Latest Newsletter From Doctors On Mission:
Somewhere I read: “Until you feel it, until you smell it, it just isn’t real.”
This applies 100% to my experience in Haiti. There are still, after more than 2 years, thousands living in tents with little sanitation and no running water. Filth is rampant, the stench is overwhelming. The far-away mountain regions are in even worse conditions. We needed to get there! Here is why…
I had promised Dr. Luc Cestelyeyn (the Belgium Maxilo-Facial surgeon) the needed follow-up with the kids living in a remote region in Haiti. Cilene, a 12 year old Haitian girl, had been previously hiding in a corner of her parent’s hut. Now she no longer needs to hide thanks to a bilateral (both sides) cleft lip palate surgery. She is so brave to decide to stay in the city of Carrefour. She is staying there with the nurse that accompanied her. Her goal is to learn how to read and write, become a nurse and go back to help her crippled brother and the whole community of Manceau deep in the Haitian mountains.
Her older brother Alidieu (who is mentally handicapped) also received a cleft lip palate surgery. He wanted to go back to his parents as soon as possible, to stay with his parents in their hut. I and the medical team went there to find him. In these places, houses (if you can call it so) have no numbers and streets have no names…anyway, we went to look for him with our medical team and found him in a hut together with his parents!
It took us hours of driving through winding mountain roads that could only be reached by our medical team by hiring a float of cyclocross bikes. Still we had to stop and hike a lot when these tracks became too steep. We only had one bike accident. Our oldest nurse, 50 years, landed badly in the sand and on rocks but – praise God – there was no major damage.
While in Manceau, we saw more orphans than we could believe. Many of them are living in misery and in very poor health. We witnessed all kinds of diseases. Malnutrition and parasites are common in these parts, but we also came across many tropical diseases and infections. The cholera epidemic is spreading further due to the poor sanitary conditions and has hit these communities the hardest. There are already more than 500,000 cases counted. Reports from Doctors without Borders show that between 10,000 and 15,000 have died; the majority of these are children.
The many homes we saw were too bad to imagine. Many of the Haitian communities we visited knew far less than we about what happened in their own country! Since there is no electricity; there are no means to communicate. Of course no newspapers or anything like this can be found there. The only thing they knew was that there was a terrible big quake… because they felt it and saw the results…
I was the very first “white man” that visited their village at they told me this again and again. When I was walking around and all kids were shouting “a blanc!” “a blanc!” They wanted to touch my skin and some were even scared to approach me, at least in the beginning. A few jokes helped to them feel more comfortable with me.
I couldn’t believe what I saw when I entered the local church’s humble but pretty extensive church. There were about 200 kids all dressed in flawless white dresses. They had prepared an hour “choir” presentation for me! I didn’t know about it but found out later that they had been waiting 2 or 3 hours in the church to sing for me. These children have such a lovely voice. It was a real Gospel choir concert!
I saw diseases which are not seen in the West, such as elephantiasis, Typhoid fever, several fungal infections over the entire body (mycosis), children whose faces where covered with bacterial infections and almost all were infested by body lice as well as parasites.
Taking a shower in this heat is something special. I have experienced this in other regions. Yes they are very much needed to take sweat off. But the inland « Haitian » shower is unique in itself. You are standing with your feet in the mud while people surround you with sheets, politely looking the other site. Other people then fill a bucket of water and throw it over the sheets on your head…while laughing.
The church service was great! When the worship started; everyone (the very young to the very old) began to dance with their hands spread out like the wings of a bird. Then they let their hands wave and it’s like they were flying. It was beautiful and when you dance with them, you become one of them!
There were approximately 800 people in the church and all they wanted was the “white man” to bring the message. It was a great service as it was all guided by God. The experience was so natural and beautiful too. I must confess, I got there the best sleep in many months. So far away from all busy life, all these emails, administration, project issues, etc..
The local pastor of Manceau, a clever but very humble man, has an amazing vision to help the orphans of his and other surrounding communities. He showed me the property where he wants to build a school for kids 1 to 12 years old. He also showed me the place (just beside the school) where he wants to build an orphanage also for kids 1-12 years old.
From there he showed me a place a few hours from the mountains near the ocean, called Arcahaie. Arcahaie is a small town located 2 hours North of Port-au-Prince. He and a friend started to build an orphanage there. He told me that the orphans, who are 12-18 years old, could stay there and go to high school or learn a job. If some wanted to study further in University Port-au-Prince is only 2 hours away and by that time there will hopefully be some serious reconstruction.
I was very moved by what this man is trying to do for the orphans of his region. I knew God had sent me to this place for a reason. God had not wanted me to hear his vision just to say, “Well, God bless you man, I will pray for it.” There was a real purpose in all this as I personally had been so touched by all the orphans there.
A lot of people who have seen me know that I started to tell (and write) everybody that – to me – Haiti is THE island of the LOST CHILDREN, certainly in the deep inland.
There I stood in 110 Fahrenheit sweating, face covered with dust, but with more conviction than ever that this was the opportunity to start something that was burning in my heart.
The question is as always, who is still willing to help?
My dear brothers and sisters, let’s not just say, “God bless you, we will think and pray about it.” We really need your help. This is one of the biggest prayer requests of Doctors On Mission. We are only surviving thanks to a reserve fund that has been made by one faithful couple. This reserve fund will soon dry out as we currently have a shortage of around 10.000USD each month!
Let’s love in Word and Deed! (1:John:3:16-18).
God bless you all,
Rik Celie, MD – Missionary
FB “Mission Doctors”