October 24, 2011
Sometimes I think my day is going to be an easy one. I have everything planned out. What orphanage we will be visiting today...who needs medication because they haven't been feeling well...what time I need to return to the EDV house for a meeting. Yet, if their is one thing I have learned from my time in Haiti, it that there is no typical or easy day. I have to be ready for anything at any moment.
A recent walk to the noon clinic at La Main Tendre Orphanage was a good example of this. As myself and a group of three volunteers got off our tap tap (Haiti's cost efficient version of a taxi) there was a group of people circled a few feet from where we had got off. A man was laying on the street and the group stood and looked at him with frantic curiosity. At the same time, there was nobody actually doing anything. Just a lot of staring and chatting.
I introduced myself to the crowd as a local nurse and began to assess the man on the street. He was muttering a few words but I was unable to understand him. I started to gather information from the onlookers. He had been working outside all day and fell to the ground about an hour ago. I asked why no one had moved him to the side of the road away from the cars or called for help, but no one had an answer. After ensuring that there was no head, neck, or back trauma I moved him to a chair in the shade. A volunteer that was with me asked if he has a phone. He said yes and handed it to her. She began to look for a family or friend to contact. We eventually got the story from him that he had not eaten in two days and had not had a sip to drink since the morning. It was a blistering 92 degrees that day. Slowly, with a small syringe, I gave him sips of cool water. He started to feel better. We got in touch with a friend that was on the way from a few blocks over. A woman who made street food put together a small bowl of soup for him as well before we left.
That day we were almost an hour late to the clinic. We explained what had happened to the orphanage directors and they certainly did not mind. One of the children asked, why did you stop? She didn't see the reason why it made sense to stop and "inconvenience" ourselves. This was a good opportunity for a life lesson I thought. I explained to her the importance of not turning a blind eye to another person's suffering. That if we collectively do nothing, then the pattern of indifference continues. Now, certainly I used simpler language, but she got the point.
Weeks later I saw the same little girl picking up one of the other children who had fallen a few steps and scraped her knee. She proceeded to help wash the knee and rocked the crying child for a few moments. She caught my eye and I called out to her, "tre' bon cheri!" It appeared that in some way, the lesson had been learned.
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