Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Haiti slows my heart

We wake early here and today was at 6am where part of the group attended the Haitian church service and a few of us went on a run through crumbled creviced streets and up and down the same hill outside of our home. The streets smell of urine, they have pots holes the size of cars yet in the middle of this were school children dressed in ironed uniforms walking to school. I thought the tent city was the only place where they lived in tents yet right outside our door and everywhere you can look are tents. Tonight is pouring rain so loud and so heavy and one can not possibly imagine how they endure. One night in the mud and the tent collapsing with children hungry feels impossible. Yet day after day they get up, have dignity, dress with whatever they can find, go to early morning mass and then wait for water and hopefully food.

We had another huge breakfast prepared again by our Haitian helpers and off we went in the open air truck to our first orphanage at the Home for Sick and Dying Babies. This was a special place and I saw my friend Jennifer bond and sing hymns to the tiniest babies and felt the energy she spilled out into the room we all shared. I held and fed a one year old boy who weighed 5 pounds. The nuns were singing to the kids, playing with them, keeping them dry and we all wept when we had to go. I then met a 28 year old girl who graduated from Michigan and came to Haiti for the first time at 16 and felt a calling to return. She just opened her own orphanage with 8 kids, lived in a tent for a year(with Tory Burch flip flops :)), married a Haitian and one could not but sit back and listen in awe to what people can accomplish and then again we all asked ourselves "what is our purpose, why are we here?" We all try and answer and no one thinks they have the answer but we certainly come up with more questions.

We then left for the special needs orphanage. Words to describe this : struggle, stench of urine, uncomfortable, lost and why? Then another Jennifer brought books
that made us feel at peace, comfortable and worthy. The older children, mostly boys could read both in English and Creole and we again sat in awe at them. How do they survive? They are always smiling, looking for high fives and praise. They made us feel special instead of the other way around.

While only 3pm, my heart felt so wide open and I feel like it has never beat so slow. A peace deep inside that made no sense yet felt so good. How is this possible? It has to be one of the reasons I felt something pushing me to go. 5 of us then left and I can only describe the ride to the wound clinic as the worst scene in Slumdog Millionaire. A population of poverty and people crammed into the roads with animals, sewage, and flies and to then walk into a clinic with people waiting in line with us for wound dressing changes. Our first patient was an elderly man with a foot and leg of elephantitis. A non-closed wound split open and we were given saline, iodine and a new gauze. And again more questions - where are the antibiotics, pain meds, surgery center, sutures... why are we here and what good are we doing. Julie asked her patient : "How long have you had this wound that was taking over his leg" and he said "7 years". No MD's, no nurses, no sterile equipment, no comfy pillows to rest on, or visitors to help heal. One can not be overcome with the
blessings we have and the top notch care we receive where we live. And again they thank us, hug us and are so grateful for simply spraying water on them.

My favorite part of everyday is after dinner when we sit in a circle and share our word of the day and what it means. Julie's was struggle, Jennifer was touch, Gretchen was selfish, Courtney was frustrated, Liate (another incredible 25 year old who has been here for 7 weeks alone from Isreal to simply just help Haiti and is going back to get a masters in Disaster Relief) was attachment, Shannon was enrichment, Jan was Freedom and Kim was teacher. So it is a see-saw of grief and joy, hopeless and hopeful, and our leader Jeff to help us ask more questions and then to listen and process.

Wendy Gulden
Healing Haiti Team Member

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