Downtown, in a church building overlooking the port and shattered city that had miraculously survived the earthquake, we found 200 quiet, stoic patients waiting for us. Young and old, babies, the sick and injured, many in pain, sat in well-organized rows, waiting in an orderly fashion for medical treatment.
My role was to assist one of the nurses, Marian. She was a true angel, treating the wounded with perfect skill and unfailing compassion, standing for hours at a time every day for a month in her improvised clinic. I became used to seeing horrible infections, cuts, blisters, and burns. One of our doctors, Vicky, impressed me especially for her cheerful, happy response every time we needed her to deal with the more serious cases.
Amongst the wounded, it was mostly lack of hygiene and insufficient medical treatment that complicated their conditions. They were treated first by the doctors and were then passed on to our “pharmacy”….
We spent the next day out of the city in Leogan. This town was at the epicenter of the earthquake and had suffered massive damage. Everywhere we looked there was nothing to see except piles of rubble lying amongst the wreckage of houses. Our hosts were American Mennonites … good hearted, caring, quiet people who have left behind the materialistic life in order to devote their lives to serving the needy .…
Meeting these people was an unforgettable, unique experience. There are some good people, people who deserve the name of saints, on this Earth and these people had surely been sent by God. Their goodness was on a different level from the temporary commitment I had made. I had come for less than two weeks, knowing that I would soon return to my family and the comfort of an affluent home in London. The Mennonites were different. Some with young children, some of them single young men and women, they live in this place, then a hell on Earth, in order to serve and support the poorest of the poor. It is their faith that gives them the strength to do so. I am privileged to have met them and pray that God will grant them good health to continue with their holy work.
For the next few days we held our “clinics” out in the open in the rural areas. They were held under the mango trees, with canvas screens fastened to the ruins of the shuttered houses in order to shelter us from sun and rain.
Sometimes we were driven from Leogan to remote villages or mountain districts where the Haitian people were waiting once again for the amazing Heart to Heart organization to come to their aid. Ben, the tall, blue-eyed newly married paramedic, was our guide and mentor. With help from our interpreters, George and Innocent, he dispensed the most efficient care to our sick and fragile patients. Our mobile pharmacy, consisting of suitcases and boxes, accompanied us from village to village, and we gave out medicines and immunizations to many people. [To be continued.]
For an update on JDC’s impact and ongoing activities in Haiti, visit www.jdc.org/haiti
Vered Schimmel-Lifschitz, the wife of JDC Board member Jacky Schimmel, is deeply engaged in JDC’s global mission and travelled to Haiti, together with a friend, so that they could assist as volunteers in the clinics following the country’s deadly earthquake.
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