Today was a full day - full of activities, education, sights, smells, emotions, lots of smiles and some tears (some of which admittedly, were from me.)
We started our day with breakfast cooked by our wonderful Haitian staff then packed up our tap tap and headed off to Cite Soleil. Our itinerary said we were going to meet the water truck there however this is Haiti and things never seem to go exactly as one plans. The water truck was delayed so instead of killing time, we took advantage of our circumstances and jumped out to have a 'play date' with the kids in the area and then took some time to tour Hope Church and School. Once our water truck arrived, we did the water distribution. We followed that with a tour of the Innovation lab at the school and then did elder visits through the newly established elder program in Cite Soleil. We came back from that to learn about the new Hope Clinic which opened as recently as last week and then hustled out of Cite Soleil to head to the Home for the Sick and Dying Babies. Remember the first sentence? It was a full day!
There are SO many details one could share with you about everything we saw - families living in tin structures that would fit inside my bathroom at home. Difference being, my bathroom has running water, electricity, a flush toilet and a trash can. Families lined up outside of the medical clinic waiting patiently for their chance to receive medical treatment. Visiting the elderly man who sleeps on a concrete floor with a blanket as his bed. Four generations of a family all living in Cite Soleil. The newness of the new computer lab. The new clinic stocked with brand new medical equipment and medications. The babies and toddlers at the Home for the Sick and Dying, each looking longingly at each person walking in, hoping to be held.
Henry described our day best at our nightly debriefing, devotions and word of the day. He described it as a day with book ends: The beginning of the day seeing the amazing poverty as we drove into Cite Soleil - the poorest slum area in the western hemisphere. It is an area approximately 4 square miles where over 300,000 people live. Most of the area does not have running water so the people rely on the water trucks to provide them water for drinking, cooking and bathing. There is no sewer system, no garbage collection, and houses are made from tin or cinder block.
The end of our day was our stop at the Home for Sick and Dying with at least 75 children sleeping in cribs side by side (which would definitely not pass standards in the US for safety).. We did our best to pick up the children, hold, hug, cuddle them but at some point, you had to put them down and that was just heart wrenching to hear them cry.
In between the beginning and the end of our day, were the great things that are happening at Hope School and Clinic. The Innovation lab is new, inside this air conditioned pod is space for 25 students to come in for a class and work on ipads with apps and they are linked to tvs. The goal of the program is to educate these young students starting at age 3 using apps to eventually teach and lead them into programming.
Hope Clinic is filling a need in this community. Patients pay only a small amount (less than $1) to have access to the medical care here. The first day they opened, they had expected to be able to see 10 patients while they got used to everything. The dr. changed his mind when there were over 60 people lined up the first day, he didn't want to turn any of them away.
So although at times I felt despair throughout my day, there was hope in the middle of it. The excitement and energy of the kids at Hope school, the enthusiasm of Ash the teacher at the Innovation Lab, the newly started Elder program at Cite Soleil to minister to people that can easily be overlooked, the love and dedication of the sisters and volunteers at the Home for the Sick and Dying to provide love and care for the precious children staying there.
Shannon shared a quote with us from Mother Teresa, "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop."
Tomorrow is another day for all of us to bring joy and hope to another drop and keep that ocean full.