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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tasks on the 1985 Trip to Haiti

riding in a truck to a clinic

Today I'll tell you a little bit about the variety of things we helped with during our week in Haiti in 1985. As I said, we went as a support group with a medical team. There were two eye doctors, a doctor and nurse couple, and a dentist. The rest of us helped any way we could. In these pictures I'll just show some actions, tomorrow I'll share some interactions with people, although I don't have as many good pictures of that as I would like.

The picture above was how we got to some of the locations. Sometimes we went in vans, but see that funny-shaped thing in the truck with the team? That is the portable dentist chair. It had to be hauled around with us, and especially the day we went into the mountains the road was too rough for the vans so we rode in the back of the truck.

unpacking medical supplies

Some of our duties were just simple organization. Each day the "clinic" had to be set up and taken down. Sometimes there was a cement building, sometimes we were in a woven palm hut. We also did things like line up the people outside who were waiting, and "talk" with them. I speak a little French, but I'm not so great with people. The motherly-type volunteers who could convey their caring without words did much better at those tasks than I could do. Two days I was one of the people who went through the schoolrooms pre-checking kids' teeth to see whose were the worst, to send to the dentist.

temporary medical clinic

The doctors looked at up to 70 patients a day! I don't remember exactly what this baby's problem was, but she looks happy enough. Most of the medical problems we saw were actually minor. The clinic wasn't really equipped for emergencies or serious problems. But a lot of people came with infections, and a lot of babies and expectant moms were checked out. The dental clinic was more serious. The dentist was really frustrated, because all he had equipment and time for was extractions, so anyone with a really bad tooth had it taken out.

eye clinic

I actually spent more time working with the eye doctors. There is apparently a way to just look in people's eyes and be able to know what prescription of glasses they need. We had 2000 pair of donated glasses with us, all labeled, but just thrown in big cardboard boxes. Now, I may not be so good with people, but I'm great at organization. After just a few hours of pawing through boxes to find the right glasses, I started sorting! Before the end of the day it was much easier to find glasses that fit that could help people see. In my journal I wrote that there were at least two people a day who left in tears because they were so happy to be able to see again. When you turn in your old glasses to the Lions club or other groups, you can be sure that they really do good for other people. I also wrote down that one day we needed a very strange prescription for an older man whose eyes were quite different from each other. The doctor doubted that we had a pair of glasses for him. But I actually found the exact prescription that he needed!

painting alphabets

One day, two of us who had some art skills stayed at one of the larger schools and painted the alphabet above the blackboards, and a colorful mural on one of the walls.

standing in a partially built house

One day, they asked for some volunteers to do some physical work. This was more up my alley, and, yes, that's me on the left. If you look at the floor in this building you will see that it is rough dirt and rocks. These were small houses that were being built for families. The walls were built first, and our job was to rake the dirt level and remove the worst of the rubble so that the floor could be poured.

I think that each volunteer had a very different experience because of our varied tasks. If I'm feeling brave, when I finish this series I'll tell you some things that I learned about myself on that trip. Meanwhile, tomorrow, I will show you more of the people of Haiti.

See A Trip to Haiti in 1985


RNSANE said...

Shark, I really appreciate this brief view of the work you did in Haiti. I am sure groups have been going there continuously over the years and all have helped to some extent. It is just so sad that the situation is such that there is so much need and that, all the contributions, have merely been a drop in the bucket. Wouldn't it be wonderful, if the outpouring of money and support, after this earthquake could really make some difference, on a permanent basis, in the lives of the Haitians?

Anonymous said...

That was really wonderful group effort! It's so good to read your journal and realize that there are kind-heart people out there, like yourself!

The Silver Age Sara said...

Thank you for sharing your experiences in Haiti and the pictures as well. It's such a sad situation with the poverty there even before this last tragedy. I look forward to reading more of your entries.

P.S. - I had to do moderated comments for a while but then I put moderation on comments older than 2 days and no longer allow anonymous comments and the spammers disappeared. Don't know if that will help you.

Secondary Roads said...

It's quite an experience to go to a less developed country -- particularly if you get out into the villages away from the city. I continue to follow your narrative with great interest.

Lin said...

Wow. You never cease to amaze me, Sharky! I'm interested in hearing more.

Sharkbytes said...

Carmen- I think it will take more than even this wave of donations can produce. The country just has almost no resources on which to build an economy. The people have little cultural incentive or tradition of anything beyond subsistence. I would like to think that some of the many kids who came through the mission schools can be leaders as adults to help the people help themselves, but it's all a drop in a huge bucket.

Icy- Well, I got to go because of the kindness of someone who paid my way. Don't think too highly of me. There are people who desperately need help everywhere. It is true that they are more concentrated in Haiti, and the exotic nature of the trip makes it look appealing, but overall, I'm not a very compassionate person, truth be told.

Hi Mountain Woman- It is an ongoing sad story.

Chuck- I don't know which was worse... city or village. I think the city was awful... all dirt and cement and military rule with men and guns in the streets. But there were stores and running water, and lights. The villages were greener with no amenities, but people had nothing at all. I'll show one example tomorrow.

Lin- Oh, heck... stop being amazed and just come back tomorrow. I'm just weird, you know that.

Rick (Ratty) said...

Very interesting stuff. I still can't imagine what doing something like this would be like for myself. It takes something extra to be able to do it.

Sharkbytes said...

Ratty- Well, there are tasks almost anyone can do. And with a little research one can find a trip that is suited to their skills. If I get brave I'll talk a little bit about that aspect.