West Tennessee Haiti Partnership

Reflections from the October 2013 team

Yesterday while we were waiting at the airport in Port au Prince, I asked the team members (after they managed to find a sufficient supply of french fries from the airport restaurant) to write down the answer to 3 questions:

What is your worst memory of the trip?
What is your best memory of the trip?
Name one person you met in Haiti who made an impact on you.

I will share their responses below, (with minimal editing).

GORDON: (paramedic in Memphis; this was his first trip out of the US)
Worst memory: having to leave and come back to the States.   The people of Haiti live how I feel humans were meant to live.  Not taken over by huge corporations, except Digicel, and living in a completely advanced technological age.  It (the trip) put lots of things into perspective, which is a huge gift to me.  Emily and I loved this trip and want to possibly look to work overseas in the near future.  What an experience.

Best memory: The best experience was riding around the city everyday and seeing the culture.  Most people keep saying how sad and sorry they feel for this community.   I disagree.  This is how they have lived and it is all they know.  I would imagine they don’t feel how outsiders think they do.  I loved the scenery, the smells, and interesting architecture.  Especially how colorful and vibrant the whole city was.  I could have stayed in a car for 7 days and drove around the whole time and I would be a happy camper.

“Kiddos”: I can not think of one child or adult that really sticks out to me.  I am awful with names, and especially trying them out with a language barrier, Kreyol and Sign.  I must say the childrens’ reactions, especially the small children, to the camera and showing them the digital photos was overwhelming.  It almost seemed like a mobscene at times.  St Vincents as a whole is an interesting community and the people were so welcoming of our group.  Frenel won over the hearts of us all and was such a sweet child.  I let him braille my face (see POST titled HANDBELL CHOIR AND SOCCER BALLS)  and he just gave me the biggest hug.  Words cant describe any of them.  Amazing!  I was not sure how I would feel or react around the kiddos, but you begin to get to know them after a day or two, and it is tough to say goodbye.

Thank you for this amazing experience!

EMILY P: (nurse- I told her she was the only “legitimate nurse” on our team, so she gave all the injections)
Worst thing in Haiti: Not many, but having to give baby Margaret Vincent a shot of Rocephin was HORRIBLE!
Also the airport security took all my seashells that Gordon and I collected for my boys.

Best thing:  All of it.  I wouldn’t change a thing about our trip.   Can’t wait to come back.

Kids that were memorable:  Of course, Frenel, with his sweet, soft spoken voice and big heart.  Geraldo was amazing with his musical abilities.  (Geraldo and Frenel are both blind). There were several deaf children that I honestly don’t know the names of but have lots of pictures.  One girl in particular would come up to me several times each day and just hug and squeeze me and kiss my cheek.

JAMES: (Univ of Memphis music student)
The best thing about my trip to Haiti was seeing how happy the children were at the simplest of things, like a soccer ball or a sucker.

The worst thing was the heat, but you can’t really change that.

Mackenson probably had the biggest impact on me.  Being the same age and seeing how so influential music is for him, just as it is for me.  And I don’t think I have ever had the pain of losing all my family (Mackenson’s mother and younger brother were killed in the earthquake Jan 2010), to feel that passion that he embodies so fully.

VICKY: (PhD Microbiology, regional Lab director in Memphis, mother of Ashley, who came on this trip, and Robby, who was on two of our previous trips)
The best thing was the deaf kids correcting my spelling (as Vicky was trying to spell her name in sign, the deaf kids grabbed her hands and showed her how to do it right)

The worst thing: Bernicka (one of the students) wasn’t able to be seen on Monday (her parents came to pick her up) and she never returned, she was wheelchair bound and disabled.

Most memorable kid:  Peter, about 8 years old, came up to me on Monday and recognized me on Wednesday, with a shy smile and a wave.

ASHLEY: (works as a scribe at Methodist hospital in Memphis, hoping to enter medical school in the fall)
Best thing:  All of the smiling happy children at St Vincent’s.  Playing basketball and soccer with the kids.  Frenel  and Mackenson singing.  Meeting everyone on the trip.

Worst thing:  Hot weather, leaving all the kids.

Most memorable children:  Frenel and Mackenson

SIENNA: (student at Tulane, has been to Haiti many times, trying to become fluent in Kreyol)
Worst thing:  Sometimes during clinic I would feel underused. (she worked as a translator)  The feeling that you’re wasting time in Haiti is awful because you pay so much to come and that money is being spent on you instead of the many other things money could be spent on.  There were a fair number of English speaking Haitians wandering into the clinic and helping me out of a job! (editor’s note:  I dont know what Sienna is talking about.  I only know 2-3 Haitians who could speak fluent english. We were always looking for translators!)

Best thing:  Successfully translating a meeting between Sherye (sign language interpreter working with the St Vincent’s staff on deaf education curriculum), Mr Alexis (headmaster of the school), and Madame Belinda (head teacher of primary school).
Hanging out with Mackenson, Delens and Cesar while they made music after school everyday.  Seeing Mackenson and Dieumene tease each other about crying at the end of Camp Jake.  Telling Mackenson a funny story in Kreyol.  Sherye knows which one….

EMILY B (2nd year med student, UT Memphis)
Best thing:  Being in clinic, especially working at the check-in station, to be able to greet children/other patients; to interact with them (Emily is fluent in French and was a great help with translating); also rotating through work stations to see how different health providers in our group operate.   Getting to know members of our group; it takes a special type of person to want to do t his type of work, and I was lucky to meet 13 of them.

Worst thing:  being preoccupied with work from home that was unfortunately inevitable.  Not being able to spend more time; two weeks would be great!

Impression:  Jean Robert.  Very dignified, very committed, very loyal- not only to the school and the students, but to our group as well.

BRITTANY (Pharm D, worked as our pharmacist)
Favorite:  The experience of seeing and practicing my profession in a new culture and being able to use my training to do humanitarian work.  Also, communicating in 2 languages I’ve never used before. (Kreyol and Sign language)

Least: Dispensing medications without being able to see the whole picture:  do they understand my directions, will they take it correctly, who will administer it, will they get appropriate followup, etc.  While this is something we deal with in the US as well, it is escalated by the communication and cultural barriers and dynamic of the school.

Impression:  The girl that came in with a bad case of shingles and all we were able to give her was ibuprofen.

BAILEY:  (clinic assistant at Church Health Center in Memphis, hopes to enter medical school in the fall)
Worst thing:  the heat was especially annoying, however unavoidable.  I also hated making children cry when pricking their fingers (for the hemoglobin/iron test).

Best thing:  I loved both days of shadowing experience (she worked with the providers in the clinic), but the highlight was helping care for Zachary and his feet.  Apart from the amazing firsthand medical experience, I loved helping the girls find new bras (the team brought new bras for the teenage girls and helped them find the right size)

Special Person:  Zachary was special to me; being the same age but in such different situations.  Margaret also especially touched my heart.  When she was sick all I could think is that when I’m sick all I want is my mom.  All the children were so special but especially those two for me.

SHERYE: (sign language interpreter)
Best part:  the lovely people I met who came on this trip for the first time- always a joy!
Worst part:  the guest house food
Memorable people:  all the giggling girls at the “Bra-Extravaganza”

EDIE: (counselor at Lausanne, mother of Andrew who came on a previous trip)
Best Part: St Vincent’s- all of it.  Just being with so many of God’s precious children.
Reading from the Book of Common Prayer in French.
Love how we were all unprepared for airconditioning in our rooms and froze the first couple of nights until we learned how to regulate it.  My roomie gave me a pair of blue socks
Being named “EH-dee”
teenagers jamming after school; the blind children playing the piano.
Frenel singing to us
Playing with the children

Least Favorite:  the lackluster food at the guest house, the hot dog/corn/spaghetti meal was BLEAH
my ridiculous inability to communicate

People:  Jean Robert- our shepherd.  Margaret – Drew’s baby Margaret.  Frenel- so sweet and kind.  Kenny Leon’s sweet smile.  Adonse.  Clauricianne.

sent in by the team of October 2013

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