14 of us flew out of the airport in DC and connected with 3 other travelers in Miami before arriving in Haiti Tuesday evening. We were pleasantly surprised that the airport in Port Au Prince was pretty calm and much less chaotic than normal, and thought all was smooth sailing until we were stopped by customs who proceeded to go through all of our bags (and there were 28 bags between the 17 of us), which were mostly filled with medications and supplies for our trip. This was a first for us in Haiti, after traveling here so many times carrying the same kinds and amounts of goods as this trip. Thankfully, after much discussion and little “tip”, we were on our way to the orphanage. After a long detour because of Hurricane Sandy washing out one of the bridges, we finally reached the hotel, got checked in, had dinner and then spent some time going over the day’s events and planning for the next day.

Wednesday morning, we arrived at the orphanage, unloaded our bags and bags of meds, spent some time getting organized and then set up for a ½ day of clinic under the open air cabana across from the clinic, which was going to have some electrical work done by Larry Wooster and Ed Green, who defected from the medical profession to and lend a hand to Larry.

Aside from the typical malaria and parasites which are present in about 95% of the patients we see, we also saw a little boy, about 8 years old, with a special situation. With symptoms described as “always tired”, “passes out a lot” and after taking a good listen at his heart, it was determined that he had a heart murmur, which had never before been diagnosed. This was a heart-breaking discovery because of where this little boy lives. In the U.S., this a fairly standard surgery, according to our doctors on this trip. However, because this is Haiti, and this boy’s family could never afford even the cost of the testing needed, his life expectancy is about 10 years. Obviously, this statistic was not shared with the boy’s mother – what good would that do? If my boy had a condition that I could do absolutely nothing about but worry about his impending and eventual death, I rather not know.

So once again, we are reminded that one of the hallmarks of poverty is not so much about the lack of money, as the lack of opportunity. I heard “murmurings” at dinner about what the options and possibilities are, from people who live in “the land of opportunity”… “If we could get him a medical visa to get out of the country to fly to the U.S.”, and “If we could find a pediatric heart surgeon that could do the proceedure for free” …the wheels were turning like crazy. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if something could be done to help this little guy, so that he could grow up and live his life?!

Thursday, Nov 15 (Day 3)

Today we held our clinic in the mountain village of FonPaul, only about 10 minutes from the orphanage, but a world apart from the town of Montrouis. We saw approximately 220 people, with the illnesses ranging from malaria, hypertension, high blood pressure, dehydration, malnutrition, parasites. A baby was brought in by his grandmother, skinny, dehydrated and starving. About 3 months old, he weighed less than 5 pounds. We started by giving him some electrolyte solution with a syringe, which he ended up vomiting out. Then he was hooked up to an I.V. to get the fluids in his system. He will be coming to the orphanage in the morning for us to re-check him. The young girl we met on our January trip, Michou , came down the mountain to see us. About 18 years old now, she is dying from H.I.V. She is skinnier than we saw her last, and did not look well. In this culture (as in many others), those with H.I.V. are alienated and discarded by their family and friends, and we have observed that this holds true for Michou. Though we have been sending food and supplies for her, we learned that her family steals the food that is meant for her. As sick as she is, she was thrilled to see us, giving hugs and smiles to the familiar faces. Someone noticed that Michou’s family seemed surprised by our treatment of her – for the hugs and touching that she most likely does not receive from them or anyone else who are afraid they will “catch” her illness. Today, for but a few moments, this young girl got to feel like a bit of a rock star.

Friday, Nov 16 (Day 4)

We spent today Friday giving well exams to our kids at the orphanage, some of the kids from the school and a few others from the community. We also de-wormed all of the approximately 200 children at the school who have no access to clean drinking water. We were happy to see that as a whole, the Eden Garden kids are in good health. Then we saw that one of our boys, Vaval, had bumps all over him which turned out to be the chicken pox…so we are afraid that in about 7-14 days, this will be making its way around to the rest of our kids and we will have an epidemic on our hands.

Mr. & Mrs. Ramon, the elderly couple who live nearby (and whose house some of our construction volunteers repaired on our January visit) came by the medical clinic to be seen. These two people have one good eye between the two of them, and come to Eden Garden every day for a free lunch that Eden Garden has provided for them for many years. They were still just smiling and thanking us and were happy to know we were there.

Our construction team worked on re-wiring all of the rooms in the medical clinic so that we can have electricity for medical and dental work there. This has turned out to be quite a challenge because of how the conduit was improperly installed many years ago.

I spent some time with our kids while the clinic was wrapping up, distributing some items we had brought over for them – socks and underwear, clothes, etc. One of the things they asked for was some dressy/church clothes for the older kids, so I made sure there was something for each one and a few to spare. It was fun to watch them all run back to their rooms and try on their new dresses, trading off between them to see which one fit. I got a nice little fashion show! I also brought a suit over that my dad was donating and when I came through the gate to look for some of our older boys to try it on, Charlemagne, the security guard saw it, and very excitedly said “For me, Madame Dave, for me? Oh thank you, thank you!” and gave me the biggest hug. I’m quite sure it won’t fit him (as he is a tall man and my dad is not), but he was absolutely thrilled!

Saturday, Nov 17 (Day 5)

After 3 days of hard and hot work, I think we were all ready for a day of rest! One group headed out in the morning to survey the road situation for a possible clinic site for tomorrow, about 2 hours from where we are in Montrouis. Straight up a mountain, on a narrow and winding path, the group said they drove a full 50 minutes before they saw another motorized vehicle. They got to see a side of Haiti they hadn’t seen and didn’t know existed – lush and beautiful, full of wildlife (they saw parrots in the wild!) and fertile fields. Another group attended the local church on the Eden Garden campus, and enjoyed the exuberant singing even though we couldn’t understand a word of it, or the sermon!

In the afternoon, we took the kids to a nearby beach which is always a real treat for them. Stacey, Dave & Erin were in the water and often had 3-5 kids climbing on them at one time! It was nice to see them enjoying themselves so much. After that, a group walked over to the homes of one of our staff that is looking for some help to get her home repaired. Currently, her little house has holes in the roof so that when it rains, the roof leaks. We are hoping that we can provide the labor for the repair when we bring a group again this January. Saturday night, we hung out with the kids, playing games and getting our hair played with and/or braided by the older girls. The construction crew stayed at the orphanage late into the night, working (with headlamps in the dark) on the wiring of the clinic, hoping they will have enough time to finish everything up on Sunday, our last day here.

To see photos of our trip visit our Facebook page here!