· The cracks in the walls of the clinic are from the earthquake and have not been totally plastered over yet—the structure itself is safe and sound.
· An organization that provides water systems to rural communities donated a large water purification system to the clinic, and it can produce 10,000 gallons of purified water per day (while a blessing to the clinic, it is massive and non-portable).
· People line up to get into the clinic and then they wait in an area where people talk about the Gospel with them while they wait. Sometimes people will sleep outside the gate so they do not lose their place in line.
· They have seen 160,000+ unique individuals—people come for miles around to visit this clinic as the people who run it are becoming more and more trusted in the community.
· The number of people in the clinic fluctuates on a daily basis and with local crises, just like clinics in the U.S., but here they fluctuate with differing numbers of cholera and malnutrition patients. STD and prenatal care are also in high demand. Lori would like to train Haitian women as midwives and send them into some of these remote villages, but the logistics on that are just not quite working.
· They see people who have cholera, malaria, malnutrition, tetanus, dehydration, colds, flus, broken bones (one woman who came in had a metal and plastic contraption sticking out of her arm that was holding broken bones stable so they could heal), etc.
We walked all over the clinic and looked at basically everything. There is a women’s health room where they have private discussions with women regarding sexual and reproductive issues. They have a pharmacy area and receive about 60% of their medications from a group of Mennonites in the States. This is in addition to a massive water treatment system, exam rooms, recovery areas, etc. As we were walking around, a group of Haitian men were applying spackling to a wall. We saw a little girl who has cholera, another little girl who is “simply” malnourished, and another young girl whose entire body is wrapped in bandages because her clothes caught fire while she was trying to light an oil lamp--thirty to forty percent of her body is covered in third degree burns.
After visiting the rescue center, the team split up and went different places. Ben and Candice were called over to do medical work with people in the cholera house that was just up the hill. Ali and I sat with the children for just a little while longer—they were awfully hard to leave (described in a minute). Mariley, Corben, Carter, Charis, and Sharon worked on putting together hygiene packets to hand out to people (a key to preventing the spread of cholera is proper hygiene practices—even if it is just washing hands). Then Ali, Dessy, Cindy, and I went into the back pharmacy area with Pat and Sharon, who were packaging pills. Dessy and I put together packets of chlorine (so concentrated that it was granulated) in varying weights depending on what the packets were designated for decontaminating (varying chlorine concentrations are used for various things—you would not drink water treated with a chlorine solution that is strong enough to decontaminate the medical equipment). I was working with a bucket that was basically slop because it had gotten wet via a crack in the bottom of the bucket—it wasn’t supposed to get wet. Chlorine is chlorine though, so it will still work. Dessy and I probably had the cleanest hands of the place given that we were working directly with the chlorine! J My poor paws were feeling a little raw after while from handling the raw chlorine, but I can’t complain—every patient there is suffering from much, much worse.
The rescue center is a place where people bring children who are malnourished, ill, or simply not wanted (a young girl was simply left at the gate recently, and this was not the first time this has happened). Medika Mamba (Haitian for “medical peanut butter”) is a highly fortified peanut butter substance that was formulated by a group here in the States. The peanuts are grown in Haiti, thereby supporting local farmers. The peanuts are ground up and mixed with vitamins and other physical fortifications and then fed to the children. The kids love it and it is extremely good for them (win win all around). Children have literally been brought back from the brink of death with this mamba.
Upon entering the rescue center, immediately to the left you can see a long table with lots of little kid chairs in it—this is where they seat kids during meal time. We had not even made it all of the way into the rescue center before we were mobbed by lots of little children who wanted to be picked up. They love being held! Cindy had one little boy who would not let go of her legs--I picked him up as she was already holding another child. Turns out he is five years old and just started walking recently. On those scrawny little legs he has, I’m surprised he was walking at all. People, you do not understand hunger until you have seen these children. Ten-year-olds who look like they are three simply because they have not had enough food to eat during their short lives. A six-year-old who I thought was only two for the same reason. They are so unbelievably little for their age! We walked into the area where the children were and were immediately completely overwhelmed with little ones looking for some attention. I think lifted arms must be the universal “pick me up” sign. I already had one little boy in my arms, but wanted to be right with the kids and so I sat down on the floor. Within a few minutes, there were four children in my lap and one behind me playing peek-a-boo behind my shoulders. I kind of felt like a lap tap-tap—how many kids could fit in my lap? One more.
I just sat with the kids for awhile. Anyone who knows me at all knows that kids and their welfare are my heart and the call on my life. To protect my heart, I didn’t even go into the back room with other people where the sickest of the sickest children were. Maybe that made me a bit of a coward, but my heart would not have survived…not just yet. And besides, the kids in the room where I was needed love too. At one point the staff had the children singing in Creole and I recognized the song. “Jesus Loves the Little Children”. I only recognized one word, “blanc” or “white”. To hear these children, to whom life has dealt an unbelievably unfair hand, singing about the love of Jesus Christ—then and there they officially stole my heart away. I may go back to the United States to live out my life, but a piece of my heart will always remain with those singing children.
One of the children sitting in my lap just looked sad and would start crying instantly if something did not go his way. Another was all smiles and giggled a lot. Another just stared at me. Eventually it dawned that he was not staring at me, he was staring at my glasses—he kept trying to take them off. I guess that makes sense, the only other person I saw wearing glasses was another American. Several kids came up behind me and kept playing with my hair, which I had left down. Little fingers rearranged the tiny clips holding my top pony in place, and at one point I was using my hair as a shield to play peek-a-boo with one of the kiddos (okay, so super long hair has its advantages).
It was obvious that some of these kids were just not feeling well. Rather than being smiley, trundly little kids, they just laid where they were and stared around with sad little faces. They have seen too much, been through too much for how young they are. I saw several old little people, if that makes sense. At the same time, however, these kids are the future of Haiti. Though they have seen a lot, you can just tell in several of them that they are going to grab life by the tail and make it work. “Degaje” – “make it work”.
When it came time for me to go into the backroom and help out, I had to wiggle my way out of this pile of kids. They did not want to let me go, they did not want to let any of us go—when we tried to set a child down, we were met with resistance in the form of an arched back that would not let you set them down without fear of breaking their neck or arms, hands, and legs clinging to our clothing. All they want and need for now is love and food. Thank the Lord that they receive both in that place.
Someone just asked me, as I sit typing this post in the guesthouse back in Port au Prince, if I was okay because apparently I seem “off”. The kids hurt. Seeing legs barely bigger around than my thumb hurt. Seeing utter despair in the eyes of several children too young to remember these years hurt. At the same time, I saw hope in their eyes and in the eyes of those caring for the children. I saw a strength that many woosified Americans can only dream of. There may be hunger, but there is also a future for this great nation. As long as the people are empowered to do for themselves, there is a bright future ahead of this people.
Side note before I forget: Lori also showed us a birthing kit they put together for women to take home with them. In the States, we picture this grand elaborate thing that would fill a backpack at least. In Haiti, this birthing kit fills a sandwich bag and contains string to tie off the umbilical cord, a clean razor to cut the cord (many women and babies were contracting and dying of tetanus from using dirty can lids and shards of glass to cut their umbilical cords), some gauze, cotton balls, and some antiseptic. We were also told that Haitian women are not told to go to the hospital--many births are perfectly safe happening at home, so long as the women do not try to yank the placenta out of themselves before they birth it naturally...that causes life endangering hemorraging.
AMONG THE THINGS I SAW TODAY:
· School children walking home in their uniforms.
· Four people riding a moto.
· A woman walking with a full-sized cooler balanced on her head.
· A young boy who was flying a kite made of a plastic bags and some sticks.
· A boy named Denny who has a condition where his head is huge, but he does not let that prevent him from being a little boy.
· Trash fires on the side of the road.
· People living in garbage piles alongside a river, picking through the trash to find something, anything, that they might be able to sell on the street.
· Kids laughing with hands interlocked as they walked back home.