My Trip To Haiti
I wasn’t originally planning on blogging about my trip to Haiti as the decision to go was more of a personal one. But, having been back for a week now, I figured if blogging about it could help in some way, then I might as well. So, here it goes:
I spent a week in Haiti serving through a collaboration between two organizations – Jordan International Aid (JIA) and J/P Haitian Relief Organization (J/P HRO). Our sending organization, JIA, has been sending medical teams to Haiti every third week of the month since the earthquake first hit Haiti. Our receiving organization, J/P HRO, manages one of the larger tent cities in Haiti – Petionville. The two organizations collaborated such that our team at JIA would be staffing the hospital and triage clinic at Petionville – a tent city of 50,000 people. J/P HRO also enabled us to set up some mobile clinics at other tent cities where the refugees in many cases had never received medical care.
When we first landed in Haiti and drove around Port-Au-Prince, I was struck by how the city looked frozen in time a full six months after the earthquake. There were buildings that had been pancaked from the earthquake and others clearly damaged beyond repair – just sitting there untouched. I was struck by the lack of both demolition and construction. The earthquake could have happened the day before. Port-Au-Prince, itself, was terribly congested with a mix of cars and people owning the broken streets. Our team stayed at what used to be an orphanage – needless to say, we felt lucky to have some semblance of running water, power, and intermittent Internet access at our home for the week.
The team was principally comprised of doctors, nurses and a couple pharmacists from the Bay Area, alongside a few non-medical folks (like me) from my church. Our principal role was to help staff and run the “hospital” and “triage clinic” at the Petionville tent city. If you can imagine M*A*S*H, you’d get the idea of where we were serving. They were basically tented areas with stretchers and boxes to sit on. Every day hundreds of people would line up from the tent city, and often wait for hours to receive care. We had the usual pediatric issues of fever, dehydration, diarrhea, etc. We would often also see lacerations, burns, and blunt trauma. There were individuals we treated with longer-term issues like AIDS, cancer, and stroke. There were a number of babies also delivered during our time. And underlying all of the traditional physical issues – there were serious issues like post traumatic stress disorder that were prevalent. Each day, we would see about 150–200 patients at Petionville. We also had the opportunity to set up mobile clinics at other tent cities in surrounding areas.
Though Haiti was just a 2 hour flight from Miami, I couldn’t have been further from my little world of Boston private equity. And, that is a good thing. It was really helpful for me to see the plight of the Haitians and hear their stories. So many people stick out in my mind from this trip. The boy who came in without complaint, despite having a severely burned arm from top to bottom. The woman who gave birth to two very premature twins who did not ultimately survive. The girl who couldn’t have been older than 13 years old, coming in with her three younger siblings – all orphaned. The deaf and mute boy on the Petionville grounds whose spirit could not have been brighter. Our many Haitian friends and staff at the hospital and Petionville who had lost loved ones.
I’m sure many people have given money to Haiti – but I came to appreciate that giving time in many instances is worth a lot more because it’s through time that you build relationships and start to really care. I also came to appreciate that in situations of devastation like Haiti, anyone who has an interest to help, can help. I’m back in the saddle at work now, but I think about Haiti every day – wondering if there’s a broader way to help that country. I’m quite sure I don’t have the answers, but somehow I think thinking about it is a good thing.