Global Birthing Home Foundation’s newest project at MN, a living fence surrounding 20 community garden plots, has been accepted as a ‘pilot’ cause...
It’s All About The People
Before you read, keep in mind that I write more than I speak – I’m not a great summarizer (as you can probably see). Even so, there’s no way I could have possibly hoped to include everything I wanted to in this short essay. I tried to touch on the main points, but just know that there was so much more to this experience than my amateur writing skills could have encompassed.
I was finishing up my semester, just a couple weeks before finals, and I was on Skype with my parents discussing Mountains Beyond Mountains. I was not even halfway through, and like so many others I was already incredibly inspired. It confirmed my idea of a career in medicine, and I especially wanted to explore outside of my privileged first-world bubble. My mom spontaneously suggested I take a trip to Haiti, and after realizing she was serious, I said “yes” half a dozen times. My parents knew about Maison de Naissance and contacted Jim Grant about a potential volunteer opportunity for me. Somehow the timing was perfect, and two weeks later I was on a plane to Port-au-Prince with Jim and a wonderful group of GlobeMed girls from Truman State.
There were so many new sights arriving in Haiti, I couldn’t take my eyes off the window driving through Port-au-Prince and rural Haiti to get to Les Cayes. The country is wild – road lanes are an illusion, you can buy a delicious food from the side of the road out of the window of your car, and even in the countryside things aren’t as neat and tidy as what we are used to. But the system works; there’s really a charm to the unpolished lifestyle, and it’s truly refreshing compared to our extremely structured nation. However, as mentally prepared as I thought I was, the poverty was still striking. I’d heard the stories, I’d seen pictures, but the reality of a situation can’t fully hit you until you see it first-hand. Living in tarp slums, worrying about how to provide for your children…that’s life, that’s reality for so many people. It opened my eyes to a whole new picture of what the human experience and “life” can be.
We arrived in Les Cayes, and the next day, we went to MN for a bit of a tour. I was honestly very impressed. The number of patients and mothers they help in childbirth, prenatal and infant care, testing, and education is astounding considering the size of MN and the rural community. In addition, the atmosphere was always very calm, and every measure is taken to ensure every patient’s privacy. Then and over the next couple of days, the girls and I randomly selected names for their survey to get a statistically significant analysis of the vaccination levels of the babies in the MN zone of service born in 2012. We found that a large portion of the women who visit come from areas outside of the zone, which demonstrates just how great the impact of the clinic is on the community.
When it was time to go out and administer the surveys, we went out in groups with Haitian community health workers and translators to guide us around the rural community. They were such happy and friendly people, and very enthusiastic about the data we were trying to obtain for their community. The mothers we found were just the same – they were happy to take the survey, and they even brought out their babies and, if they had enough, chairs for all of us. We all felt so privileged to be so welcomed. The entire afternoon was incredible, but I have to say listening to Rosenbert, my group’s translator, was one of the highlights. Rosenbert is a very wise man that has a family and helps his community with whatever project he can. I remember specifically two things he said that really stuck with me. One was, “I love to praise God – God gives me everything.” Not everyone could have gotten back on his or her feet after suffering everything that Haiti has suffered. You see it painted on buses, on the roadside, in the fields, everywhere – if there’s one thing these people have, it’s faith. Regardless of your own personal beliefs, the relationships they have with God are inspiring and so genuine. Rosenbert also said, “It is good to visit other countries to see how people live. But Haiti is your home – you have friends in Haiti.” And it was true – I had Miss Lily, our community health worker, the witty cooks at our guesthouse, and even one of the local cats. Haitians are so much happier than many Americans I know, even though they have next-to-nothing by our standards, they have faith, and they have family.
The last two days I was back at MN to fill data into the online database. I admit, it wasn’t quite as exciting as doing the fieldwork, but I still got to hang around the clinic and talk to a few people, as well as notice random statistics in the fields I was entering. At the end of my stay, it felt so strange to say goodbye to the GlobeMed girls and the Haitians I’d met. One week had felt like at least two, and though I write a lot I could not hope to include a decent fraction of everything I experienced. Mountains Beyond Mountains certainly did not let me down, and there is no way I could forget about this place.
I’ll make room for one more thing on this attempt at a summary: it’s all about the people. If there’s one thing I learned during my time in Haiti, that’s it. It’s all about the people. So many try, but you cannot understand what Haitians or any people need, want, believe, think, and feel until you get to know them yourself. I would encourage everyone to have an enlightening experience such as this one in his or her lifetime, but that truly must be kept in mind. These people with so little still have so much, and they have even more to teach us all.
Volunteer at Maison de Naissance