What I Learned in Haiti - by Gina Mensing
I want to thank all the people who donated to and prayed for our Mission Trip to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. It was a moving and enlightening experience. Thank you for helping to provide the opportunity to serve at the Missionaries of Charity Hospital for malnourished children in Delmas 31 Port-au-Prince. It has made us aware of what we have that is not so essential and of what Haitians still so desperately need. Although so much has improved since the earthquake of 2010, there is still more to be done. Most of the rubble has been cleaned up, and people have moved out of temporary shelters.
The people we served were polite and friendly. It was not easy to communicate with most of them as they spoke Kreyol (Creole), but if you knew French, you could communicate better. English is spoken in more professional circles such as the airport staff, missionaries, and business people, but not the general public. We were able to get our meanings across by gestures and an understood word here and there. There were a few who spoke English among the people we met. The volunteers we met from other states and countries were very kind, generous, compassionate, and friendly. It was good to know that Haiti is not forgotten by other countries.
It was sad to see all the babies who needed to be in the nutrition program at the hospital. There were probably about 115 or more on any given day. Their family members, mostly mothers, could come and visit for two hours in the morning. There was a lot of crying when the mothers had to leave at 11 a.m., but the babies quieted down at 11:30 a.m. when we fed them lunch. We tried to make up for missing “mama” with lots of holding and cuddling. Helping at the wound clinic in the parish of St. Joseph was a startling introduction to the world of “do what you can to help” medicine. Burns, severe cuts, cancer, and infections were treated by lay people for the most part. We did have one Haitian wound technician who was trained in wound care. Another good helper was from the U.S.A., and she got her experience of suturing from just doing it. In city of Carrefour, some of us visited the hospital for the terminally ill and dying. One of the sisters there gave us a quick tour. The hospital was clean, organized, and airy. It had a garden of plants and flowers in the front with a statue of Mother Teresa in the center. The men and women each had their own wards. I noticed that there were not many elderly in the hospital. Then I did a little research and found out that the life expectancy in Haiti is 62 years. The hospitals run by the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity are free. Most other hospitals require payment, money which the poor do not have.
The sisters rely on God to provide everything. Praying the rosary for safe travel on the way to the wound clinic was one example of their life of prayer and hard work. The trip has already generated discussion of what infrastructure is needed in Haiti. There is great need for infrastructure to provide waste management, more accessible clean water, and more dependable electricity. Much infrastructure was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake. All these things we experienced, and more, will be in our minds and hearts for the rest of our days. Thank you for making it possible for us to be of service, and to feel the satisfaction of seeing their warm smiles. “Hearts to love, Hands to serve.”—Mother Teresa.