I have been to Haiti with my family a three times. We spent most of the time at the hospital in Petionville which is no longer standing due to the earthquake in 2010 If I close my eyes I can smell it. It smells of vinegar, skin and illness. There we held the babies and visited the sick and dying. There was always a line of people outside waiting patiently for help. Some people waited for days.
We visited a home for dying women and my mom suggested that we give the ladies massages and so we put on gloves and massaged their backs. All too often with donations, the quality is not there and so the gloves broke several times. The ladies lined up to have their backs rubbed.
Another time we visited a hospital in City Soleil, There were several dead bodies lined up with sheets covering them to be blessed and waiting for a sort of morgue service to come and remove the bodies. We had finished praying for their souls and a van came and picked up the bodies and literally threw them in the back of the van like a sack of potatoes. I will never forget the sound of the dead bodies hitting the metal of the van.
On my last trip to Haiti, I connected with Kieran who was just about to go to the Dominican and open a new NPH home for children there. He invited me to come and volunteer. I was there for the beginning when there were only 35 children divided into two houses. It was easy to get to know each child and the institution wasn't yet established. I went twice both for extended periods of time. My parents and TJ came down and we had fun taking the children to a baseball game and to the beach. My favorite memory is loading 12 small children in the rental car (no car seats) and taking them to get an ice cream and play on the outdoor McDonald's equipment. They each had an ice cream and climbed to the top of the play equipment and all started singing a song together. I found that the Dominican while is still poor and full of social issues is no where near as tragic as Haiti. People are poor but happy and it seems to function. Haitians living in the DR are treated poorly and many work for a dollar a day on the Batays or sugar cane fields with a machete chopping cane. It is hard to believe this is the same island, each side managed differently with different histories.
Haiti has a long way to go in terms of human rights and infrastructure and a functioning economy and society. Haiti's history teaches us that they are fighters and have always been so. Slaves fought for independence and Haiti has been an independent country for over 200 years. Haitian people are resilient but it seems all they have ever known is struggle and fight.