Haiti Fact #15: Cap-Haitien has lots of marching bands (ra-ra in Creole). One will march by once or twice each month. They like to play “Stand By Me.”
From April 23-29, Eli and I were in Cange, a small town in the Central Plateau. It is the home of Zanmi Lasante/Partners in Health, and plays an important role in Mountains Beyond Mountains. We went to Cange as translators for free clinics that were held in the surrounding villages over the course of the week. The week I spent there provided a unique opportunity to break the routine and have an adventure. It did not disappoint.
We met the group at the airport in Port-au-Prince and then took a van up into the mountains. The group for which we would translate included doctors, nurses, and a pharmacist, among others. The week moved quickly: arrive on a Saturday, plan and prep on Sunday, clinics Monday through Thursday. None of the four villages we went to are accessible by road, and two are up in the mountains. We even had to cross a lake to get to one of them. It suffices to say that these villages have neither easy nor regular access to doctors. That was the objective of the trip: provide free medical care to those that need it badly but have a hard time accessing it. All of that being said, Zanmi Lasante (ZL) does a great job maintaining a network of health staff in remote villages such as these. ZL health agents provide medication (especially for blood pressure) to those who need it. The visiting medical professionals from the US came to support and enhance the services already in place. Basically, a diverse network of people committed to providing care to this region made all of this possible. By regularly returning to the same region and maintaining relationships with the people who live there, doctors and nurses from the US can improve the health of entire communities in the Central Plateau. Participating in such an awesome project changed how I see Haiti and the role of foreigners here.
“Baptism by fire” accurately describes much of the experience I’ve had here, and this trip was no exception. The days started with long hot hikes, transitioned into hours of translating for patients before they went to see the doctor, and then finished with more long hot hikes. And then the following morning we got up early to do it again. This was the first time I’ve ever translated at a clinic too. But I expected to be physically and mentally exhausted. I was not, however, remotely prepared for a different kind of challenge. Hanging out with people from the US (other than Eli) for the first time in months left me confused and kind of freaked out. It took days for me to feel comfortable interacting with people from the US again. I even found myself seeking out the Haitians in the group just to recharge. Thinking and feeling that was unsettling. As the week went on we all had fun together and had great conversations, but I briefly worried that I had forgotten how to talk to Americans. An experience like this challenges one in a variety of ways, which made it a blessing to have such a fun group to share it with.
Haiti offers exhausting but rewarding opportunities that change a person. Sitting here today, I have no idea what I am going to do with all the memories, new ideas and random skills that living here has provided. For the moment I just try to stay thankful that it all happened. Months ago, I finally read the entire New Testament. One verse from it stuck out to me so much that I put it up on my wall. It goes like this:
We troubled on every side, yet not distressed. We are perplexed, but not in despair. Persecuted, but not forsaken. Cast down, but not destroyed. Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body (2 Corinthians 4: 8-10).
That verse has served as a compass and an objective to guide what I do here. It’s an ideal that helps get me back out there to try again the next day. Cange was a more intense and concentrated version of the kind of challenges we face here that leave me needing guidance and support like that. But regardless of the stress that came with it, I am thankful for the chance to get involved and to try to make a difference. I still have some time left here and I want to keep doing exactly that.
A special thank you to these donors: