Written from Haiti by Sarah Zollner Case, March 2009 team member:
Three years ago, on my first trip to Haiti, one of the first Haitians I met was Vilcin. As we set up the clinic, we recruited Vilcin to help us package vitamins out of a huge bin into individual Ziploc sandwich baggies. We set up an assembly line and before long we were a vitamin packing factory, cranking out baggies in steady rhythm. Vilcin thought our focus on efficiency was funny, and soon was spurring us on with a jovial “Quick, quick!”
A year later, we were reunited with our friend when we returned to Terre Blanche, and when he saw us he immediately shouted “Quick, quick!” and broke into laughter. Each year, Vilcin is a friendly and familiar face, and over time we have come to consider him a friend …
I have been watching for Vilcin since we arrived on Saturday, but he hadn’t materialized in the clinic until this morning. My face lit up when I saw him, and I called his name and rushed over to give him a hug. He looked up and said, “Sarah!” As soon as I got close, I could see how gaunt he has become, and when I hugged him I could feel his bony body trembling. Today, this six foot tall man weighs 120 pounds. His bright demeanor has been replaced by the quiet resignation that comes with a serious illness in the third world. After hugging him I had to make a quick exit so he wouldn’t see me crumble. I cried in the corner for a few minutes, composed myself, and went back to work.
Vilcin saw a doctor and was sent to the lab for a blood test which confirmed our worst fears — he is HIV positive and is likely in the advanced stages of full blown AIDS. My friend Vilcin is going to die … probably soon. We don’t know for sure whether his wife has contracted the virus, but it seems likely that she will receive the same death sentence as Vilcin. Their children, who are students in the Terre Blanche school, may be orphans before they are grown.
Christ, have mercy.
To read more, visit Sarah’s blog.