Friday, April 2, 2010

Haiti: Thankfulness and Compassion Amid the Destruction

British nurse Nancy Connolly volunteered with International Medical Corps for two weeks in Haiti at the Petit Goave mobile clinic.

I left for Haiti on Jan 25th, two weeks after the earthquake and spent the next 2 weeks primarily in Petit Goave setting up remote clinics, following a couple of days at the hospital in Port-au-Prince.

When you leave the airport, you drive past incredible destruction. At first you take a few pictures but as the reality settles, you simply stop. It is difficult to comprehend the amount of devastation. Spray painting on the outside walls of buildings looks at first to be graffiti and then you realize it is a message: the building has been searched for dead bodies.

The road out to Petit Goave is cracked and rockslides continue with the daily after-shocks. International Medical Corps set up clinics in 4 locations and we saw over 1,000 patients in little over a week. I want to stress that entire population is living outside in tents or under tarps, offering little protection from the coming rains. Portable water has to be transported from a clean well and medical supplies are being brought in but overall resources are limited.

I will hold many people close to my heart from my time in Haiti. One little boy, probably 11-years-old. sat before me with such dignity while he told me his symptoms and as I asked questions I discovered that all of his family were dead. He was now alone. I saw one woman sweeping off her brick makeshift steps in case a guest visited. She now lived under a 4x4 sheet, in a camp on the side of the road, but she took pride in keeping it clean. The 80-year-old woman who volunteered to translate all day and thanked us for helping her country. The many priests and ministers who preached to the Haitian parishioners a message of cooperation and asked them to thank the people who had come, and to work with them as they were all trying to help. All this amid a constant stream of funerals each weekend.

During the week the Haitian people are digging themselves out using shovels, pick axes and sledge hammers.

The last impression I will share is one of hope. Relief efforts continue and will be needed for a long time to come. Haiti was in trouble prior to the quake, that is true, but no country can function when so devastated. I saw the Haitian people working to bring order and although there are troubles, there is a rising intolerance toward trouble-makers. The majority are speaking out and letting it be known they want and respect the assistance they are receiving.

If you would like to see more images of Nancy's experience with International Medical Corps in Haiti, click here.

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