Saturday, June 11, 2011

The little things

I will admit that the trauma and the seemingly endless black hole of need coupled with the inefficant and illogical nature of this country, can make me exhasted at times. There are days when it's difficult to get the motivation to go to camp, and sometimes I worry that my heart can't handle witnessing anymore suffering. Yesterday was such a day. The day previous there had been a rainstorm. 27 people had died in Port-au-Prince from mudslides or from collapsed houses that had been weakened by the earthquake. Two of my friends had to drag bodies from out of the mud.
The whole way to camp I distractedly struggled to make small talk in Creole all the while trying to snap out of the fog I found myself in. I was actually dreading going to camp I had been on holiday and was worried about what might have unfolded during my absence. Haiti is unpredictable at the best of times. I was worried at what the rainstorm might have done to the camp. To be honest I feel nauseous every time I think of the hurricane season that we are entering and the effect it's going to have on the IDP camps where there is literally nothing the people can do to protect themselves.
Yet as I arrived my heart leapt at the sight of the camp. As I walked up I was greeted by the customary chime of little voices yelling my name, and quickly both my hands we clasped by tiny fingers as the children now silently lead me to my tent. A ritual that happens every time I arrive and never fails to warm my heart. My fog had instantly evaporated and I forgot that I was tired. As I got closer I saw the women all hunched over with machetes in their hands clearing away all the plants that had sprung up because of the rain. Daniel suddenly remembered that the women had told him they would clean up the tent and get everything ready for me so it would be beautiful for when I got back. Honestly I can not describe the feeling of gratitude that overflowed from my heart. Not only am I impressed that they remembered what day I was coming back, but for all of them who used to be strangers, to come together to make my tent beautiful. It's incredible. I was soon smothered with kisses and hugs from all of them at once and we all giggled and I remembered again why I'm here and how truly lucky and grateful I am to have this experience. Later I learned that they had all met on their own accord last week and I remember how the camp president had told me that "the women live for this day, wednesday is the only day they know". I had brushed off his comment, suspicious that he was just trying to flatter me but I'm getting insight into just how powerful this one little 1.5 hr group is for these women in particular. In this camp I also lead a children's art group, a general group for anyone, a training group, and soon because of multiple requests I'm going to do a men's group (I actually had a man dress like a women as a joke to try and get into the women's group... but I digress). Yes there is a lot of suffering here but like I always say; I get to see the worst but also the best of humanity. Yes it can be difficult and exhausting but, even if I doubt it, it is completely and utterly worth it.
Thank you Haiti.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Lack of protein and medicines

Many of the children in the displaced persons camps have copper tinges to their hair colour rather than the normal jet-black and this is one of the signs of malnutrition and lack of protein. Yesterday, at my women's group, one grandmother who is caring for her grand-daughter was distraught because the 4-year girl had a high fever and nothing could be done about it - no asprin, no antitbiotics, no thermometer even. It seemed that the 4-year old might have pneumonia. I also noticed that her right eye, the white part had a blue tinge as well as a blue film over the iris. I don't know what that was, but it didn't look good. There is nothing to deal with even such common things as a fever - it made me want to cry. Everyone of the people in this camp is still grieving over loved ones that they have lost in the earthquake, and are still living with injuries they have sustained. There is a visiting doctor who comes occasionally, but the poor and weak Haitians have no medicines. The awful thing is that medicines cannot be left in the camps because they will likely be confiscated by the strongest.

Monday, May 30, 2011


There are hardly any stores here in Port au Prince - and then not what we in North America call stores! People sell second hand things on a wooden table on the street like shoes or clothing, or they sell food and some very sad looking vegetables. I saw huge packages of wieners for sale in the blazing sun - I guess it is so processed that it doesn't go bad, or else people's intestines are immune. No refrigeration, and therefore very little meat, or any protein for that matter. Peanut butter is the main source of protein, and dehydration is a constant problem. There are huts that are called beauty stores on the main streets, but basically it is someone that cuts your hair (on the street) behind a curtain of sorts.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mail and Garbage

There is no such thing as mail service, and most streets, although they seem to have a name, only the natives know it. You cannot even mail a letter or care-package to people here - there is no service to deliver it. No street signs anywhere, and certainly no such things as traffic signs. The police drive faster than anyone - mostly because they don't have passengers. There no garbage cans to be seen, and things just end up on the street - thrown out food, plastic, papers, clothing etc. I did see a garbage truck yesterday, and what seems to happen is that there are two men who sweep up all the stuff on the street into a huge pile using brooms, and then they shovel it into the truck. I wonder how often it happens.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Getting around in Haiti

We take a tap-tap everywhere - so called, because there are no buses or bus stops in Port au Prince, and you bang twice on the truck when you want it to stop. These are small trucks, like a Toyota, or Nissan etc, and are about 30 years old. People pile into the back of the truck which has two plain wooden benches put in. If there is room in the back, these small trucks pick up anyone, anywhere, and just stop in the middle of the street to do this. I have been in many of them and all of them have big cracks across the windshields, likely from all of the potholes in the road. They have a cover over the back, and people try to get seats in the shade if they can, but it is just as hot inside especially when you are crammed in between other people. You get into the tap-taps by climbing over the bumper, and as many as 10-12 people are crammed in it, with some people just hanging on to the frame. There does seem to be an internal city grid system, because the tap-taps are area specific. If you want to go to another part of the city, you get off, pay the driver, and then find another one at the next meeting point.