2010 Haiti Journal #6 Survivor Camps January 27, 2010
On a good day, Port au Prince streets are dusty evidence of years of road neglect mixed with sidewalk-kitchen's charcoal smoke and plumes of unchecked diesel exhaust. Now death mixes with the dust, causing folks to reach anxious arms into the back of our truck when I pulled out my own face mask, a tactical error on my part. Another bounce of our pick-up truck forced more dust up from earthquake rubble kicking back. Our six bags of meds and supplies were safe. We all felt safe, maybe even more than any other time in Haiti. The people are numb, my friends are numb and in lucky moments I felt numb too.It’s those quiet moments you have to watch out for. Those times when the death and agony take on faces and sounds you think you will never stop hearing and seeing.
Working at the Matthew 25 house field hospital brought many of those moments; the near ghost of a woman carried out post-surgery from our dining room table, who wouldn’t make it through the night; the newly arrived doctor from the states who couldn’t stop muttering as we transferred one of his patients onto a dirty piece of cardboard in the dust…“this is post-op?…this is post-op?….this is post-op?”
But between them all was a special end to the day. After working with a local doctor in the make-shift pharmacy we heard something quite welcome and different rise up from the field out back. Sweet voices raised in prayer and song drew us again out into the soccer-field-turned-survivor-camp. Without electricity, running water or enough to eat, everyone in the survivor camp seemed to remember it was Sunday, and welcomed us into their circle. I could have as well been in any Californian congregation during the “peace-be-with-you-welcome”. The local priest presided over the sacrament. Someone found a drum to gently respond to the cadence. We shook hands and felt lifted for a moment out of the shared sorrow, or maybe lifted because we were all sharing the same sorrow. There was mostly and profoundly, calm.
We distributed all the medical supplies we carried, are home now for just one week, and will return next Thursday with a team of ten and over a thousand pounds of medicine and supplies. Please remember to keep pledging…or just encourage someone you know to make their own pledge. We are in this recovery for the long haul…there is much work to do…but as the Haitian saying goes, “many hands make the burden lighter.” If you want to see some of the images from our January trip into Haiti, please take a moment to look over these images by Paul Taggart (for AARP). Thanks Paul, for staying in Haiti and helping even after your assignment finished.