’17s and ’19s head to Haiti: Day One!

Post for Friday, June 10, written by Graham Barbour ’17 and Ingrid Benkovitz ’19:

Departure day at Norfolk International Airport. Next stop: Haiti!

Departure day at Norfolk International Airport. Next stop: Haiti!

As we disembarked the plane in Port Au Prince Thursday evening, we were bombarded by the scents of diesel fumes, unwashed bodies, and wood smoke. And we loved it. Stepping out of the airport, we boarded a van and made our way through the bustling night life of the capital.  After a short ride we arrived at Operation Blessing, International, an international humanitarian NGO working on improving the lives of those affected by the 2010 earthquake that rattled the nation. Tired and hungry after a full day of travel, Ryan and Andrew devoured a dish (or two) of lasagna, and then we settled in to play upwards of three hours of cards.

After a long day of travel, unwinding at the OBI Relax Guest House.

After a long day of travel, unwinding at the OBI Relax Guest House.

Today (Friday), we rose to pancakes and fresh fruit at the popular hour of 6 am. Then we proceeded to wait for the ride to Hinche, the town which we would be staying in, for two hours. Piling into two cars, we made our way up Route 3 into the Central Plateau. After an hour’s ride, Ray unfolded himself to get out of the back seat and we proceeded to tour the Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasante/Haitian Government Teaching Hospital in Mirebalais, the largest and best health center in the Caribbean. It was the ’19’s first time seeing the facilities, and as Kara Kaufman so eloquently stated, “It was cool.” She later remarked that she was “surprised by the beauty and openness of the hospital.”

The incredible HUM Facility in Mirebalais, which is entirely run by solar energy.

The incredible HUM Facility in Mirebalais, which is entirely run by solar energy.

Ray folded himself up again and we took a brief ride up the mountain to tour the Nourimamba facility, where fortified peanut butter is produced. As we toured the factory, the ’19’s were intrigued by the detailed process, while enjoying the respite from the heat. We learned that, unlike normal peanut butter, this peanut butter is filled with additional vitamins and is actually given as a prescription to malnourished patients.

The original PIH/ZL hospital in Cange.

The original PIH/ZL hospital in Cange.

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James at Tito at the PIH/ZL Hospital in Cange

From there, we drove to the PIH/ZL hospital in Cange, a picturesque institution sprawling over a forested hill. Trees enveloped the winding trail and a light breeze revived an expired Mrs. Hopkins. Unfortunately, most of the hospital was closed due to the weekend, but Helen and Ryan still managed to capitalize on the situation as they befriended Tito, a young boy who enjoyed selfies and big hugs, even from James with his two broken wrists.

For the final time, we loaded the van and everyone promptly passed out, exhausted from the day’s experiences. 45 minutes later we pulled into the Midwives for Haiti house in Hinche and started to prepare for the next day. Tomorrow we plan to head to the nearby rural community of Clory to monitor and evaluate the efficacy of the biosand water filters and Luci Lights that were distributed by GHFs last summer.

Reuniting with Ina May, the Midwives for Haiti feline, in Hinche.

Reuniting with Ina May, the Midwives for Haiti feline, in Hinche.

 

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