Haiti: Beyond the Union School
This week I have been blogging about my experience with the Union School in Haiti. I have the incredible opportunity of working with the students and teachers daily to launch their online school program. That was the primary reason I traveled to Haiti. However, I have been fortunate to find time to also volunteer in the devastated community, and it has been a humbling experience. I wanted to turn K¹²’s attention to the needs in the larger Haitian community, and the plight that will necessitate a long road to recovery.
Driving through the city before the earthquake was a wild experience (unpaved roads, no formal traffic system, congestion from people and cars). Driving through the city after the earthquake is an equally wild experience, but one marked by sights of destruction. Common sights include imploded buildings, makeshift tented homeless communities, and Haitians with wrapped limbs, cuts, and other bodily damage from the earthquake.
The city of Port au Prince is full of need, and both the international community and local residents are offering aid throughout the city. This past weekend I volunteered with the non-profit Thirst No More. We set up a medical clinic in a homeless community at a local church. In some cases, the families have enough tents for everyone in their family to sleep under cover. In other cases, fathers and brothers sleep outside while the primary shelter is offered to the children and mothers.
As in any disaster zone, medical needs must be tended to in an effort to quell infections and communal diseases which might further devastate the community. Doctors, a pharmacist, a nurse and non-medical volunteers have formed the Thirst No More medical team. This weekend we equipped the clinic with a pharmacy stocked with medicines, antiseptics, bandages, cast removal saw, etc. Adjacent to the pharmacy was a medical room where doctors treat patients
I have never felt so frustrated about my lack of training in the medical profession because I wanted desperately to help the Haitians in a physical manner. However, the team allowed me the job of intake nurse. I worked with a translator to speak to each patient to determine their medical concerns. The stories were amazing and overwhelming. One of the smiling girls below complained that she had little rocks in her left ear. Her sister informed me that she was trapped under some rubble. We saw infections from cuts and gashes that had gone untreated. Adult blood pressure was out of control, and adults and children alike complained of massive stomach discomfort and headaches. The patients were so grateful for someone to tend to their needs. And the children, as seen below, smiled despite their hardships. You see, the Haitian people are joyful even in times of turmoil. Their history as a country necessitates that optimistic attitude. I am honored to be a part of this community this week, and look forward to traveling back to Haiti as often as possible in the future to be a part of the extraordinary opportunity to rebuild the country. It has been easy to fall in love with the Haitian community. It is impossible not to be changed by the contagious humility that their stories inspire.