West Tennessee Haiti Partnership

Two Sides, Both Needed- From the blog of Janet O’Flynn


Today is the first day I left the campus. I walked across our small town to church, about a mile away, in the early morning. I half expected to be making detours to avoid standing water, since the photos I saw from the trip the nursing students took through town on Thursday showed rivers running where the roads should be, just a few blocks from our campus. Instead, I saw dry streets, with piles and piles of branches and leaves, carefully cut into lengths and swept together. A lot of trees went down – and so the sun was a little brighter on my walk.

There were fewer people at church than normal, maybe 2/3 of the usual number. The rector is away, on a trip to the US to be with his wife who lives and works in Florida. The visiting priest who celebrated and preached seemed at first very formal and distant, but during the singing of Kréyol hymns (rocking out rhythms!) and during the preaching he lightened up. It was a LONG sermon. It seemed to me with my limited Kréyol to have two points. The first was about how to build faith, live in faith, no matter what – and the “no matter what” was the hurricane.   The second point, based on the Scripture texts for the day about the Naaman the Syrian (who did give thanks), and about the ten lepers who were cleansed (but only one gave thanks), was that we need to be sure to be grateful! Maybe we lost property, maybe we had injuries, maybe our family took harm, but we are alive and we are here. The priest said that so often we pray for ten days for deliverance from a problem, and then we pray in thanks for ten minutes when it is resolved!

I think that for Haitians the relief of still being here, after the storm, is almost immediately followed by a sense of alarm about the next thing! Maybe that’s true in every part of the world, but here the calamities seem to roll along at a faster clip. So a practice of stopping to give thanks is a very timely discipline.  In fact, it is part of everyday habit to say, when asked “how are you?”, “Fine, thanks to God!”

For me, as an American in a helping profession, this has been an odd day. As I returned to the campus, walking with a nursing student, there were two very large helicopters passing overhead, toward the west. The Marines are here to deliver aid and medical care, and at least two of the US medical teams we have gotten to know here at the guest house have been posting their plans to come to give emergency care. It is an exciting prospect, full of adrenalin and idealism. It would be very appealing to have something particular to offer, to climb onto that helicopter and go straight into the areas of devastation, where human beings are without clean water, food, shelter, and medical care. It is vital rescue work!

We in fact do “own” a little part of that, as an FSRL team member (Diana Honorat) has set up a “GoFundMe” page for the families of our small group of rehab students who have had significant losses from the hurricane. The most significant loss was for our second year PT student, Micza. Her family’s home and two businesses, in Port-a-Piment, were completely destroyed. Her family members are still in a public shelter, along with most of the people in that small coastal town.   Money given through that page will go directly to that family. Only two “middlemen” will handle it: Diana first, and then me, and then it will be in the hands of these people in dire need.

Here is that link:  https://www.gofundme.com/2tbja9gc

The fourth year nursing students here have also accepted the challenge of making a contribution to relief, in the following way. They are going to canvass the students and faculty, and with the funds collected will buy dry foods and clean clothing to distribute in Léogâne during the coming week. It is a grass-roots, all-Haitian, effort, and that is a pure joy to see!

But even though I am not going into the heart of the catastrophe, I take solace in remembering that Relief is only the first part of the story! Development is the second part, which is what all of us who are supporting FSRL are involved with every day! I am still after all these months and even years of working on this convinced that it is what Paul Farmer calls an “Area of Moral Clarity”. Paul Farmer, the celebrated medical humanitarian who along with Dr. Kim started Partners in Health, makes the very good point that so many things in our lives are ambiguous, morally complex. So, when we find an “Area of Moral Clarity”, we should rejoice and give it our full effort! As far as I can tell, FSRL is in that Area of Moral Clarity. It is a college program that needs to exist, so that Haitian OTs and PTs can go out into the community and, with full professional credentials, make a crucial difference for people with disabilities.

So that’s why we are all working so hard together on this! We all can take heart, and keep on going! I think of the slogan from President Obama’s campaign, years ago: “Si, se puede!” or “Yes, we can!” How about, “Oui, nous pouvons!” or “Wi, No pou fé sa!”


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