I’m on the last leg of the trip home after 10 days in Haiti. We saw 2,620 patients in 9 days, which is a pretty impressive feat as far as medical work goes. I’m peering out the airplane window as I write this, and there’s something about a birds-eye view that’s appropriate for reflecting on this year’s medical project; taking in all the details to form a greater picture of what we’ve done. So, I’m going to put that in to words the best I can.
I have a lot of fun on these trips… possibly too much. At any given time, I can locate a small gang of school-age kids that are willing to go anywhere and do anything. If we want to go up a mountain, the kids will scramble ahead, barefoot, and blaze the least-safe/most-interesting trail possible. If I want to workout, I know where to find a small giggly child who’s eager to be pressed overhead or carried like a sack of potatoes upstairs. If I want to dance at a block party, I know a wonderful grandmother not afraid to dance in the streets. If I just want to hang out and talk about life, there’s Donal, or Chachou, or Lycinder, or Steve, or Stanley, or countless other young adults like myself. There is an energy in the town that’s infectious and pervasive, not unlike some of the illnesses we treat.
The energy of the community is at the heart of the changes in Ranquitte. It’s extremely encouraging to work with a community where progress is not just present, but accelerating. The pull to continue to help is only getting stronger and there is a real sense of optimism for those of us, Haitian and American, involved in this type of work. At the same time, there’s something else providing the motivation. A sense that “we could do more” tugs at the back of my mind, and I know I’m not the only one that has felt like that during clinic. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t skimp on care by any means. In fact, we’ve dedicated resources to patients that were not guaranteed fixes, just because there was a chance it would help. By doing more, I mean how much of our selves we can dedicate to the work we do. It’s difficult not to think what another day of clinic could have done, or how an extra $20 donation could have done some real good for Ranquitte. But this ignores the need for balance that is so delicate when seeking long-term goals. Rather than get hung up on what could have been, it’s best to see how we balance all the needs with the tools at our disposal.
Peacework Medical is entrenched in the community, providing not just an annual clinic, but soon a freestanding clinic in nearby Gard Hiram. Additionally, Peacework builds water tanks that can be disinfected when necessary, preventing the spread of cholera and other diseases. Peacework has a solid stance when it comes to providing medical care and preventing the spread of disease. Ropa de Relief is in a unique position to provide aid that may not be primarily medical, but still just as necessary. For example, on this trip we brought funds to replace a thatch roof with tin for a local family. Additionally, donors contributed funds to finish building a home for a local man, Demyth, whose current house was at serious risk of collapsing on him. Sure, there are medical benefits to providing shelter, but the greatest benefit is that the families now have security and safety in their new homes. Ropa will continue to support aid projects of all natures, but this gives you a good idea of the balance shared amongst these charities.
Hopefully, the momentum that’s currently present in Haiti can translate to the work we are doing. This means that we raise more money, we complete more projects, and continue to help a community that’s committed to helping itself. When I told Demyth that his house was going to finish being built, he let me know that he’ll use it to hold art classes for the local kids. I was thrilled to hear that Demyth, of his own volition, was going to use the gift to benefit the community. It’s an ideal situation and is perfectly aligned with the goals of Ropa de Relief; being smart about our resources to provide strategic and impactful aid.
Just below my window, is a layer of clouds so thick that I don’t know whether we’re over water or land. At some point, we’ll start our descent and the details will become apparent. The geometric lines of the city will become increasingly more important, until the landing strip is straight ahead and we’ve safely touched down. What didn’t seem too significant from afar becomes the most important feature to all parties involved. In Ranquitte, it’s easy to make sweeping statements about helping the community, but until you’re focused on the individuals, you can’t appreciate what’s really out there. I’m proud that this project focuses on helping people, so that they can in turn help themselves and the community they live in.
Lastly, I think I have to rescind my first thought that a “birds-eye view” is appropriate for talking about the trip. When it comes down to it, I’d much rather see things at eye-level than from above, keeping a sense of balance and perspective that’s crucial with this kind of work. Plus, this work’s a lot more fun face-to-face.
Thanks for reading, and spread the word!