Wednesday, December 29, 2010

M'la (I'm there/here)

When someone in Haiti says "m pa we ou" (I don't see you) - meaning they haven't seen you in a long time, the common response is to say "m'la" (I'm here/there). It means that you haven't been hiding, or away, you've been around. So, if you wonder where I've been the past couple of weeks - M'la!

Life has calmed down a bit here - it's still not normal! We still have 8 - 10 MSF workers sleeping and eating in our house on a given day, but I see them a lot less now because I got a new room! Manno graciously gave me his room downstairs (complete with an ensuite) so that I could have a bit more privacy (and a lot more sanity). He went to the DR last week to see his family. I'm not sure where he'll be sleeping when he gets back, but I'm not too worried. I've moved in and made the room mine and feel right at home!

Christmas was pretty quiet around here - just the way I like it. I have to say, I don't miss the consumerism of a North American Christmas one bit. Christmas here is not stressful in any way. I did come down with a cold a couple days before, so I did end up spending most of my time curled up under my covers in my bed, but the forced rest and relaxation was wonderful. Since the internet was down for a few days after Christmas, I got an extended vacation too - I'm not complaining one bit!

I trust you all had a joyous Christmas and I wish you God's blessings for the New Year! Everyone here is looking forward to the new year with anticipation. We all see 2010 as a year with "anpil pwoblems" (a lot of problems) and believe that 2011 will be better. I pray it is.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Good News Story from Haut Limbe

First Baby Born at Ebenezer Clinic, Haut-Limbe - by Tammi Biggs

Judeline Almonor gave birth at 12:05 a.m. on Dec. 9, 2010. Not only is this baby boy the first baby ever to be born at the Ebenezer Clinic, it is being coined as the first “cholera baby.” Judeline, from Limbe, came in to the clinic on Dec. 8 with cholera. While being treated, she started experiencing back pain. Judeline, already mother of two, was asked if she felt like she was going to have the baby. She calmly replied, “Yes.”

Dr. Manno had her moved to a separate area for her privacy. By this point, Judeline was experiencing contractions 2-3 minutes apart and was dilated to 6 cm. “You would have never known it, though, because she hardly made a sound!” Nurse Travis commented.

Nurse Travis described the next few minutes as follows: “We went to grab a birthing kit. When I got back, I lifted the sheet, saw water and the baby was crowning. In the next moment, I was catching the baby! It was that fast.”

Elio, a young man serving as a translator at the Cholera Center said, “The mom was so strong. She didn’t even make a noise. We just looked and ‘she spit the baby out!’” (A common Haitian expression)

The baby has a good set of lungs and seems to be a healthy eater. There is little chance that the baby will contract cholera and steps have been taken to reduce this risk.

In the midst of so much sickness and even death, it is a welcomed gift of God to be able to share in the joy of new life as we celebrate the birth of this beautiful baby boy.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I am in Haiti...

I realize that I haven't updated since I left Haiti a couple of weeks ago for vacation in Florida. Well, I'm back! After a delightful, much needed vacation in Florida with my family, I came back to Haiti on Saturday, November 27. Since getting back, things have not slowed down at all.

The Monday after I returned, my very good friend Shauna arrived with her family to prepare for her wedding this past Saturday. It was great to reconnect with her and help prepare for the big day. We even got to spend a night in Cap at a snazzy hotel, get pedicures, manicures, eyebrows waxed, hair done... all those fun things that help a girl feel somewhat normal in this crazy country. The wedding was wonderful - the bride and groom were happy and all the guests had a good time. It was nice to be transported from the daily goings on of the clinic and hospital.

The Tuesday after i returned, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF or Doctors without Borders) showed up to start setting up a Cholera Treatment Centre (CTC) in Limbe. With that, they will hope to treat the majority of cholera patients in the area, which will help provide much relief to our clinic. However, with their arrival, they also required accommodations, so our house is now full of a bunch of MSF workers ( 8 or 10 at a time). It's a bit crowded, but they are going to be around for 2 months, so I better get used to it.

The election was on November 29. Any reports I heard were that there was a lot of voter fraud, some violence outside polling stations, many people couldn't find their names on the voter list, there weren't enough ballots, etc.... not a transparent election at all. Last night they announced the 2 front runners - one of which is the candidate that the current president supports. The population is up in arms - they know that it is not possible. Protests started in Port last night and word is there is trouble in Cap as well today. Best advice, stay put and wait it out. The runoff is scheduled for January 16.

And finally, some big news, for me anyways.... I'm engaged! This April, I will be marrying Calvin Christolin. Cal is one of the accountants at Ebenezer Clinic. He's from Haut Limbe and we are looking forward to continue to serve at the clinic and the community of Haut Limbe together.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

This past week

This past week was one of the busiest, most stressful weeks since I've been in Haiti - probably even more than the week after the earthquake. There are a number of factors that contributed to it including: the increase in cholera cases at the clinic, hosting a 10 person team from Minnesota, riots in Cap Haitian and surrounding areas and upcoming elections.

Right now I'm writing from Orlando, Florida where I am spending a vacation with my family. There were many times during this week that I didn't believe I would be here.

Here's how the week went.

Monday morning at about 7 am, my friend Ben and I head to the airport in Cap Haitian to pick up a 10 person team from Minnesota who were coming to help volunteer in the clinic and do some construction work. About half way their, we received a phone call from the owner of the van we had hired to help transport everyone home that the road was blocked just out of Cap Haitian, so we turned off the main highway and took some backroads to the airport - including a little bit of 4x4 ing. We made it to the airport by 8 am to meet the flight. They were a bit late, but eventually showed up. We were waiting for their luggage to arrive on the second cargo flight scheduled to land. It seemed to be delayed by about 2 hours, so we were trying to decide if we would wait at the airport for it, or go home and send someone back later to pick it it. While we were trying to decide, the airport was suddenly filled with people off the street as they were fleeing tear gas that the UN had released outside as some riots had broken out.

We began to learn that there were riots all over the city and after awhile learned that they were targeted against the UN under the accusation that they brought Cholera to Haiti. For the next few hours, we had very little information as to what was happening. We sat in the departures area of domestic flights, talking and playing cards to pass the time. After our truck and van were secured behind the airport gates, Ben decided to take a motorcycle taxi down the back roads to see if we would be able to leave by driving across the runway and out the fence.

He returned to say that we could go, but we had to hurry. So we gathered everyone, and unfortunately had to leave another American there by herself as she was driving a while Landcruiser that would attract too much attention and cause danger.

To get off the airport property, we had to pay off some young men who had set up a road block. There were a couple more small road blocks along the way, they we successfully negotiated our way through. The next hour was relatively quiet as we drove through a rural area to the town of Plain du Nord and Acul du Nord. At one point we had to cross through a river with a steep, muddy bank - luckily the 4x4 helped us through.

When we got to Acul du Nord, I thought we were in the clear, but as we turned onto the national highway, we learned there was one more big road block to cross at the town of Pillatre. Fortunately, the clinic's reputation, and our familiarity with some people helped us cross with a little pay off. We finally arrived at home at about 4 that afternoon.

For the past couple of weeks, the number of cholera victims has been growing. Over the weekend we had 50 patients in the hospital at a time, with many others coming on an outpatient basis being treated with oral re-hydration. The Minnesota team was eager to help in anyway they could, and jumped right to work helping change IV bags and doing what was needed.

The next morning, I began calling the airline to see if their luggage would be arriving that day. At one point they said the airport was open and the plane would come, so we sent two guys by motorcycle and back roads to the airport, but the plane never came. There were still riots and roadblocks around the city.

Each morning I would call to see if a plane was coming, but things never cleared up enough for the airport to open.

By Thursday, many of us were beginning to wonder if we would be able to get out of the country anytime soon. We started to pursue avenues to evacuate the Minnesota team earlier then their Monday departure date. At first, it was recommended that they leave via the Carnival Cruise ship that would be landing in nearby Labadee on Friday. But later learned that to do that, they would have to register at the American Embassy, all the way in Port au Prince. Then we learned that MFI would fly them out of Port au Prince at 1 pm the next day. That meant that they would have to start the 8 hour drive to Port that afternoon, sleep in Gonaives, and finish the drive in the morning. After much discussion and consultation, we decided that it was not a safe option as we had heard of several roadblocks being set up on that road.

We decided to wait and see if the airport would open Friday or Saturday to fly out on MFI or IBC.

Thursday night there were rumours that the roads were being cleaned up and on Friday morning, we awoke to the sounds of horns of big trucks passing by on the highway. A good sign. The airport opened later that day, however not in time for my IBC flight out to Ft. Lauderdale to come. We learned that IBC and MFI would be flying out Saturday am so we made arrangements to go on those.

Early Saturday am (5:30) I headed into Cap to the airport on the main roads to check in for my flight. The rest of the group came later that morning to check in to their MFI flight and by 12 o'clock, we were all on our way to the US.

The road blocks during the week had made it difficult for us to receive medical supplies at the clinic, so by friday, IV fluids were due to run out, but thankfully that afternoon, it was safe to drive to Cap to pick up a load from Doctors without Borders.

Please keep Haiti in your prayers. Elections are in one week. People are saying that this is fueling the riots, while others lay the blame solely on the UN and their lack of progress during their 5 year occupation, and the belief that Cholera was brought to Haiti by Nepalese UN soldiers. Whatever the case, tensions are high the country is hot, or as they would say in Kreyol "peyi cho".

Please pray that their are enough medical personal and supplies to treat the growing number of people infected with this deadly disease.

Pray that Ebenezer Clinic can make good decisions.

Pray for strength for Dr. Manno and the staff.

Please also pray that I have a restful and relaxing week in Florida with my family. My plan is to return to Haiti next Saturday as long as things stay calm.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Here we go...

It's been a crazy couple of weeks, and I think they are going to stay crazy for awhile.

Yesterday, we had 50 patients at the hospital. Those of you who have seen it, may wonder where in the world we can put 50 people... well, everywhere! An orphanage on the other side of Cap Haitian has donated a bunch of cots and have also constructed a make shift tarp shelter to the back of the hospital.

We are finding that God is continuing to provide for the needs of the hospital. When the container full of medical supplies arrived almost a year ago, many of us wondered when we would ever use some of the supplies donated - like adult diapers! Well, we know now. And we are so lucky that these supplies were already here, ready to be used.

Also, it's amazing that the Breton group finished tiling and painting the hospital just 2 days before the first cholera patient arrived!

Last night, a group of American and Dominican doctors and nurses arrived with a bunch more supplies and to help provide medical care, giving the Ebenezer staff much needed relief.

Tomorrow, a group of 10 will arrive from the States. A couple of them will help in the clinic, while the others will help construct some additional shelves for the depot and pharmacy.

Thank you from the staff and board of Ebenezer Clinic to all those who have donated to and come on a missions trip with the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada to help with this construction. Without your help, many of the patients we are treating would have no where else to go.

Friday, November 12, 2010

And then the sun came out...


It feels so good to have the sun beating on my skin warming me up. Maybe now the muddy roads will being to dry and my clothes will dry!

I was just up at the clinic/hospital to see where things are at. Yesterday, we received another donation of IV fluids that should last us for about a week! So good.

Currently, we have 19 patients in the hospital. To date, we've treated 78 patients since the epidemic started.

What do we need? We need funds to help cover the extra expenses of running the generator 24/7 (it costs over $100US/day), and paying additional staff salaries. We weren't planning on opening the hospital yet, so we don't have a way to cover these expenses yet.

If you would like to help, you can make a donation through the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada online via CanadaHelps. Please designate your gift to Haiti Clinic and write "cholera" in the comment box.

Or, you can send a cheque to:
Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada
PO Box 34025, RPO Fort Richmond
Winnipeg, MB   R3T 5T5

Attach a note saying your donation is for Cholera relief in Haiti.

Thanks for your continued prayers and support!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

22 degrees Celsius is chilly

Okay, call me a wimp, call me spoiled, I don't care. But after one week of  rainy, cloudy weather and temperatures no higher than 22 or 23 degrees Celsius, you would be chilly too. This past week I've been wearing jeans, long sleeved shirts, socks during the day and my winter time pj's at night with 2 sheets covering me. My clothes got washed on Monday... they are still not dry. They are strewn across the living room on chairs. I'm just hoping they dry before I send my next load on Monday! But, with all that, I'm thankful that I have a dry place to sleep every night.

Things are starting to slow down a bit at the clinic - well at least yesterday we did not receive as many cholera patients as the day before. So far we have treated over 35. Unfortunately, Wednesday night we lost our first 2 patients. One child, about 5 years old came in. They got the IV in, but a couple of hours later he was complaining of being cold and just seemed lifeless. He passed away. Another man, who we suspect was HIV positive, came in without any family and kept pulling out his IV so eventually he died as well.

On Monday we are expecting a group from Minnesota. There are a few medical professionals coming as well as some others who will help build shelves in the clinic and depot.

On Friday, I fly to Florida to spend a week with my family. I'm very excited to celebrate Christmas and Thanksgiving with them. I'm also excited to have a hot shower and put some overstretched t-shirts in a clothes dryer and shrink them back to their original size! Small things excite me these days...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Treating Cholera

We had 15 cholera patients in the hospital over the weekend. Here are a couple of stories of the people we are treating.

One woman came in to be treated by herself - her husband and children had already died of cholera earlier in the week so she is left with no family. Normally the family is responsible for feeding and caring for patients in Haitian hospitals - here she was able to find help. Please pray for her as she recovers and tries to begin her life again without her family.

A baby was brought in yesterday. He had just started to vomit and have diarrhea a half hour before and was already in shock. The mother was crying believing that he would die. It took about a half hour to get the IV in because his veins were already collapsed. This morning, he is alive.

We are learning that a lot of people are dying from cholera because many health professionals are not well educated about the disease and are afraid of contracting it. Also, in most hospitals, the patient must come with money to go buy their medication and IV's before they are treated. Can you imagine trying to find the money to buy medication while you are vomiting and suffering from diarrhea?

Please continue to pray for strength for the clinic staff and for all those we are treating.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cholera in Limbe

As I’m sure you all have heard, there is a cholera outbreak in Haiti. It originated in the Artobonite Valley, about 100 kms from here, about two weeks ago. They have reported over 400 deaths and several thousand infections. A week ago, we started hearing about cases in the north (where I am) and on Monday we had our first cholera patient being treated at the almost finished hospital at Ebenezer Clinic, and last night we had 5 patients staying to be treated. These patients are coming from Limbe, about 5 kms away where we believe cholera has infected the river where many people wash clothes, bathe and gather water.

Cholera is a waterborne disease that causes dehydration by vomiting and severe diarrhoea. If untreated, it can be fatal within hours. However, the treatment is very simple – rehydration through IV fluids and antibiotics. 

The two hospitals in Limbe are full of cholera patients and so people are coming here once they’ve been turned away, or if they do not have the money to pay for treatment. We anticipate that the number of patients will only increase in the coming days.

How can you help? Please pray for the staff at Ebenezer Clinic who are serving above and beyond. Also, using the almost finished hospital as a treatment centre also means that the clinic will have extra expenses (running the generator almost 24 hours a day, buying extra medication, paying extra staff time). Most patients we are seeing will not be able to pay for their treatment. You can help offset these expenses by making a donation through the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada. All donations are tax deductible and can be made online at (please designate your gift to Haiti Clinic and write “Cholera” in the comment box) or by mailing a cheque with a note that your donation is for Cholera in Haiti to:

Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada
PO Box 34025, RPO Fort Richmond
Winnipeg, MB R3T 5T5

Thanks for your support!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

This week

Early Monday morning (leaving the house at 6) we dropped off the Breton group at the airport. I have to say it was a very successful trip for them (I hope they feel the same way). We were busy and accomplished a lot of work and they met a lot of people. Thanks you guys!

On Monday we also received our first cholera patient at the hospital. Over the weekend they discovered that cholera is now originating in Limbe (about 5 km away) and both hospitals are full of cholera patients. Yesterday we received our second patient. We are trying to create a plan of how to respond with treatments and figure out what extra funds and staffing will be required. The hospital is almost finished - we would like to get the plumbing hooked up as soon as possible.

Over the weekend there were also reports that the cholera originated from a Nepalese UN Base in Haiti. Apparently the strain is the same as the one that is in Nepal (where cholera is endemic). This is makes things so much worse in my opinion and does nothing to help build trust between the UN and the Haitian people.

As if this weren't enough, Tomas is heading our way by the end of the week!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Hi everyone! Thought I would give you a little update about the past few days - they've been busy!

First off - we finished preparing the house for the group! I was doubtful during the process, but by Sunday night, the upstairs was completely finished being painted, the stairs were smoothed and squared and the shower was fixed! Phew - just in the nick of time!

Yesterday morning we picked up a group of 9 eager folks from Faith Covenant Church in Breton who will be here for one week. They are doing great and survived the night of barking dogs, roosters crowing and bugs in their rooms! Yesterday we did a little tour of the clinic, hospital and area, let them rest, eat some great food and play with the neighbour kids. This morning, they are hard at work at the clinic tiling and painting.

And now about Cholera.... we have no reported cases in Haut Limbe as of yet, but the clinic is preparing as we expect patients will come here eventually for treatment. Sunday morning in church Dr. Manno and Dr. Joselie were given some time to provide some education on what Cholera is, how to prevent it, and how to treat it. Prevention and education is the key right now.

Please keep praying for Haiti.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cholera death toll jumps in Haiti

The death toll from a cholera outbreak in Haiti has leapt past 250, officials say.
More than 3,000 people were infected, said Gabriel Thimote, director general of Haiti's health department.
Five cases of cholera were detected in the capital, Port-au-Prince, but UN officials said the patients had been quickly diagnosed and isolated.
Around a million survivors of January's earthquake are living in tents near the city with poor sanitary conditions.
But Mr Thimote expressed optimism the outbreak could be contained.
"We have registered a diminishing in numbers of deaths and of hospitalised people in the most critical areas," he said.
"The tendency is that it is stabilising, without being able to say that we have reached a peak."
Quick killerHealth officials have been trying to contain the outbreak in areas north of the capital.
The five victims isolated in Port-au-Prince had become infected in the Artibonite region - the main outbreak zone - and then travelled to the capital where they developed symptoms, the UN's humanitarian affairs agency said.
This meant Port-au-Prince was "not a new location of infection", it added.
Aid officials have described the prospect of a cholera outbreak in the city as "awful".
Those in the camps are highly vulnerable to the intestinal infection, which is caused by bacteria transmitted through contaminated water or food.
Cholera causes diarrhoea and vomiting leading to severe dehydration, and can kill quickly if left untreated through rehydration and antibiotics.
The worst-hit areas of the outbreak were Saint-Marc, Grande Saline, L'Estere, Marchand Dessalines, Desdunes, Petite Riviere, Lachapelle, and St Michel de l'Attalaye, said the UN.
A number of cases have also been reported in the city of Gonaives, and towns closer to the capital, including Archaei, Limbe and Mirebalais.
'Contaminated' riverMany hospitals have been overwhelmed, with patients at the St Nicholas hospital in Saint-Marc being being forced to lie outside in unhygienic conditions, hooked up to intravenous drips.
The aid agency Medicins Sans Frontieres has set up a cordon around the hospital to control exit and entry to try to contain the spread of the outbreak.
Dr John Fequiere told the BBC that his hospital in Marchand Dessalines was also struggling to cope, and that he had seen dozens die.
"We are trying to take care of people, but we are running out of medicine and need additional medical care. We are giving everything we have but we need more to keep taking care of people," he said.
Some patients said they became ill after drinking water from a canal, but others said they were drinking only purified water.
The Artibonite river, which irrigates central Haiti, is thought to be contaminated.
Haitian Health Minister Alex Larsen has urged people to wash their hands with soap, not eat raw vegetables, boil all food and drinking water, and avoid bathing in and drinking from rivers.
This is the first time in a century that cholera has struck the nation, which has enough antibiotics to treat 100,000 cases of cholera and intravenous fluids to treat 30,000, according to the UN.
Haiti - the poorest country in the region - is still reeling from January's devastating quake, which killed up to 300,000 people.
Seismic experts say that quake may have been caused by an unseen fault, and that pressure could be building for another tremor.
The journal Nature Geoscience has published two papers which both conclude the fault originally blamed for the quake was not the real source, and that it remains a threat.
"As the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault did not release any significant accumulated elastic strain, it remains a significant seismic threat for Haiti and for Port-au-Prince in particular," concluded one report written by Eric Calais of Purdue University in Indiana.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

October Update

Dear friends and family,

Greetings from Haiti!

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 11 months since I arrived in Haiti. In some ways I feel like I just arrived here yesterday, in other ways, I feel like I’ve been here for years. So much has happened in that time – some good and some bad – no matter which, I’ve learned so much about myself, my faith, my God, and I feel like I’m just starting to really learn about Haiti. Just when I think I’ve mastered some revelation of why Haiti is the way it is, I stumble upon some other fact or truth that just opens up the door to more questions. I’ve been doing a lot of processing in my head – I’ve meant to share more of it with you on my blog, but sometimes I just can’t put it all into words on a screen. I’ll try to get better at that!

That being said, things are going well here. Summer vacation is over – kids are back in school and life is getting back to its regular rhythm. Things at the clinic have been steady. Dr. Manno was particularly busy during August and September as Dr. Joselie was on vacation. There is still work to be done on the new hospital and a lot of planning to be done before it can open.

We have a couple of groups lined up to visit in the next month. The first is a group from the Covenant Church in Breton. This is the first time for this church to visit Haut Limbe so I’m very excited to show them around and have them experience this community. They will be working on some more tiling in the hospital as well as some painting, cleaning and organizing. About a week or so after they leave, I will be hosting a group from a Covenant Church in Minnesota. They will continue the work on the hospital as well as assisting in the clinic as they have a few medical professionals coming with them.

Before that group leaves, I will be flying out to Florida to spend a week with my parents, sister and brother-in-law and their children. We’ll be going to Disneyworld, Seaworld and just spending time together as a family. There is also a rumour that we will have a Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner too!

My original plan was to return back to Canada after our vacation, but I have decided to stay on here in Haiti longer. Right now, I’m looking at staying until the Spring of 2011. I feel like this past year was such a learning experience, I want to put all I have learned to use for hosting the upcoming groups.

To do this, I am humbly asking for your continued prayer and financial support for my ministry. I am so grateful for all the support you have shown me in the past year – it is so encouraging, and I know I wouldn’t have been able to be here without it.

There are a number of ways you can support me in prayer:
• For me to stay healthy and strong to fight off any illness or fatigue;
• For me to continue to learn and understand more Creole;
• For me to have patience and understanding when dealing with cultural differences;
• For me to find ways to continue to find ways to be spiritually fed (I’m beginning to understand Creole sermons, but it is still a struggle)

If you would like to continue (or begin) to support me financially, you can do it a couple of ways. All donations can be made through the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada and are eligible for a tax receipt.

If you would like donate by cheque, please download a response card, complete and mail to the address given. Please make sure my name is does not appear on the cheque.

If you would like to donate online, you can through Please designate your donation to Haiti Clinic and in the comment space indicate your donation is for Janelle Peterson.

I would also encourage you to consider supporting the ongoing work of Ebenezer Clinic. You can do that the same way as supporting me; just indicate your donation is for the Haiti Clinic.

Thanks again for partnering with me in this ministry. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me.


Janelle Peterson

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The week before...

The week before a group comes is always busy. We're making sure that the supplies are purchased for the work project, arranging transportation and there always seems to be some project going on at the house.

Last winter, it was amazing what could be done in the few days before a group came. A whole bathroom was tiled, painted and given new fixtures, new doors were installed, new screens were put in windows, rooms were painted, etc. This week is no different. Currently, the inside stairs are being fixed - they were previously very uneven and steep and frankly quite dangerous if you were not used to climbing them, especially in the dark! Today paint is being purchased which will give my room a face lift and hopefully the common area upstairs. Who knows what else will happen - I'm learning not to be so surprised!

Monday, October 18, 2010

If you build it, they won't come?

Usually I attend the local Baptist church here in Haut Limbe every Sunday. It's a fairly large church in structure and attendance. I have a really hard time estimating numbers of people, but I would say there are regularly 5-600 people that attend and fill the whole church. It's not a fancy church by any means. It's full of very uncomfortable, falling-apart, squished together wooden benches the fit 8 or 9 Haitians comfortably, (maybe 5 North Americans comfortably). Usually, I bring my own plastic patio chair to sit on in a aisle at the back. I do this for a couple of reasons - so my butt won't fall asleep, so I can limit the sweat that I create, and so I can change positions more than once during the 2.5 hour service. All in all, it works well.

The church has 2 main pastors as well as many visiting pastors who come to preach. There are many choirs and singing groups. There is a worship team and there is a "sound system" that somewhat works. As my Kreyol improves, I'm beginning to enjoy the service more and I'm getting a bit more out of it.

Yesterday however, I wanted to experience another church. I had met a pastor of a nearby church and I thought it be interesting to check it out. So, my friend and I took a motorcycle to this little church about 5 minutes away. It was a very small building in comparison to ours, and probably had about 50 people inside worshiping. When we got there, we found out the pastor wasn't there yet. We weren't sure if he was still coming or wasn't coming at all, so we decided to drive a little farther down the road to another church.

We drive up to this church which is in a compound with a school and medical clinic. The service had already started when we walked in. As we walked in, I felt like I was in a North American church (except for the metal roof above). It had ceramic tile on the floor, a sound booth at the back of the church, tons of very nicely stained, comfortable benches (I might even dare to call them pews), the platform was raised at the front with beautiful flowers on it, a worship team with drums, guitars and a keyboard, a communion table, and the kicker - a power point projector!

I was a bit overwhelmed, to say the least. But as I looked around, the pews were over half empty and the service was already started. I thought of how crowded things were in Haut Limbe. Very interesting.

Obviously this church and compound were heavily supported by a North American church. And I learned later, that really this church didn't really exist before the N.A. church built it. It wasn't it a partnership between a Haitian church and a N.A. church, it was basically a N.A. church plopped down in the middle of Haiti. It's been there for 10 years, and it's still only half full on a Sunday morning.

When we left after the service, I could say that I enjoyed it - it was familiar to me and I was physically comfortable (lots of ceiling fans). We walked around the grounds a bit and saw the Pastor's very new looking white, shiny extended cab truck which he will get in and drive back to his comfortable house in Cap Haitien. You see, he just planted a church where there was some land. The people didn't ask for a church, someone in North America thought it would be a good idea to build a church in Haiti.

It made me sad and made me appreciate our over crowded church in Haut Limbe all the more. It may not have a lot, it's certainly not perfect, but it definitely is an integral part of this community's life, which is what every church should be - in my opinion.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My double life

Sometimes I feel like I lead a double life here. Let me explain myself.

When I made the decision to come to Haiti, I knew that I didn't want to live like a traditional missionary in Haiti. Haiti is full of missionary compounds where a lot of times American and Canadian missionaries can live a very secure, comfortable life with luxuries like 24 hour electricity and running water. Sad to say, a lot of times (from my limited observation) it would be easy for these missionaries to refrain from engaging in daily Haitian life. I'm not saying that is how all missionaries live, I'm just saying that some can and do. That's not how I wanted to experience Haiti. If I was going to come to Haiti, I wanted to experience Haiti as much as I possibly could.

Fortunately, Dr. Manno's mom was willing to let me come live at their house which is not in a compound, but in the "town" surrounded by plenty of neighbours and a mountain to climb behind it. By Haitian standards, the house is very comfortable. Most of the floors upstairs where I live have ceramic tile. There are 3 washrooms with running water (when the town water system is working which is most of the time). The electrical system is hooked up to the clinic's generator so we have electricity during the day when the clinic is open. There is always food available to eat and everyone eats twice a day (except me - I get three meals a day). Yep, it's pretty comfortable. It's not all rosy though. I've had my encounters with rats, ants, cockroaches, no water, noisy neighbours blaring their music,

However, everyday I see my neighbours who do not live as luxuriously as me. I see children bathing outside from my bedroom window. I see the holes in the roofs of their houses when it rains. I know that only the eldest boy of 4 children (with another on the way) of a single mom next door is going to school this year because that's what the mom can afford. I see his little sisters wear the same 2 dresses everyday.

While I see these harsh realities around me everyday and I try to interact with my neighbours, I know that I can never fully understand what they experience. You see, because I am a "blan" (foreigner), I know that I will always be able to find food. I will always have money to buy gas to put in the truck or motorcycle. I will never have to decide if I will eat today or send my child to school or to the doctor. I can plan a vacation and get on a plane or a bus within a day and leave this country simply because I have a Canadian passport and access to money.

I'm usually uncomfortable when I'm given special treatment because if my skin colour - like being offered a chair at a futbol match when everyone else is standing. But sometimes I like it. Like when I get to sit in the front seat of the truck instead of being squished in the back, or I can walk into a fancy hotel to use their washroom and know that no one will question my presence there, or when I can walk through "security" at the airport with no problem, and so on.

I don't know how to reconcile these two lives. I don't know if I ever will be able to. And I'm writing this from inside a nice, missionary house where I am currently house/cat/bird-sitting with 24 hour electricity, internet, running water and a North American kitchen - and I like it and I am thankful that I have the opportunity to stay here every once and awhile.

I don't mean for this post to be judgmental in any way - it's just thoughts that I'm trying to process.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

On Etiquette and Manners

I've been in Haiti for just over 10 months now and I'm still trying to figure out the Haitian system of manners and etiquette. It's funny how I thought Canadian norms of manners were universal - silly me! While there are a lot of things that are the same, there are a lot that are different. Here are a few of the things I've noticed.

  •  As a well-trained, polite Canadian, I say "please (souple)" and "thank you (mesi)" all the time. Only recently have I begun to notice that "please and thank you" are not always required. Often times when somebody wants you to bring or pass you something, they simply say "Ba'm ________ (fill in the blank) which translates to "Give me __________". This is not considered rude. I still always add a "souple" afterwards. Don't get me wrong, Haitians are very polite, it just all depends on the situation and context and how you interpret it. What may seem important to a Canadian just might not seem important to a Haitian - or it is and is just shown a different way.
  • Forming lines does not come naturally here. The only place I've seen it work well is at banks where they actually have those roped mazes to follow, otherwise, it's a free for all! Whether it's a counter at a fast food restaurant or cashier counter at a store you have to do your best to be heard or seen to place your order or pay for your merchandise. I am not good at this. Maybe there is a system of how things work - I have not learned it yet!
  • Time. Punctuality is usually not important here - but sometimes it is. Most people are early for church - I suspect this has something to do with being able to find a seat. But for events like weddings, graduations, parties, it is acceptable to start and/or show up 1, 2 or 3 hours later. I, of course, am still usually 5 minutes early from the set time. I'm also learning that many people just do not have a good concept of time. A friend may be going to Cap Haitian, I'll ask what time they will be back, they reply that they will be back in 1.5 hours. Now, this is impossible as it is a 1 hour drive to Cape and a 1 hour drive back and then you still need time to do your errands! 
  • Haitians don't like to ask questions or say no to someone who is their elder or superior, even if they ask you to do something that will completely affect your plans for the day or require more work for everybody. They will just do it even if there is a better option - which I have often pointed out! Also, if something isn't as it should be, they don't seem to investigate. Example. The clinic has been waiting for a number of money wires to come in the past couple of weeks. Several times we have sent the signatories to the bank to check if the funds were received. Each time they came back and reported that they were not there. So, I started sending some emails to see what the problem was. I was told that the funds were indeed at the branch. So, on Monday I go to the bank with the two accountants myself to get to the bottom of this. We ask the teller if the funds are there, it takes a little while, but eventually she tells us that 2 have been received, but not the one that I had been told by the main bank was there. So, I asked some more questions, she started investigating and found out there had been a little problem so the account had not been updated correctly. The money was there. I can only imagine how long we would have "waited" for the funds if I had not gone to ask questions. My friends here think I'm crazy for asking so many questions - but you have to here. If you don't all you get is vague answers and perhaps misinformation!
  • Haitians are patient. They will wait and wait and hardly complain. I used to think I was a patient person, but being here, I've learned there is a whole other level of patience that can be achieved. An example, the neighbour kids will often sit on the steps outside my door waiting for me to come home or to leave the house so I can help them with their English. They don't call for me - or if they do it's so quiet that I can't hear them. If when I get home I have something else to do, I tell them that, and they still wait for me until I have time for them. 
These are just some of the things I am learning and understanding... very slowly! 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Just a little reminder.


With fraction of rubble cleared, Haiti looks little changed since earthquake

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti | From the dusty rock mounds lining the streets to a National Palace that looks as if it’s vomiting concrete, rubble is the most visible reminder of Haiti’s devastating earthquake.
Rubble is everywhere: cracked slabs, busted-up cinder blocks, half-destroyed buildings that still spill bricks and pulverized concrete onto the sidewalks.
By some estimates, the Jan. 12 quake left about 33 million cubic yards of debris in Port-au-Prince — more than seven times the amount of concrete used to build the Hoover Dam. So far, only about 2 percent has been cleared, which means the city looks pretty much as it did a month after the quake.
Government officials and outside aid groups say rubble removal is the priority before Haiti can rebuild. But the reasons why so little has been cleared are complex.
Heavy equipment has to be shipped in by sea. Dump trucks have difficulty navigating narrow and mountainous dirt roads. An abysmal records system makes it hard for the government to determine who owns a dilapidated property. And there are few sites on which to dump the rubble, which often contains human remains.
Also, no single person in the Haitian government has been declared in charge of the rubble, prompting foreign nongovernmental organizations to take on the task themselves. The groups are often forced to fight for a small pool of available money and contracts — which in turn means the work is done piecemeal, with little coordination.
Projects funded by USAID and the Pentagon have spent more than $98.5 million to remove 1.2 million cubic yards of rubble.
“There’s not a master plan,” Eric Overvest, the Haiti director for the U.N. Development Program, said with a sigh. “After the earthquake, the first priority was clearing the roads. That was the easiest part.”
Leslie Voltaire, a Haitian architect, urban planner and presidential candidate, says his country needs a “rubble czar.”
“There should be one person in charge,” he said. “Resettlement has not even begun yet, and it can’t until the city has been cleared.”

Read more:

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Where did September go?

I can't believe that September is pretty much over! Where did it go? I guess this means summer vacation is over. University started earlier this month and primary and secondary schools will begin again next week. The sun is setting a bit earlier and the nights are "cooler". Yes, summer is over. It also means that things will start picking up again in terms of my work. We have 2 groups scheduled to come this fall - one at the end of October and another in mid-November. It'll be so exciting to see what work will be completed on the new hospital!

I was able to spend a few days this past weekend in Santiago, DR after recovering from a bit of illness. I'm almost 100% now, thank goodness. I would like to say that I relaxed in the DR, but really I didn't. I joked with my friend/host that I came to Santiago for stimulation - shopping, traffic, city life - I can rest when I'm in Haut Limbe! The main reason I went was to get my passport stamped to keep me legal, but in an added bonus I got to do some shopping for personal items, get a haircut, drive up to Puerto Plata, experience Dominican Church, realize how much of my Spanish language skills I've lost, watch cable TV, have ice in my drinks, eat salad and hand out with my friend Tammi. It was a nice break.

Now, back to work! 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What has been going on...

September is almost half over - I can't believe it! It's seems like life is flying by here, although in the midst of it, time goes slowly. Here's a bit of what has been going on the past few weeks.
  • I finally got to Cap Haitian and got to eat some ice cream! I hadn't been there in over a month and consequently hadn't eaten ice cream in over a month - not good!
  • In Cape, I contemplated purchasing a new cell phone - my current one is basically the cheapest kind you can buy in Haiti - it used to do the job, but lately texts haven't been sending and I've been frustrated with it's ability to find signal. So, I thought I would take a look to see what I could find. Turns out, I'm not better at making decisions while shopping here than I am in Canada. There was very little selection at the Digicel Store, so I walked away empty handed. Maybe next time?
  • Dr. Manno has been busy at the clinic as Dr. Joselie is on holidays in the States. We are starting to plan for the projects that the groups will do when they come in just over a month!
  • Fellow Covenant Missionary and friend, Tammi Biggs from Santiago, DR was here the past week to spend some time here and in Port au Prince with Dr. Manno to visit the camps the clinic adopted.
  • We've had almost 24/7 EDH here for the past week. Turns out a neighbouring town, Acul du Nord or Lakil in Creole, is celebrating their saint this week. There have been parties all week and since the head of the senate comes from Lakil, we've had consistent electricity. It's going to be a bit of a shock when they take it away!
  • We fixed the internet in my office! Woohoo! Now I can come whenever I want and since I got a new laptop with a long lasting battery, I really can come whenever I want!
  • My rat problems are not over - I discovered a half eaten shoe this morning in my room. I certainly didn't eat, so the rat has been back. I'm going to be asking for a new door later today.
  • I drove for my second time in Haiti. This time it was Manno's truck which is an automatic. I survived the trip just fine, just had issues with a key that didn't want to come out of the ignition, power locks that have a mind of their own and power windows and seats that don't like to cooperate!
  • Bird/cat/house sitting went amazingly well. It never took me more than 3 minutes to get the parrots into their cages this time and they didn't escape!
  • I've started Creole class again as my teacher has returned from his visit to the US to visit his wife. I have now started the level 3 reader and get to read little stories which are basically Haitian proverbs in story form. 
  • Malen is back cooking in the kitchen. She was on vacation for August - I missed her!
  • Avocados in Haiti are huge! I love them and I try to eat one every day. Sadly, mango season is over. :(

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rat La (The Rat)

When I was deciding whether I would come to Haiti or not, I played a lot of scenarios in my head. I imagined all exciting things about coming here – meeting new people, learning a new language and culture, experiencing life in a different country, etc. I also imagined all of the risks or things that would make me uncomfortable – having to eat food I don’t like, struggling to learn a new language and not being able to communicate, getting sick, cold showers, unreliable water supply, limited electricity, living with bugs, cockroaches, spiders, rats. In my time here, I’ve experienced all of these things, good and bad and have been okay with it, until early Monday at 4:30 am.

For some reason I woke up (I usually don’t wake up during the night). I decided to go to the washroom. When I came back to my room with my flashlight in hand, I saw (and heard) something scurry across the spare bed in my room – a rat!!! I’ve seen rats in my here – but they were always outside or in other buildings, not my house, never mind my room. I let out a scream and stood frozen. I didn’t know what to do. It scurried up the wall, onto my shelves and climbed the window screen. I let out a few more screams and then ran to the stairwell to yell for Jimmy (Manno’s cousin who lives downstairs and the only other person in the house) to come because I saw a rat. Jimmy comes upstairs, pillowcase in hand and Mama isn’t far behind (she heard my screams from the other house). I show them where it is, and before they can do anything, it runs out the door, probably out the window to its home in the trees. Mama gives me a hug, tells me not to be scared and to go to sleep with my door shut. For the record, my door is always closed when I sleep, however it has quite a large gap at the bottom just the right size for a rat to sneak under. I go back to bed, curl up in a ball, afraid to leave my bed, or my room, not knowing when the rat is going to come back. I must have fallen asleep eventually, but it wasn’t very restful.

In the morning, everyone in the house knew what had happened (they heard the screams) and were making fun of me for being scared of a rat. They said “Ayiti gen anpil rat yo” (Haiti has a lot of rats) as if I didn’t know that. Apparently it doesn’t phase them when a rat scampers by them while they are sleeping. And apparently I was supposed to yell “amwe”, not just scream, so that people knew to come. Oh the things I am learning.

So, even though there are a lot of rats in Haiti, I’m not happy that they can come into my room whenever they please. I hope we can get the bottom of my door fixed, but I’m not holding my breath. Maybe someday I will be okay with rats running around my room, but it’s not going to be in the next few days. Thankfully, I’m going to house/bird sit at Steve and Nancy’s until Friday. Maybe I’ll catch on my lost sleep!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How to write about Haiti

I found this article posted on another blog I read. Something to think about...

Click here to read it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Haitian Wedding

Sister Yadlee and me after the ceremony.
I went to my third Haitian wedding on Saturday. Every one that I have attended has been different, so I have yet to fully understand what a traditional Haitian wedding is like. I guess they are all different, depending on the couple, much like in Canada. I do have a few observations though.

Haitian brides look either bored or terrified during the ceremony – it seems like they would rather be anywhere else but at their own wedding.

There must be at least one choir at every wedding.

People dress up in their finest clothes – the shinier the better.

Bride and Groom during the ceremony.
There must be at least one Celine Dion song played during the ceremony – in French or English. Yesterday they played “All By Myself” – which I found a bit funny, since it was a wedding. But of course, no one else clued into that – it was a Celine Dion song and it had a nice melody!

The photographer will do anything to get a good shot of the couple – meaning they will stand at the front, blocking everyone else’s view during most of the ceremony.

The bride, groom, and their attendants get to sit in fancy chairs on the platform for the ceremony. They only stand up when it’s time to say the vows and exchange rings.

Weddings are usually in French – to show that you are intellectual – even though many of the guests aren’t able to speak French.

Haitians don’t like to linger at the reception – they eat their food and get out! I think it mostly has to do with the fact that its getting dark by that time and many people will have to walk or take public transport to get home.

Tampico is the drink of choice for any festive occasion.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Since Being Back...

I've been back in Haiti for 2 weeks and just realized that I haven't posted here to let you all know that I did indeed make it back here safely. Yep, I'm back and the trip went relatively smoothly. I had a few moments in Fort Lauderdale when I thought I wouldn't get to fly out because a tropical storm was due to approach south Florida, but we made it out even if we were a bit delayed because US Customs' computers were down (for a moment I thought I was already in Haiti!).

What's been happening since I've been back?
  • I celebrated my 30th birthday with my Haitian friends and family with pizza, popcorn, lots of ice cream and a couple of trips to Cap Haitian.
  • I said good bye to Shauna who has finished up her time in Haiti and is on her way back to Canada.
  • I endured the many comments of "ou gwo" or "you're big" after eating a North American diet for 3 + weeks. Being told "ou gwo" is actually a huge compliment in Haiti, but I don't think North Americans will ever be able to take it that way.
  • I've been to 4 futbol games so far. Now that the World Cup is over, the regular futbol leagues have commenced and everyday around 4:30 or so, life stops to go watch a match at the neighbouring town.
  • I've been enjoying my new Dell Laptop with 8 hour battery life to watch a Friends episode or two in the evening when there is no electricity.
  • and finally... Wyclef Jean is running for President of Haiti??? Not too sure what I think about that one yet.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Pictures - Progress on the hospital

Food for Thought

This episode of "This American Life" was broadcast on NPR in May. The second story (at about the 30 minute mark) features abit about Ebenezer Clinic in Haut Limbe.

You can stream it or download it from ITunes here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Six Months Plus a Day

It's been 6 months and a day since the earthquake. Here's a report I prepared after my recent visit to Port au Prince to assess the work that Ebenezer Clinic did.

 On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the Port au Prince area of Haiti. It is estimated that over 200,000 people lost their lives and close to 1 million people lost their homes and were forced to relocate to other parts of the country or in tent cities amidst the rubble. In the two weeks following the quake, the world watched Haiti intently and gave generously to the relief efforts. Within hours, military and organizations (large and small) from around the world descended on Haiti to help.
Those who live in the north of Haiti (about a 250 km drive away) felt the earthquake as well. Although there was little physical damage, the damage was still felt here as many people lost loved ones in Port au Prince and we began to receive many Internally Displaced People (IDPs) as they migrated north to start a new life. Amidst this, Ebenezer Clinic in Haut Limbe began to look for a way that they too could respond to the needs of those affected by the earthquake. In the first two weeks following the quake, the clinic decided to provide free services to all of its patients, most of who had come from Port au Prince. In that period, the clinic saw approximately 2,000 patients. In addition, they began to look for ways to directly provide relief in Port au Prince. Through the generosity of donors like the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada, Geneva Global, Mission of Mercy and numerous other Canadian and American individuals, Ebenezer Clinic created a strategy to adopt two communities in Port au Prince that had not yet received help.
Here is an excerpt of the journal of Janelle Peterson during 2 day trip to Port au Prince to observe the relief work of Ebenezer Clinic.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
I woke up at 4:30 this morning as we were supposed to leave at 5 to go to Port au Prince. We (5 clinic staff including a doctor, lab technician, and pharmacist plus myself) are going to do mobile clinics at two of the sites that Ebenezer Clinic helped after the earthquake that happened just 6 months and a day ago. None of us have visited the sites before and only a few of us have been to Port since the earthquake. 6 am rolls around and we finally load ourselves and the medication into the truck to begin the 250 km (or 6 hour drive) to Port au Prince.
It’s a long and bumpy ride. The National Road is in some dire need of maintenance – it doesn’t quite compare to Hwy #1 in Canada. The first 2 hours to Gonaives include ascending and descending two mountain passes (without guard rails), dodging pot holes every 50 ft and bumping along coarse gravel parts. There are 4 of us sitting in the backseat of the truck – which helps with holding you in place over the bumps, but after just two hours, my legs begin to turn numb.
We begin to approach Gonaives, which has suffered its own bout of destruction through hurricanes in the past few years. I can’t help but notice all of the signs that outside donors (NGO’s and governments) have posted along the road to show their projects. It’s discouraging to see because although the signs are posted there, any true sign of progress or development is not evident. I wonder if Port au Prince will look like that in two years.
Once we pass Gonaives and get close to Saint Marc, the road becomes much smoother and we can zip along at 60 mph. The condition of the road is a reminder to me of the disparity between the north (where I live) and the south (Port au Prince) in Haiti. As we approach the outskirts of Port, we begin to see the first tent cities set up in the open fields. For those in the truck who are coming to Port for the first time, they are overwhelmed by this sight. It’s hard to imagine that people fled the city and their crumbled homes to find refuge in an open field with only a couple tarps or sheets for shelter.
It’s about noon and we arrive at the first site, Dubuisson. We aren’t that far into Port and you begin to see the damage of the earthquake. Buildings lay crumbled with people going on with life around them. Any open yard is filled with makeshift tents and usually has a sign posted outside it reading “we need help”. I’m guessing that the UN didn’t make it there. We pull up to a gate and enter a large yard with a few buildings in it. After we park, we can see a group of people waiting under the shade of the trees for the mobile clinic to begin. To the right, I can see the shelters that Ebenezer helped to construct over the past few months.
We meet Madeline, who works for the organization ANK – Ansam Nap Kenbe (Together We’re Holding/Keeping), which is the local group that Ebenezer Clinic partnered with in this area. She shows us how they’ve set up for the mobile clinic, and the clinic staff get right to work to start seeing patients. We’ve also hired 3 other local doctors to help Dr. Joselie out. As they get to work, I help by cutting blank paper in half to be used as patient dossier/prescription pads. At first there doesn’t appear to be a lot of people waiting, but as time goes on, more and more people arrive.
Soon Max, our host, invites me to come and see more closely the construction projects. The shelters built here provide permanent housing for 33 families. The families who are here gathered at the site from the surrounding area after the earthquake as their homes were destroyed (picture above shows their original shelters right after the earthquake). Before the earthquake, the yard belonged to one or two families (who probably live in the United States) where they were in the process of building large vacation homes, that now stand partly constructed and partly destroyed.
Max proudly shows me the shelters and introduces me some of the families along the way. A young girl, maybe 8 or 9, befriends me and holds onto my hand as we walk along. Each family has a space, maybe 10x10, to live in. There are heavy tarps on 3 sides, with metal sheeting for the roof to keep the rain out. One woman proudly shows me her kitchen area in a corner of the room where she is cooking lunch. Everyone has their belongings neatly stored around the edges. People seem generally happy and content with their current living conditions. I learn later, that many people were living out in the yard without any more protection than a bed sheet before hand. Now, people know that when the rains come, they can stay dry during the night. As we get to the back of the property, Max shows me two latrines that we built. Though they lack some privacy, they provide help provide some proper sanitation.
The doctors consult more than 100 people that day. We finish up around 4:30 and pack up before we visit an annex to this site where more shelters have been built with the support of Mission of Mercy. When we arrive there, people are lined up to receive a ration of food. ANK is currently only able to provide food once a month to the families living there – they hope to one day be able to provide more. We take a look at the shelters built and see that some have not been completed as of yet. They are hoping we will be able to help them complete them. We meet one woman who does not currently have a bed so she is sleeping on the ground.
After the tour, they invite us to eat a meal that they have prepared for us – rice and beans, chicken, gratin and cake. As we eat, Madeline thanks Ebenezer Clinic and its donors for all the help they have provided so far, but she reminds us that there is much more work to be done. I can’t help but wonder how the people here will ever be able to provide for themselves and not have to rely on outside help.
It’s soon getting dark, so we go to Max’s house where we will stay for the night. We set up two tents outside and after having much needed showers and eating one more time; we go to sleep because we have another big day ahead of us.
Monday, June 14, 2010
It’s another early morning. Everyone starts stirring shortly after 5 when we hear some roosters crowing nearby. We get ready for the day and eat some breakfast. Before we head into Port au Prince, we have a chance to watch some of the futbol game between Holland and Denmark. It’s the World Cup and almost everything in Haiti comes to a halt when a match is on.
By 8:30 we start making our way into Port au Prince. As we get farther into the city, the destruction of the earthquake is much more evident. There are larger buildings which fell, bigger piles of concrete, and yards upon yards of tent cities. The place that we are going, Fort Nasyonal, is located near the center of Port au Prince and is essentially on top of a hill. As we drive up I notice the large machinery that is there to start moving the concrete. There are also many workers wearing Haitian government issued yellow T-shirts that say “Ann Leve Kanpe!”  (Let’s Rise to Stand!), that are working in the hot sun and dust to move concrete by hand. It’s a labour intensive job.
We park the truck and then carry our supplies down the hill to the gate of the site of the mobile clinic. This site includes about 120 families that lost their homes in the earthquake.  We will set up in a shelter that was built on a basket ball court after the earthquake. The entire court is covered with a metal sheeting roof and has strong tarps for walls to keep the rain and the wind out. As we get closer, I notice that a TV has been set up and of course it was broadcasting the current World Cup match. During the World Cup, the government is providing EDH (state electricity), so that fans can watch the games. Up until this point, most areas of Port au Prince have not received any EDH since the earthquake.
Today we have two doctors who will be seeing patients. The local organizers, Organisation des Jeunes Progressists de la Ruelle Boisson, have set up a ticket system for patients and everything runs smoothly. I wander around the shelter that has beds and personal belongings set up to get a better view. On the other side of the court, I can peak out the tarps and see a view of the rolling hills of Port au Prince covered with dilapidated houses.
I take a seat near where the pharmacy has been set up to do some observation. I meet Emmanuel St. Brice, who is one of the local organizers with for the day and he is able to tell me about his experience during and since the earthquake.
Before the earthquake, Emmanuel and his family lived in a home not far from the basketball court. When the earthquake happened, Emmauel was upstairs in his house helping one of his cousin’s children study. The house began to shake and all the people inside ran out into the street. Everyone made it out alive at the time. There was dust everywhere and no one could see anything. At first they could not find all the other members of the family because communication systems were down, but they were able to meet up the next day at the basketball court where many people had already gathered to sleep for the night before with no shelter to protect them. After about one week, the United States military showed up to distribute some medicine, water and soap. Some people had been able to salvage some food from their houses because they made a strategy to enter the houses safely to retrieve it. He told me that people had to bathe in the street with no privacy and many people went for days without changing their clothes.  To this Emmanuel said, “We lived like we did not exist”.
Dr. Manno had visited the tent city for the first times shortly after the earthquake, but it wasn’t until March that Ebenezer Clinic was able to come down to provide some relief. In that first trip, they were able to do a mobile clinic as well as provide food packages to the people. By April, they were able to start building the more permanent shelter over the basketball court. These shelters helped address the issues of the wind, rain and intense sun that people had been exposed to before.  They also provided a better sense of security to the people. They shelters are not completely finished as of yet, they hope to expand them even further.
“We want to say thank you to Ebenezer Clinic and all of the donors for all the things they have done for us. We hope to continue to work with you and find a way for us to be able to provide food and water to this community.” Emmanuel St. Brice
After seeing about 60 patients, we finish up around noon. We find some lunch at a nearby hotel and set off for home. We are all tired and just want to get back. We arrive in Gonaives shortly after 8 and then make the worst part of the trip. Going through the mountains isn’t fun during the day, never mind in the dark when you only have seconds to see the semi truck coming towards on a road with no guard rails! We roll into Haut Limbe just after 11pm, happy to be home and grateful for a shower and soft bed to sleep in. It was not a comfortable trip, but I am glad that I went. The stories of the survivors of the earthquake need to be continued to be told. It’s been six months, but they are still living with the affects of the earthquake and will continue to live with them for years to come. I was encouraged to see the work that is being done there, but I was continually reminded that there is still so much more that needs to be done.