hands! I was brought to tears.
The mom had the biggest smile on her face. I sat with her, held her hand and thanked our Lord for her love and for strength to survive in a very cruel world.
Thankfully, Hurricane Matthew only destroyed a small portion of Haiti’s landscape, the very southwest tip of the south arm. Other areas nearby were affected too but not to the extent that we saw. I had been to Port Salut four years ago and had described it as jungle-like, very lush, especially when compared to the north arm where I live when I am there. The south arm is less populated and more rural. It was beautiful then but now it is like a scalped land. If a tree is still standing, it is just a pole. Huge trees lay uprooted with long root systems that showed the strength of the wind it took to pull them out of the ground.
It was sunny and relatively dry when we were there. It is still rainy season though and so every few days there is more water. OSAPO clinic director Dr. Gardy knew tarps were a high priority so that is what we bought in Port au Prince, also water purification solutions and some medicine for the mobile clinic. As we drove into the area, we could see that there were many homes in need of a tarp and so we would stop, talk with the people, give a tarp and carry on. We soon realized we needed more tarps. People came to the mobile clinic for medical help but they were also asking for tarps. If the houses had been built with re-bar, there were often walls, or parts of walls, still standing but most of the roofs were gone. So Dr. Gardy went out in Les Cayes, looking to buy more tarps. He found them on the street for sale for exorbitant prices, and they had logos from various NGOs on them. Unfortunately, these NGOs had brought donated tarps to Haiti but hadn’t been able to properly monitor their distribution and they got into the wrong hands! Very sad but as Dr. Gardy himself wrote to me‚ “some blame must be placed on the Haitian vendors, too. When organizations donate goods, they cannot go everywhere to distribute and so they count on people on the ground to help them. Unfortunately, though, they must have picked the wrong people!” Sadly, this is often the story in Haiti. Dr. Gardy, who knows many influential people in government in Haiti, is passing on the information to them and hoping to get better help to the people.
Post-Hurricane Matthew, the ground was left saturated with salt water and that will take a few rain storms to wash it clean before planting can occur again. Staple crops like bananas, palm trees with coconuts, breadfruit trees are all gone in this area and the rice fields are very patchy.
I returned home, thankful that I had gone, and that I could show Dr. Gardy and other Haitians that there are people in other parts of the world that are praying for them and wanting to help. I was again overwhelmed by the donations of so many people here in Vernon, also friends and family from other areas. Dr. Gardy continues on in his work in Haiti, encouraged by the support that he knows comes from this part of Canada. Thank you to all who donated so willingly!
I will be returning to Haiti at the end of January, along with others from Vernon: Susan Kermociev, Olga Hamilton and Dr. Ghee Hwang. My cousin Cam Hite and his wife Cindy and son Ethan from Coquitlam Alliance Church will be coming in March. To be joined in Haiti by fellow Canadians is so precious to me and very encouraging for Dr. Gardy and his staff. Susan and Olga will hold sewing classes for three weeks with Haitians on the treadle sewing machines are at the OSAPO clinic. Cam, an electrician, is going to make some much-needed revisions to the electrical system at OSAPO. Dr. Hwang will bring his surgical expertise and also his experience teaching surgical residents as he has done for many years in Uganda. Dr. Sterman Toussaint, one of the Haitian general surgeons that I work with, is looking forward to working with Dr. Hwang.
If anyone is interested in joining me in Haiti, I am planning to be there until the end of May. We have been working on a connection with the nursing faculty at the University of Alberta and there are nursing students interested in coming to the OSAPO clinic. But you don’t need to have medical training to be of help. There are agricultural projects such as a community garden. There are Haitians wanting to learn English and need someone to practise with. There are many children who love to play soccer in front of the clinic. There are administrative jobs‚ and the list goes on! Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 778-212-8877.
I will still be in Haiti when the proposed Vision Team comes March 25 to April 1 to the Water Project for Haiti site in Borel. If you are interested in joining this special team, please email Kyle Adams at email@example.com
Haitians are a very resilient people, and they keep surviving under the most horrific conditions at times, there is widespread corruption still but there are also many wonderful people there. I feel that we have lots to learn from these people‚ which is another reason to come and see for yourself.
Thank you again, Vernon donors, for your ongoing support, encouragement and mostly for prayer.
Since 2010, Judy Douglas has been spending three to six months a year in Haiti, where the retired registered nurse serves mainly at the OSAPO clinic in the remote mountains on the north arm of Haiti. Run by Dr. Jean-Gardy Marius, Oganizasyon Sante popilè is a non-profit organization founded in 2007.