Day 1 in Haiti

We walk off the cool plane into the blistering Haiti heat. Just a second later, however, we were saved by the lovely music of an all male Haitian band in the cool airport. As we arrived at baggage claim, men in red shirts surrounded us offering their assistance in exchange for a bit of money. It is difficult to arrive in a new country—unaware of the culture and mannerisms. We make our way to the bus with our local JDC associate, Jerry, our guide, Cyril, and our driver and security guard. Safety and sense of security overwhelm us all.

We are off to lunch at first at a beautiful restaurant with a sky blue pool. Buffet style (as it seems most of our meals are). Fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and avocado make the perfect start to our Haitian cuisine. And of course, there is rice and beans, and some fish, and meat. After filling ourselves, we scurry back to the bus toward a small building (similar to a wooden or clay shack) just outside of Port-au-Prince. I think we were all a bit confused about what this building could be until a man in a bright orange shirt that read “Afya” appeared.

Afya means “good health” in Swahili. They are an organization that collects, sorts and effectively ships medical, recreational, office, and other needed supplies to developing nations. Our personal Afya guide explains the purpose of Afya and its work in Haiti. They have created physical rehabilitation centers in a few locations throughout Haiti. Afya supplies the resources and trains technicians to treat the disabled; they also encourage them to create their own inventions to help patients to provide sustainability to the facilities.

We saw a homemade hand splint, a wheel attached to a wall to help with elbow and shoulder exercises, and a contraption meant to stretch one’s fingers. The tech showed us how the hand splint was used; he handled his patient with such care it was heart-warming. We then got a chance to ask the patients some questions and all we received was praise toward the wonderful changes Afya had supported in their lives. People with disabilities may be ignored, or even shunned from their families and communities here, so Afya allows them to rebuild their lives, and continue on in a meaningful way. Each of us left the clinic in such amazement by the wonders that occurred among such distress.

We then went on a tour of Port-au-Prince.  Behind a fence stood the Parliament before the earthquake.  But now, nothing remained but an empty piece of land.  It is amazing what a natural disaster can do.  But it was cleaned up well enough that having not been informed, one wouldn’t have guessed anything was missing.

Across from this was the most famous statue in Haiti: a man with his lips on a conch shell.  And next to this statue was the “eternal light;” it is always burning.  It reminded me of the eternal light that is ever-burning above the ark in a synagogue.  Through the van windows we saw many school children, all in uniforms, a private Catholic school, and many street-vendor-like stands.  Also, we saw peoples’ homes.  They are so different relative to those we are accustomed to, and beautiful in their own way, despite the lack of adornments and paint.  We passed what looked like a village community filled with many small homes boarded with metal and sheets for ceilings and walls.  This is completely different to the majority of homes we see on a daily basis in the United States but it is important for people to see how people exist and are so self-sufficient and make the best of life with what they have and are given.

Next, we went to the hotel and some people went swimming.  Then we showered (which felt so nice because it is so hot here!) and went to dinner with Maryse, the president of PRODEV.  The food has been very good!  A lot of rice and beans, though they are not a traditional Hatian staple, according to Cyril.  Also for dinner, we had fish, chicken, cooked vegetables, salad, and orange potato-tasting vegetables.  It was a great first day and looking forward to the rest of our time here!

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May 21, 2013 at 10:24 PM

 

 

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