| Oct 22, 2010
I’ve made it through my first week here in Haiti. On our way to the clinic, we visited a center where they provide young women with post-school education on first aid, child care, hygiene, and for some, on being a school teacher. They also teach these young women and people in the community with disabilities skills in handicrafts, crocheting and embroidery so that they can provide a way to generate an income. They have a small store where they sell their crafts and this is where we stocked up on our gifts and souvenirs.
Unemployment runs high here and the ability to provide for your family is a challenge. Our translator estimated that the unemployment rate ran at 80%!
People here are extremely ingenious. One woman sells roasted coffee, cashews and coconut to visiting medical workers and missionaries. One surprise for me was relative to the average earning here, there seems to be a disproportionate cost to buy things. For example, average wages is $2/day, but a basic meal of meat or fish, rice and beans costs $8.
I have learned that some Haitians will go to the Dominican Republic to purchase goods at a lower price and re-sell them here even though a visa to the Dominican Republic costs $80 for a 3-month, single entry visa or $200 for a 1-year, multiple entry visa! The living conditions here are basic and in our standards, even primitive. Running water, electricity, and what we define as basic necessities of life, are not a given here.
One pleasant surprise was finding my luggage, which has been lost in transit for the last week, in the clinic this morning. After countless unsuccessful trips out to the local airport and airline office this week and many phone calls, it was funny to see it waiting for me in the clinic, unannounced. But I will take it. After a week living rather simply on the basics and some loaned supplies, it is a tad overwhelming to be so well equipped again, but I think I will adjust.
As transport was not available for our rehab center patients to the clinic, we took a “short cut” through the fields to see the patients in their own surroundings. Even though it was not their permanent homes, it gave us a great appreciation of what their lives were like. Many have been uprooted temporarily to come to the Rehab center so that they can get the therapy. After the earthquake, people were relocated all over the country to where ever the bus took them to where “medical care” existed so that demand on Port-au-Prince services would be off-loaded.
Paul, a Spanish and English professor at a University in Port-au-Prince, was one such patient. He was trapped under rubble for three days before he was found. He suffered a leg amputation, elbow fusion and multiple crush injuries to his hands. Eloise is another patient impacted by the earthquake. She also lost a leg. She has several children back home awaiting her return, including a 9-month-old baby girl. They are all very motivated and determined to get stronger so that they can be with their families once again.
After some perfunctory exercises, the patients prepared some Haitian songs for us. They sang them in perfect a capella style with harmony and improvisation. A truly beautiful sound! They also did a moving version of “Amazing Grace” which never sounding so amazing to me as it did then. They wanted to provide special thanks for all the help that we have provided them. Despite losing so much, they are still filled with hope, faith and compassion for others.
We capped off the day by singing old classics on the keyboard that magically, Janice, the multi-talented Canadian physical therapist, was able to pull out of her head. What a day!
Even though it has been a full week of learning and experiencing, I feel I have just scratched the surface with feeling, believing and growing as an individual. I move into my next week with anticipation, a little apprehension and lots of excitement of what lies ahead for me.