Haiti Day One: “The Day that Felt Like a Week”

On the way home from today’s last activity, Stuart exclaimed, “this day has felt like a week!” and I know every member of our team would agree. Our day began early in Miami with a 4:00 AM wake-up call and a 6:55 AM flight to Port-au-Prince. A quick two hour flight later, we were descending into the capital city with amazing views of the “mountains beyond mountains” in the distance and the sprawling ‘burbs of P-au-P. We navigated the airport with ease (and none of our bags went missing!) and met our Operation Blessing, International (OBI) hosts, Crawford and Dorothy, outside the terminal in a “mass of humanity” as Scott Fowler called it. We zigzagged through the city, passing roadside stands of artisan wares, piles of used tires for sale, telephone recharge stations, even horses and cows, on our way to OBI’s RELAX guest house.
After unpacking in our comfortable air-conditioned rooms, we watched the short film featuring the creation of the Sun City Picture House. I encourage you to check out the film which tells a very inspiring story of a group of individuals that designed, built, and decorated a movie theater post-earthquake in the middle of a tent city. We headed to the scene of the crime after our film viewing to see the tent city’s Picture House in person and to visit a water chlorination and distribution system. The site of tent after tent after tent, made from USAID tarp, made the reality of life post-earthquake accessible and overwhelming. Two and half years after the earthquake, it is estimated that around 500,000 individuals are still living in these tent cities, with each tent housing an average of 5-10 people.

After lunch back at the guest house, we headed to Zanmi Beni, the disabled children’s home that is a joint effort of Operation Blessing and Partners in Health. We were met by Frankie Lucien, the Haiti Education Coordinator for Partners in Health, and she and Crawford of OBI offered us a joint tour of the facility. This home serves as an oasis for these children, offering dignified housing, care, and physical and art therapy. Zanmi Beni’s grounds are also home to a tilapia fish farm project which is marked to contribute to communities nutritionally and economically in the short and long term. Our visit to Zanmi Beni concluded with a very interactive and informative talk with Frankie Lucien of Partners in Health and her colleagues from Rwanda, Peter and Alice, who had just come from the International AIDS Conference in D.C. Frankie took us through the history of PIH and explained the reasoning and background of PIH’s mission to always offer a preferential option for the poor. We discussed the accompaniment model of using community health workers for prevention, education, and treatment previously thought impossible. We ended our conversation by discussing medicine versus social medicine, and I think everyone left the room feeling even more jazzed about our four years together to continue these thought-provoking exchanges.

After saying goodbye to the precocious kids at Zanmi Beni, we headed to the baseball field. In the week leading up to our trip, I asked our fellows to watch the short film “Baseball in the Time of Cholera” to gain a deeper understanding of the cholera outbreak that struck Haiti last year. Visiting the place and people featured in the film was exciting enough, but then our group took to the field and played some ball. Coach Fowler was in heaven! Definitely an incredible ending to “the day that felt like a week.”

After a delicious dinner (including homemade cookies and ice cream!), more conversations, and some journaling, we’re hitting the hay to prepare for another “week” tomorrow.

Aneesh’s Highlight of the Day: Playing baseball with the Haitian kids.

Brian’s Highlight of the Day: Interacting with the Haitian kids playing baseball.

Bridget’s Highlight of the Day: Playing with the kids at Zanmi Beni; meeting all the great kids at baseball.

Elizabeth’s Highlight of the Day: When a dirt patch in Haiti became Yankee stadium.

Stuart’s Highlight of the Day: Baseball and meeting Joseph.

Wyatt’s Highlight of the Day: Discussing the main goals of PIH with Frankie, Peter, Nadish, and Alice.

6 thoughts on “Haiti Day One: “The Day that Felt Like a Week”

  1. Bill

    Thanks for the wonderful opportunity the program is providing for our fellows and the kids in Haiti! Great job! Thanks for posting your blog also. Really well done!!!
    Bill

    Reply
  2. David Rezelman

    What an invigorating start! Interesting to see how “temporary” USAID tents have sadly had to become semi-permanent structures. Have a great trip!

    Reply
  3. Nancy Flippen

    Mary and Rich have been sharing this with Jim and me. They are great pictures and reports. Thank you so much!!

    Reply
  4. Frances Luter

    This is so amazing!! Great job all!! Very informative and well done blog. Still wish I was there but am betting Stuart is VERY happy I am keeping up via the blog. Carry on fellows and know how proud we are of ALL of you. And as bill said thank you for this opportunity!!!

    Reply

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