Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Haiti: First Impressions

Well, I must mention that after a 19-hr day followed by a 22 hr day, I made it - along with the rest of the team for The Red Thread Promise's mission to work with the students of St. Vincent's Episcopal School. I cannot wait to meet the kids! I think they will have a BLAST with all of the super fun activities we are planning. The entire team is vibrant, has a great sense of humor, and the talents are diverse and plentiful. They are insightful and thoughtful people who care deeply for what they do and for this project and for Haiti. Many are fluent in sign language and some practice social work on a regular basis. I will share the music adventures with Andrew Richards, the brother of Camp Jake's namesake (Jake Richards) who is very ill right now with Duchenne MD.

First impressions of Haiti are varied. Today was hard, VERY hard. I have been to many places (Bulgaria, Brasil, Argentina, Jamaica, Poland, and Romania to name a few). Sometimes, I've run into extreme poverty and seen failing infrastructure, roads, and economy, but Haiti is different because IT'S EVERYWHERE. The place where we are staying is a beautiful resort hotel and a very isolated spot in the midst of an area of abject poverty and periodic tent cities. The place is gorgeous and reminds me a little of the Zlatni piasaci (Golden Sands) in Varna, Bulgaria.....a bit dated, crumbling walkways, but insanely cool pool and beach areas and landscaping. Even what we'd call the entry road into the place is terrible.
Before passcontrol, I ran into Anne Pilot from Trinity Cathedral in Columbia, SC - HOW RANDOM! She saw my Episcopal t-shirt and said "Episcopal!" and I smiled and asked her where she and her group were from. Then, I noticed she looked quite familiar (briefly wondered if ANY Americans would be familiar at this point)and realized WE KNEW EACH OTHER!!
Then, our group got our baggage together, avoided all the "helpful" baggage sharks, watched in 92 degrees (felt hotter) as all our 40+ bags were put into a small pickup truck. Then, we stuffed ourselves into two small, old vans and drove about three hours to this resort. We stopped at a store where we were hoping to get water, but they did not have any bottled water so we moved on to what some counselors knew as a familiar gas station and got water and Cokes.
That Coke was like HEAVEN.
Along the entire drive, we passed tent city after tent city, people walking about slowly, some selling fruit on the ground, some selling mattresses, some selling sugar cane sticks from baskets on their heads. There were people bathing at every dirty river water opportunity. From the air, one can see all of the huge mudslide areas that basically closed down some flowing spots for some rivers. Still, people will use the water where it comes out and for just about everything. People were bathing in it, animals standing in it, and trash flowing through it. What broke my heart about the tent city areas was the children. There were children, VERY young children walking all through some piles of trash and among animals loosely tethered to a tree beside the side of the road. They were mostly by themselves. It was very disheartening, but the culture is used to it here I suppose and seeing it so many times makes me think that it may not bother them like it would us visitors.

After seeing everything I did today, I must say it feels a little weird to eat a nice meal and to go swimming. It really makes you take stock of what you have. From the bars of soap, toilet paper, a chair, shoes, and so much more, most of us cannot fathom being without modern comforts, no matter how small. The fact that we are very far from a hospital or store is a little disconcerting. No one is on the roads after dark.  Tomorrow, our real work begins with finalizing planning on activities with the kids and schedules etc. I will write more at that time - I'm fading fast and the internet is intermittent so photos are taking a ridiculously long time to post. For now, I say goodnight with a hope for Haiti in my heart.
Here is a link to my facebook album of pictures from today:

1 comment:

Randall said...

Thanks for keeping us up to date. It sounds like an amazing, if heart rending adventure. I'm sure y'all are doing great work.