Although we turned in every night by 8 o’clock, I couldn’t get to sleep until nearly 3 most nights I was in Haiti. It wasn’t due to the stray dogs barking and fighting outside my window at all hours of the night, it wasn’t because the springs in my bed were digging into my side, and it wasn’t due to the intense heat that weighted down on me as I lay there, it was from my mind overflowing with images and sounds that will forever be imbedded in my brain. The smiling, excited faces of all the children we passed on our way up to the mountain; the line of patients in the waiting room of the clinic that walked as far as 5 miles one way just to see an American doctor; the children of the school at Na Mango crowding around us just wanting to touch us; the equivalence of women pregnant with a fetus, and children pregnant with malnutrition; the pure joy and excitement that exudes from a child after giving them something as simple as a hat, and the desperation in their eyes wishing that you would give them more food or water.
I know I hear commercials,info-mercials, and see newspaper and magazine ads about ending child hunger. And yes, when I hear and see these types of commercials, my heart breaks for that short amount of time until the commercial showing the starving child ends, or until I turn the page to read something about the latest fashion trends in Hollywood. So yes, I am aware that child hunger is ubiquitous; but once I turn the page, or change the channel, that “heartbreak” is somewhat lifted off my shoulders. This “heartbreak” was louder than a million of those barking dogs, dug deeper than a million of those bedsprings, and felt heavier than the heat in the air and the layer of dust covering my skin. I wanted to give the water that I had to every child I shook hands with; I wanted to fit every single child peeking through the church windows with a new pair of shoes; I wanted to give every child the food that I had eaten that day, give them money, clothes, anything that I could offer. I went to Haiti with the intention of helping in any way that I possibly could, but I don’t think I have ever felt so helpless in my whole life. This weight of heartbreak and helplessness was what kept me up at night, somewhat similar to the feeling of insomnia due to school work that is unfinished, and is due by 10 am the next morning. The difference this time is that it isn’t work; It’s not some presentation I have to give about Piaget’s Sensorimotor Stage of early childhood development, or the thousands of note cards I have yet to study covering the ins and outs of Autism, it’s a child’s life, and the pressing deadline is the ultimate fate of 30% of Haiti’s children before their fifth birthday: death. Children who are just like children in America: energetic, happy, pure, simple-minded, and to the point. Children who play soccer and who dance, children who jump rope and sing songs; only differing from kids here because they are hungry and malnourished.
Before I had gone people kept telling me that going to Haiti would be a life-changing experience, and it was nothing short of that. After I came back, people ask me how it was, and I still cannot come up with a good enough response, aside from, “well, how much time do you have?” And even then I find myself rambling on for hours. But I am glad that I have not come up with a succinct enough response. Because every time I start rambling, I am reminded of all those eyes staring at us while playing in the schoolyard, or the enormous, swelling bellies of some of the malnourished children. Although I am reminded of my helpless feeling, it also reminds me that I am only one person and can only do and give so much, and that I cannot help every child, but at least I can help save one child. By giving $50 to Meds and Food for Kids, I can help save a child’s life.