2012 Haiti Trip Report
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Summerville, SC
It has been said that each trip you make to Haiti is similar to your children. Each one is a little different and special, in it’s own way, but you love them all equally. This year proved to be no different. We had a group of 16, (2) from NYC that met us in Port-au-Prince and the rest from the Summerville area. Apparently, half of the group didn’t get the memo that it was a “couple’s trip” this year, as (8) of the group were married couples. We had (9) members for the medical team, (3) for the dental team and (4) for the construction projects. The group of (14) flew out of Charleston to Miami on Friday, November 2nd then to Port-au-Prince via American Airlines. I’m not sure if it can be considered a blessing, but it was definitely good luck (at least for 12 of the 14), but, on the flight from MIA to P-a-P, we were in Business Class. Imagine our surprise when we were served warm, mixed nuts, a full meal, feet kicked up, watching TV and a warm towel for our face! Not a bad way to kick off a week on La Gonave. We were certainly thankful. Unfortunately, the (2) back in coach happened to be our leader, Father Mike and his wife, Ellen. After the mandatory rubbing it in about how much they missed, a few of us decided that, if we were to return in Business Class again, we would offer our seats to them.
Arrival in P-au-P was the usual stress of getting through the myriad of porters, claiming baggage, clearing customs, then running the gauntlet from the inside of the airport to the vans without creating any international incidents for not paying the over-zealous porters that apparently do not understand “Non merci, monsieur”.
This was, however, the first time we had a chance to meet Pere Vil. We received a warm welcome and his English was not as bad as we had heard. Around the coastline to Ouango Bay, near the ferry dock, was our camp for the night. Certainly not in the same category as Wahoo Bay, but due to Wahoo not having any availability, that was our only choice. Fellowship that evening was wonderful and that night was restful. Pere Vil met us there the following morning to get us to the ferry dock. After some spirited discussions between the captains and other locals, we board (2) speed boats WITH LIFE JACKETS! They even made us wear them. Crossing the Bay was wonderfully calm and we were greeted at the dock by our faithful friend, Artur, along with the NEW ambulance, in all it’s glory. What a great vehicle and we never knew it was suppose to be so smooth…and with A/C. After a brief stop at the St. Francis Rectory, we made our way up the mountain to Bois Brule and our friends, old and new.
Sunday, we had church and decided to set up clinics and do a half day for medical and dental. Speaking of dental, two first-time events happened this trip…due to the construction team installing electrical wiring last year, Drs. Jim McClary and Bob Jordan were able to perform the first sealants on teeth. Also, Dr. McClary had designed a suctioning device from a small shop-vac and he said it worked beautifully. He left it with the dental chairs, in case any other dental teams would like to use it.
Wednesday AM brought results of the elections. After a few cups of Haitian Blue, along with lifted prayers, we decided that God is still in control and we will continue on. We closed out the week at Bois Brule on Thursday with fluoride treatments for all the children, approx. 160 extractions and 180 exams for the dental team and 684 patients seen for the medical. Multiple small projects were completed by the construction team, like painting the courtyard for hopscotch and 4-square, finishing the wiring from last year, replacing the cistern pump, installing handles on school room doors, installing floodlights for the court yard, new ceiling fans for the church and a 2nd solar-powered exhaust fan also for the church.
Friday afternoon, we were suppose to travel back down to Anse-a-Galet and cross the Bay for a night at Wahoo Bay, but the water was so rough that the Haitian Coast Guard had shut down all commercial vessels. As many of you can relate, we were ready to get home after a week there and had no problem crossing, but after we found out the captains would have their vessels seized if caught, we realized we were spending another night on the island. Amazingly and with full credit to Pere Vil’s wife, Ketia, after Pere Vil informed her that “I’ve invited 16 of my friends for dinner in an hour and they are staying the night” (well, he might not have said it that way, but that’s what she had to hear!), she prepared a delicious meal of fish, chicken, pasta, potatoes and of course, the obligatory Prestige Beer. It was a great end of an exhausting and Spirit-filled week. Saturday AM came REALLY early (4AM) in order to catch the speed boats and make the trek across the mainland in time to catch our flight to MIA. After an uneventful crossing of the Bay (other than the beautiful sun rise), we had a stop at Wahoo bay in order to try and get a refund for the stay we never had. After some negotiations from Father Mike with the owner that would have made Henry Kissinger proud, we were able to get a refund. On to the airport, saying our good-byes to Pere Vil and our (2) teammates from NYC, we were finally on board American Airlines. Our secret wish came true, that we would be in Business Class again, but this time, our other CNO (Chief Negotiation Officer), Todd Davenport, managed to get Father Mike and Ellen to join us, so all us got to enjoy the return flight in style.
Reflections and notes: God is good…all the time! His presence there on that little island of the coast of Haiti is as strong as ever. The plants were greener, the livestock were more abundant (some still need to work on their “inside voices” at 4AM, though) and the people were as happy as we had seen them. From the first time that a number of us went to Bois Brule in 2007, we all came back feeling like there was so much to do, so little time and where do we start because they needed SO much. After subsequent visits and the more we know each one of them, we have come to realize that they don’t anything from us but our presence and to share our love for them and of Christ. The Haitian people are so resilient, proud and, in my opinion, have a better family unit than some Americans I know! We all came away at the end of the week, receiving much more than we ever gave and we look forward to seeing them again next year.
A few notes to pass on to other teams;
- ● The shower head in the upstairs, furthest bathroom needs to be replaced. Only a dribble of wateris flowing and most of that is from the handle.
- ● All residual medications were taken to Bill Rice, which is covered in a more detailed medicalreport that should be forth-coming.
- ● Ouango Bay should only be used for a back-up to Wahoo Bay for those that stay.