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My remaining days in Haiti were blurred with hikes to historic fortresses and jungle hillsides; conducting casual interviews with locals to cram my head full of perspectives on government corruption, post-earthquake Haiti, business ideas, religion, and the future; tutoring in English and German; and gophering around the hospital.

By the end of the second week, most of the team seemed ready to head home. It’s no surprise, since the work had been chaotic and exhausting, with the medical team handling 71 cases in nine days. They received accolades from the CRUDEM staff and should be immensely proud of the work they provided to a very appreciative patient group. Many patients would have never received necessary healthcare without the generosity of these physicians and support staff. For some, their presence was a life and death matter.

While my work in Haiti wasn’t nearly as important or concrete, it proved a successful introduction expedition. The massive hurdles Haiti faces are overwhelming, but focusing one’s time and money on one single project can make an enormous difference. Mike Poirier from the Rotary group is passionate about Father Tijwa’s community programs. Wenatchee’s Laura Monda chooses to focus her energies on sharing her loving ways with the kids at Children of the Promise. I haven’t quite found my focus yet, but I have had a crash course overview of Milot’s endless needs.

I come home full of ideas, confusion, frustration, sadness, and more questions than answers. But I am also filled with wonder and appreciation of how Haiti somehow “makes it work.” I’ve learned that Haiti is full of stark, sturdy, stoic, happy people; gorgeous, tropical landscape and delicious (but scarce) food.

On our last group hike in Milot, Dr. Jeff Monda asked me why I came to Haiti. I came to see what there was to see, to bite into a slice of another culture. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I guessed I would see global inequality, and I wanted to learn how I could help in the moment and from home. I am not religious, but I do feel a call to serve wherever I am because I believe it is right, natural, and to everyone’s benefit to help the collective community.

Jeff’s niece, Mallory Monda, described visiting Haiti as coming “to feed the soul.” I think that’s an added benefit, sure, but it wasn’t a prime motivation or expectation. Rosedanie Cadet, the Haitian-American who visited the Rotary group prior to our departure for Haiti, said, “Feed their bellies, feed their minds.”  I tried to feed some Haitian bellies, and I hope I gave a few people some food for thought, too. But my own soul is filled with respect, awe, and hope for Haiti.

I’m home now but stuck in a bleary-eyed, netherworld somewhere between Haiti and Washington. I’m exhausted and congested but am healthy, safe, and used up in a good way. It’s a lot to soak in, and I’m still processing it. How can we best live and serve and address our unfair advantages when we’ve stared such poverty in the face? I hope that together we can continue building a nourishing and more connected, egalitarian, healthy world, one person at a time. My actions can speak louder now than my words.

Hazy Reflections on Haiti