Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thoughts and More Thoughts about Haiti

Its been a month since my return from our trip to Haiti, and its taken a while to process my thoughts and feelings about my experience.
A bit of background first, I was part of a seven person team from western Canada (Victoria and Vancouver) that went to assist at a home for children and young adults with disabilities. We were under the auspices of the Canadian Foundation for the Children of Haiti and our team consisted of a physiotherapist, an early childhood educator, two nurses (one is my husband), and two women who have extensive experience with Hope Home and the children and then me! My husband has been to Haiti several times and the remainder of the team had made many trips, it was the first time for me and even with my husband along side, I admit to some fears. Foremost I was concerned that I would be useful, I have not spent time around children with disabiltites, I have no medical training and wasn't sure I actually possessed any skills that would be of benefit. Later I understood that indeed my sewing skills would be of immense use!

My sewing machine and "studio" at Hope Home! That little hand cranked Singer could sew as well and maybe even better than my expensive Bernina! Six layers of vinyl was no match for that little workhorse. I spent a lot of time sewing covers for cushions, seat covers for the wheel chairs and covers for the mattresses.

We had each packed two large plastic garbage cans of supplies such as clothing, medicines, toys, food, diapers, bedding, towels and more. These cans were our "checked luggage", our carry-ons contained all our personal items....
We were each responsible for one wheelchair that we took for the children.
I knew it would be hot and humid in Haiti, I have lived in humid climates but had forgotten that 35-40 degree Celsius temperatures mean that you simply cannot work at the same pace as home. Keeping hydrated was important as was looking for shade when outside. Fortunately the weather did cool down a bit at night and when we had electricity, the fans were very welcome.

The news has told us a lot about the deadly and long lasting effects of last years earthquake and we could not move without seeing the truth of that. The tent cities were beyond what I had expected, the conditions were incredible. But one of the women on our team had been in Haiti last November and commented often that the cities were smaller in number and size and construction was going on wherever we went. In fact we saw piles of cement, sand and rebar all along the streets when we went from our lodging to Hope Home.

A distant tent city that was largely deserted.

A "tap-tap", local bus transport around Haiti, highly decorated trucks and jeeps. When the passenger want off the truck, they "tap-tap" on the metal roof.

We stayed in a "guest house" while in Haiti, sort of a private hotel that provided breakfast and dinner, this is common for aid workers and visiting teams. One of the other residents we met was a Haitian nurse who was deeply affected by the earthquake and told us about how many people coped with the tragedy. Visit Rigan's blog and read about his work:
I am so thankful that there are people like Rigan in our world.

I was able to play along side some of the children such as this bright little spark:
My local quilt guild and many others supplied bibs for the children at Hope Home and they were paraded in the last day. Many thanks to all our friends who were so generous with their time and talents.

An empty lap was an invitation!

My husband and Peter creating a bed chair (bed on wheels) for one of the children who can no longer sit up due to scoliosis. the bed had been a bunk bed and had the top portion removed. Standard supplies are limited so we made use of what was around us, often remodelling and revamping.

Street vendors are commonplace, selling everything from food and snacks to cell phones and household articles. This women was a moving fabric store.

After a couple of days working at Hope Home our team leader asked me about my feelings. I think I replied that I shifted from feeling that I couldn't leave soon enough and the opposite end of wondering how we could afford to come on a work team every year. Now, after a month, I am looking forward to returning whenever it is possible.
I know that I cannot change the world, but if I can make a small difference in a child's life, then I have been of some use.

1 comment:

bronwen said...

I'm so glad to read about your reflections after you've had time to digest them. It sounds like a truly wonderful trip and I'm happy to hear you're looking forward to the next one. Proud of you! xo