Written by Ann Petersen, HFH board member and part of the March medical team to Terre Blanche.
I arrived in Haiti just seven weeks after the 7.0 earthquake of January 12. After seeing the devastation on the news and reading stories I wasn’t sure what to expect. As our plane made its approach into Port-au-Prince everyone was peering out the windows to get a first glimpse of the area that had been hit by the massive earthquake. A hint of the destruction could be seen as piles of rubble came into view. We soon touched down…
As we drove along the outskirts of Port-au-Prince I didn’t see widespread areas of collapsed buildings. What I did notice was the usual hustle and bustle of life on the streets but with a changed backdrop of broken homes and buildings. Homes that appeared intact have tents or tarps outside where people are living – people are afraid to sleep in their homes or spend any time inside buildings. We passed several vacant lots full of tents or tarps and outside the city we saw a hillside filled with shelters built of blue tarps and plastic hung on stick frames. As the rainy season approaches these temporary shelters are inadequate and present health issues…
We arrived in Terre Blanche after dark and were warmly welcomed with singing and a prayer of thanksgiving by some of our Haitian co-workers. Our medical team had been scheduled for over a year and we worked alongside the Haitian clinic staff to meet the needs of people coming through the clinic. The earthquake was heard and felt throughout the country of Haiti but in our area there was no loss of life and the buildings are intact although some have cracks now. Like in PAP, people live with fear about future earthquakes. This area has not had a harvest for two years due to the devastating hurricanes of 2008 and then droughts that dried up later crops. The riverbed has only a trickle of water, barely enough to wash clothes. Many households have doubled in size as displaced people have moved out of the earthquake-affected areas. In a community that is already feeling the lack of food and water, more people have caused additional strain. Because of the generosity of churches and individuals, we were able to give beans and rice to every patient coming through the clinic – that was over 1,100 people.
Clinic of Hope stories: Healthy newborn baby boy; severe leg injury from a motorcycle accident; advanced cancer diagnosis given to several different patients; beans and rice given to every patient; waking in the morning to hymns of praise being sung by those in the clinic waiting area; young woman suffering depression after her five year old son and 21-year-old sister died in the earthquake; people receiving prayer as well as medicine; smiles of children as they receive lollipops at the doctor tables; happiness that we were able to see every waiting patient each day; patients spending the night in the observation room; minor surgeries done; malnourished children receiving high nutrition peanut butter supplement on the Medika Mamba program; and the list goes on.
Terre Blanche School: There are 850 students registered at the Terre Blanche school in grades pre-K through 9th grade. It was wonderful to see how much these students value their education and love and respect their teachers. Students receive a meal each day, a generous serving of rice and beans with a sauce. There were four educators on our team and we were able to spend time in the primary and secondary classrooms. We met each of the teachers, talked with students and then had the joy of going into the 9th grade English class to have English conversations with small groups of students. Students start learning French in pre-K with English and Spanish added in the secondary school.
It was a blessing to tell people we met that Haiti and her people are not alone or forgotten – that people back home care and are praying for them. I told them that we have seen and heard news reports of prayer gatherings, hymn singing, church services and people’s individual faith – it is a testimony to the rest of the world. I continue to be impressed by the strength, courage and faith of the Haitian people – I see hope. There will continue to be difficult days ahead for the people of Haiti as they deal with the hardships of life and the results of the earthquake. Please remember Haiti and her people and the many needs that exist.