Day 2: The Tent City

The media doesn’t do it justice.

The pictures don’t fill your nostrils with a mixture of rotting refuse, stagnant sewage, and burning diesel.  Your skin doesn’t burn from the intense sun and your lungs don’t search for relief in the suffocating, breeze-less air.

As you hear the news reports of how progress is slowly progressing, you see hope.  But here, talking with those who are experiencing it, the truth comes out.  There’s not just “slow” progress – there’s NO progress in many areas. One of the translators working with us explained that the government has done very little.  They receive large donations, use only a little to do some small work, take pictures of the “great things they’re doing”, send those pictures to the media, then walk away and pocket the majority of the donations.  So, it’s no wonder that many Haitians feel lost, hopeless, and distrustful of a brighter, better Haiti.

But they DO trust the smaller organizations and non-profit groups  (like GCOM), because they directly receive assistance from these volunteers and see the progress and care that volunteers offer.  This trust and gratitude was exactly what we felt at the tent city today.

When we first stepped off the bus, everyone just stood around and took in the unbelievable scene.  White, blue, & tan tents surrounded us.  A malnourished dog ripped apart some kind of rotting flesh infested with flies and maggots as a small group of kids went walking by with pails of water that they’d just gotten from the shared water well directly across the street from the dump.  It was unfathomable to think that thousands of Haitians lived in this one tent city.  They’d lived in these conditions for months, and since there’s no real effort of help from the government, they will probably continue to live here for many more months, if not years.

We hiked up (yes…up) a dirt path nestled between rows of tents.  Hearing the commotion, children and some adults, pulled back their tent doors and watched the parade of Americans in blue shirts stumble up their rocky road. Most of them welcomed us with toothy smiles.

After a bit of planning and organization, we opened our day clinic and pharmacy under makeshift shacks of wood, corrugated metal, and tarps…and the Haitians came in droves.  Babies with bloated bellies and skinny legs.  Children with coughs.  Pregnant women ready to deliver but having never seen a doctor until today.  Men with chest pains.   The medical personnel talked with them, took their vitals, and then prescribed them a few ibuprofen or a week supply of vitamins.  Seems like so little…especially when these are things we buy in 3 months supplies for $3.oo.   But to them, it means relief.

As the medical team did their work, the rest of us stayed busy entertaining angels…precious children who found pleasure in a pinkie-nail size sticker.  Little boys who enjoyed an hour of taking pictures of their friends with my camera…even though they knew they’d never get to place those pictures in their own photo albums.  Sweet, beautiful girls who cried for mom, but found comfort on the shoulder of a complete stranger.  We played games, fed this peanut sandwiches and juice, and instructed them on good dental habits while passing out toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss.  They were more excited about the toothbrushes than they were the candy and stickers we gave them.  They desired basic necessities more than luxuries..not begging for game systems or fancy clothes (although one boy kept asking me for shoes as he didn’t own any), but they begged mainly for water or something to eat or shampoo.

I could keep writing, but there’s really not enough time or words to share all our experiences…and we have many just from this one day.  But one thing we do share…we are all humbled.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Cindee
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 04:39:04

    Awesome report. Dow said it is just what he experienced and you described it better than he could.

    Reply

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