| Feb 16, 2010
We arrived in Port-au-Prince at about 3:30 pm on the UN flight from Santo Domingo. Almost right away, we traveled into the center of Port-au-Prince, where the entire downtown was leveled by the earthquake.
The sight was beyond description. Total destruction. Streets that were caverns of rubble. The smell of death still in the air.
After 3 days of official mourning throughout the country, when the streets were absolutely empty and the churches were filled to overflowing, people were back in the streets. Small markets are starting to take shape. All along the streets, people were selling basic items like fruit, clothing, toiletries. Even the tourist stalls along the harbor were back in operation -- although without any business.
That’s life in Port-au-Prince. Trying to overcome the unspeakable by trying to return to anything that would feel normal.
Our volunteer teams continue to treat hundreds of people each day. They see people getting sicker -- which we knew would happen for those living out in the open without clean drinking water, good sanitation or enough food to eat.
It’s getting harder to cope. Women are reporting an increase in gender-based violence, including rape. More of the children coming to the clinics show signs of some kind of abuse. As the initial shock wears off, signs of trauma are increasing.
Last night, I accompanied Donnie Woodyard, our program director, to a coordination meeting for volunteer health teams at the campus of the International Christian school in Port-au-Prince. The 5-acre school campus is overflowing with tents from the U.S. military and volunteer medical teams from around the world. Each night, the school staff share requests for staff from area hospitals and clinics. Leaders of volunteer teams on the campus offer doctors, nurses and other medical specialists to meet the needs.
During the meeting, Donnie leans over to me and says, “This is one of the most effective coordination efforts in Haiti. They’re making a huge difference here in the country…a much greater difference than some of the formal coordination efforts."
I’m so glad we’re here to help. You’d be incredibly proud of our volunteers. They live and work in very difficult conditions. It’s hot -- day and night. We are fortunate to stay in a safe and clean building provided by a ministry partner. But, everything takes a lot longer than normal. Everything is harder than normal. It’s a very difficult place.
Tomorrow, we travel to Carrefour to see one of our teams in action in a primary health clinic that we began to operate within days of the earthquake. Tomorrow, we join one of our volunteer teams going into Port-au-Prince with the 82nd Airborne. Thursday, we’ll head for Leogane, a town located almost at the epicenter of the earthquake. Almost 90% of the homes in this town were destroyed. There aren’t many other groups working here. We have a volunteer team caring for the sick and believe that this is an area where we will be working for a long time to come.