Copyright © 2006 Henrietta W. Hay
June 2, 2006
My friend the doctor, Mercedes Cameron, had a highly challenging experience last fall. She spent ten days in Haiti sharing her medical skills with Father Rick and other volunteers in hospitals, clinics and an orphanage.
I have talked to her at length and read background material until I don't know where to start. So I can just give my reactions to what she saw and did.
My knowledge of Haiti did not go much beyond knowing how to spell it.
Now I know that just 700 miles from American soil there is a land where people have literally nothing.
In Mercedes' words, "American notions of suffering are warped because most of us see so little of it, with significant exceptions. We do not know what suffering is. Suffering is in Haiti.
Her first reactions on arriving there must be in her words. "It has been absolutely amazing. Today I worked at a Sister's clinic. Probably now have TB, AIDS, scabies, dengue fever and several others I can't diagnose, but it was WONDERFUL. The poverty and misery are devastating, but the medicine is fabulous."
In our country we have food and clean water, sewers, usually roofs over our heads, emergency rooms. Even the homeless have pavement beneath them and boxes above them. Garbage cans have discarded food.
In Haiti they have none of that. The muddy streets are deep with every kind of trash, including bodies, living and dead. Often infants are simply dropped in the road, and picked up by the workers, who carry body bags in their medical truck. People are constantly digging through the garbage, but there is no
food there. The doctors do their amazing work under unbelievable conditions. Father Rick, who is also an M. D., manages the hospital and the orphanage. Some of he clinics are run by the nuns from the Order of Mother Theresa. And volunteers come from all over the world, all paying all of their expenses.
The rich are very rich, and there are several fine hotels in Port au Prince.
U. N workers stay in one of them. Another has been turned into a hospital. The clinics are spread out around Citi de Soleil, known as the hellhole. It has been walled off because of civil fighting. The clinics are sometimes tents, or filthy sheds they have found. One tin shed had a tarp wall down the middle and the clinic was held on one side and school on the other. The doctors and nurses go to a different clinic each day.
Father Rick, Father Richard Frechette, , is a whole story in himself.
He has created a haven for thousands of babies and children in the worst parts of Haiti. Sometimes the best thing a mother can do is abandon her sick baby so it will go to the orphanage.
I asked Mercedes how she picked that particular area for one of her medical mission trips. A local nurse asked her to sign for a shipment of medications to go to Haiti. Mercedes said "Of course I will sign. But can I go too?"
The world seems to have plenty of money for war, but precious little for human suffering. It is all too easy for most of us to sit back and say we can't really make any difference. But thank Heaven for people like Father Rick who is spending his life rescuing children from a lifetime of misery, and for Dr. Cameron and all the doctors and nurses who give their time and skill to help ease human suffering worldwide.
Tis better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.