This blog is about my journey to Haiti. It's going to be a glimpse of an experience that touched my life like almost no other has. So let us begin....
Some time ago I had picked Haiti as the place I would like to visit. Perhaps because it is the poorest country in our hemisphere and I wanted to get up close to poverty, to look it in the face and to feel its reality. After the earthquake on Jan.12th, I kept waiting for an opportunity, and one came knocking on my own back-door. My own parish church's response to the earthquake was a relief effort called the Wyoming Haiti Relief. It would coordinate medical teams to travel to Haiti to assist in the recovery. It was a no brainer, I was in the right place at the right time. No excuses. I volunteered. It took awhile. I couldn't go right away and when I was ready, the team wasn't formed. But I finally made it as a member of Team 5 which would include 3 men, working on affordable housing, and 2 nurses.
Our location was Matthew 25 House in Port-au-Prince. Before the earthquake it was a hospitality house for travelers coming in and going out of Haiti. It currently houses relief workers from all over the world who are in transit to all parts of Haiti. Our team was assigned to work at Matthew 25's adjacent tent city of 1800 Haitians living on three acres. The director of Matthew 25 is Sister Mary Finnick, a long time resident of Haiti.
Our first day in Haiti was Thurs., March 25th, day 62 after the eaethquake. It was hot, humid, third world, destroyed, and utterly chaotic. Sister Mary met us at the airport, holding a sign that said "Wyoming". She put us into her SUV and attacked the dirt streets of Port-au-Prince. No street lights, no right of ways, just sheer guts. And she seemed to be the guttsiest. I think the Holy Spirit was sitting on top of the SUV, holding on for dear life! That was my introduction to my two week stay in Haiti.
It was personally challenging for me. Living and sleeping in a tent for 14 days, working in an outdoor clinic all day, everyday, with temps in the 90's and humidity in the 60's and 70's put this old girl through the wringer. I sweat constantly, lost my appetite, lost 15 pounds, and desperately missed the winds of the High Plains!
I spent Holy Week with a new appreciation for bodily suffering. Some days I wondered if I would make it.
But there was another side of it. That side was EASTER. It was exhilarating! I met people from all over the world, coming to Haiti to help. They worked hard, long days trying to make life better for the Haitian people. I was amazed at the volunteers who had been there several times, and came back and came back again.
But most of all, the Haitian people were a revelation. They had nothing. No running water, little food, living in small crowded tents inches from each other. I never saw a child with a toy. But their attitude and spirit were buoyant and joyous and ever hopeful. It was a true pleasure to be among them. My friend, Pat, the other nurse and I would marvel at how the Haitians always looked clean with clean clothes. We looked the exact opposite. We couldn't figure it out.
I attended the Easter Vigil Mass with Sister Mary. The Church had been damaged, so it was held outside. We had to carry our chairs to sit. There was no electricity so we held candles for light. We had no music but sang without it. The priest gave his homily in French, but at one point looked at the relief workers and said in English, "You are here. This is your destiny. This is the Resurrection." And I did indeed understand what he meant.
I learned that poverty does not mean misery. Poverty makes the way easier to the true meaning of life. Simple joy, family, hope. It's indeed a different reality, maybe a great gift, that we can glimpse at special moments in our lives.
Haiti's gift to me was a feeling of solidarity with them. I will value that for the rest of my life.