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Published: August 26th 2014
The drive back to the village was uneventful. Intermittent bouts of sleep and wakefulness, intermingled with observing the scenery whizzing by...that was the three hour drive back. By the time we were dropped off at the top of the hill, it was getting dark. We had at least an hour trek. We gathered all our things, including groceries, and began our descent/ascent. The evening was cool and the breeze evaporated the moisture on our skin. It was refreshing. It was dark enough that we needed our headlamps. The silence from artificial noise was meditative. The insects and birds chirping was the soundtrack playing to the rhythm of our feet, the inhalations and exhalations of our breath. I would do my best not to drop the bag of eggs.
The home we were staying at was a welcome sight. The generator was on and dinner was ready to be served. We unloaded our things, gulped down what seemed to be an endless amount of water, and a small group of us sat down for dinner. Ed and Luis weren't hungry, so I sat with Ms. Brice, Ms Miriam, and Pastor Remy, who just joined us from Stamford Conn. He was emigrating
back to Haiti, his homeland, and was here to teach a leadership seminar to local leaders and villagers alike. A few others joined. We sat, we prayed, we ate. I felt like a part of this family, even though I couldn't understand the conversations. But laughter and smiles are universal after all. They need no translation. Ms Brice translated the rest. After dinner, we remained and delved into some serious conversations. I had many queries about the state of the economy, education, and healthcare. Haiti was a population of about 11 million. Six million of those were young people. It was an increasingly young society. Only 55% of the youth were in school. These are the future leaders of the country. They weren't being equipped with the proper tools to empower themselves and thus, their people. Education was not government run, but dependent on churches, volunteers, international support. Passing the 6th grade was a huge accomplishment. It wasn't uncommon to find 6th graders in their twenties. It wasn't uncommon to find adults who couldn't read or write. To get a real job with benefits, you had to have connections. To get access to medical care, the same. Truly, this was
a stratified society; the haves vs. the have nots. It's no different anywhere else in the world. But here, it was extreme. It's an age old problem, but it still boggled my mind. How could you, as a leader, a politician, see your own people suffer? Corruption was rampant in the Haitian government. But it wasn't just Haitians allowing this to occur. Ms Brice used to work for the UN and World Bank. She would watch foreign contractors come in, stay at resorts, grease the palms of government leaders for proper signatures on their documents, do absolutely no work, then write a glowing report of their "accomplishments" and leave. Moneys would sit in large banks. It took a helluva lot of jumping through hoops and red tape to get even a dollar released. Politicians were guilty, corporations were guilty, foreign interests were guilty. Their was enough blame to go around. Ms Brice bypassed all this by being on the ground, hands on, working for the people. Her organization was truly DOING great work, not just patting themselves on the back for good ideas. I felt extremely proud to be a part of this and felt lucky to find her and
her network. I envisioned wonderful things for the village, the country. I found my mission. This was my calling.
We talked about raising money for an ATV. That would make a great ambulance and it was cost effective compared to a truck or SUV. Out of curiosity, I asked how much a horse was. Then a donkey, then a mule. Five hundred dollars for a mule seemed the most cost effective. Thus, our idea for an "amuleance" was born. It would be simple to build a wheeled cart big enough to secure a prone, immobilized patient. I promised Ms Brice that I would take to social media in the morning and try to raise at least $500. We may be able to purchase our amuleance by the end of the next day....
Today is our last day here. We just finished the last of our training. There are many problems here, but that has always been the case. Our message to everyone was that solutions were needed. Problems would always exist, no matter the abundance of resources. It was their job as community leaders to identify these problems and come up with solutions. New problems would
arise. If they banded together, so would new solutions. Even these solutions would have issues. But I hope our message was clear- do the best with what you have. I definitely detected frustrations and attachment to old ways. It was clear and justified. We veered off from actual first aid skills to a larger, more community oriented topic. These five days weren't enough to address them. I knew I was coming back, with a larger contingent, of course.
After the presentation ended, three community leaders got up and expressed their love and thanks for our work. They hoped that it wouldn't be our last trip. I assured them that it was just the beginning. I held back the tears that wanted to trickle out. I felt their genuine thanks, their gratitude, their love for us as their brothers. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck. My last message was, "When, not if these systems are put in place and become successful for your respective villages, it will be an example to others and they will follow suit. When this happens, you will not only be a strong village, but a strong nation of villages. I have
learned much more from you than you can ever have learned from me and I love you all as well."
The rest of the day was spent at home. I finally taped my ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, nominating Ed in the process. He followed suit. Ms Brice, Pastor Remy, myself, and Ed sat within the gated dining area/porch after dinner and conversed about God, religion, politics, relationships Haiti...all the serious topics one rarely discusses at home. And by one, I mean myself. It was good to voice my opinions about things that I think a lot about on my own. I knew I needed a network of people that did this more often.
I also tried the local moonshine- I had two small bottles, sipped slowly through the evening. Ms Brice told me that they would knock me on my ass. I was up for the challenge. I slept like a baby...
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