Well, this is it. My summer in Haiti is coming to an end. I am sitting in the departure area of the Louverture airport in PAP, waiting for the flight that will take me back home.
I am both excited to go home and sad to leave Haiti behind. It has been quite a summer, full of ups and downs, incredibly frustrating days, but always rewarding ones. I feel like I have accomplished a lot of my personal goals, but more importantly, I know that I have made a difference in so many lives.
This summer, I had the opportunity to distribute food to families who were returning to their homes after living in tents for six months. I helped move 173 families out of one of the worst IDP camps into a planned camp that offered them security and space and dignity. I helped to establish a primary care clinic, giving medical access to a community for the first time.
But some of my biggest successes are because of so many of you from home. To everyone who so generously sent me money, the following was accomplished because of you:
We bought food and baby essentials for a baby girl born under the worst of circumstances: in an IDP camp, at night, under the rain, the mother alone except for a volunteer man whom she did not know (who cut her umbilical cord with a razor).
We started a malnourished girl of 3 years old, who was delayed developmentally, on a course of vitamins after getting her admitted to the hospital. I went to visit her as I went on my round of goodbyes, and like the previous time, she made my heart burst with happiness. When I arrived, she was lying on her tummy and she lifted up her head completely and held it up while she reached for me. The sisters at the orphanage all commented on how well she was progressing. I am sure she will be one her feet one day soon.
Somebody hit our car, knocking off our side-view mirror. With no insurance here, what would be an irritation for us, was a grave matter for my driver. It would have cost him the equivalent of 6 days work to get the mirror fixed, at no fault of his own. I knew he didn’t live with the easiest of circumstances, but this became painfully clear to me when I visited his home yesterday: little more than a two-room shack in little more than a slum. I was so happy to have spared him this difficulty and we purchased the new mirror for him.
We were able to send Charlotte, our fiery unofficial leader of Pinchinat, to PAP to get necessary tests run, as she has been sick since January. These tests are not available in Jacmel and cost a lot in PAP. She was told to go immediately to have these tests done, but she could not because of lack of money. Again, I was so happy to spare her added stress.
Our cook and our cleaner lost their niece in July, leaving behind a 4-month old baby. Milk is very expensive here and many babies are started on liquids other than milk at an early age, leading quickly to malnutrition. We were able to buy the baby a supply of milk. Unfortunately, the story of their family does not end there. Back in November, they lost another cousin. In December, our cook lost her sister and in the earthquake, she lost her daughter, leaving behind a motherless 2-year-old. In May, our cook lost her older sister and then the cousin in July. Two weeks later, her mother died, and two weeks after that, her niece, leaving behind another baby (4 years old) for the family to care for. By this last death, they had run out of money for the burial, an incredibly important part of their mourning. We were able to give them money for a large part of the funeral. More importantly, we were able to set aside enough money to buy provisions for all 3 babies for a year. Every two weeks for the next 12 months, baby provisions will be bought and delivered to the family. It means so much to me to know that we were able to ease some of the burden for these ladies who have taken such good care of me.
With the support from everyone back home, we were able to buy food for young woman of 25 years, who already has 3 children (the oldest with an incurable form of anemia), and is pregnant with her fourth. She has no husband and no means of making money. So, along with an initial supply of food, we were able to start her with her own little business, selling cold drinks at the camp (yes, on top of it all, she lives in an IDP camp), along with bread and homemade peanut butter. When I pulled up to her tent yesterday, even before I told her that her supplies were on their way, she hopped out with her big belly and a huge grin, and kissed me on the cheek. That meant the world to me.
And finally, with the money, we were able to take 12 motivated and keen youth from Pinchinat, and arrange training sessions for them on: water treatment, family planning, and gender-based violence (all key issues for better health). They will, in turn, visit 5 IDP sites 3 times a week and have awareness-building sessions with camp inhabitants. This is a community centre on the go! Not only are we able to pay a salary for each of these youth, but, more importantly, we have given them work to do and have started them on their way to finding full time jobs. And we should be able to educate 1000 inhabitants by the end of one month!!
I cannot thank you, my donors, friends and family, enough for all the help, support and encouragement you have given to me. You made my work in Haiti so much easier and so much more substantial. You have made a difference.
As before, as much as I may have done for Haiti, Haiti did more for me. I learned a lot about myself this summer, and it feels incredible. But it’s time to go home now. It’s time to rest up...because who knows? Another adventure may be around the corner...