As I think back to our visit to Haiti this past January, I can’t help but remember the look on one of the kids’ faces upon our arrival. His name was Michael and he ran up to hug one of our group members, Jamie. He had met Jamie about 9 months before when Jamie volunteered for 7 weeks working on medical education and infrastructure plans with St. Luke Foundation. Michael is now 7 years old and lives in the orphanage that is run by St. Luke’s Foundation. Jamie bonded with the boy while driving to a different orphanage about 2 hours away from Port-au-Prince.
We were there for medical training and education in January, but we took hours to sit and play with the kids. We walked in and Michael ran to Jamie shouting his name, elated that he had returned. Jamie hugged him, the three of us did, and we talked as the children wanted our iPhones and to listen to music and play on the “apps” they had heard about.
We didn’t teach or train anyone that afternoon, we didn’t provide emergency medical care to kids or adults, we laughed and played childish games and enjoyed the genuine appreciation and smiles of the younger children.
I glanced over at one point and some of the kids were finishing up cleaning the dishes from the meal they all just enjoyed. Smiling, taking responsibility for their part. They have bunk beds, 10-12 per small room, they share clothes, and when they need bigger sizes, they take the hand me downs from the older children. They don’t have iPods, or iPads, X-box, or internet there. They have checkers and tennis balls and pick-up sticks. They read books and play with each other outside in the courtyard. They are 5-16 years of age. The older kids take responsibility for the younger kids and they all go to school, each and every day. There was a nurse, Bridget, she was American and had dedicated her time to making sure the kids were healthy. She learned to speak Creole and they loved her so much because she was kind. We played Miss Mary Mark, the hand game where you sing the song and clap, which spans all cultures, I guess, because I remember that from when I was 7.
We left there and they all waved good bye. We took some photos that captured our joy of the visit. We returned to the hospital that day and met some more of the clinical staff. The helpers who worked for St. Luke’s. They were not Doctors, or Nurses, they in fact had not had much of any training, but they did whatever needed to be done at the hospital. Moving a patient, getting supplies, triage. How could these workers do so much of everything but not be the expert in anything?
We are traveling back to train these hospital workers. We will train them in BLS skills and teach them how to prepare, predict and assist with higher level care of sick patients. I met one more worker who inspired me. Last year, he was at the orphanage, living there. He now works for the hospital. He aged out and wanted to give back to the community that raised him; give back to the community that schooled him and provided him with meals and a place to sleep. He wanted to help both the St. Luke foundation and his community that helped him by helping others.
The circle was almost complete. We are going back to complete it. We will train him to be a better helper. The knowledge will allow him to advance his career. At 17 now, he will become an integral part of the cycle. The cycle that incorporates all that is good in people.
The Boston area has had a tough couple of weeks. I wondered if leaving Boston and giving back to a different community so far from here was right? It’s more than right. Educating people to help themselves creates sustainability in their own culture, in their own area, in their home. 10,000 law enforcement came to our home to assist in a time of need this past week. They were the experts and could make a difference after a heart-wrenching disaster. They prevailed. We will head to Haiti for the first of many trips, we are the experts, we will make a difference, we will help their community prevail.