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Saturday, January 23, 2010
A Trip to Haiti in 1985
I'm really unsure where to begin what is going to have to be a blog series. There is no way to condense my week in the horribly poor country of Haiti into one day. Yet, I don't want this to be a book, either. Well, here we go!
In 1985 I had the chance to go to Haiti on a short-term mission trip with Project Serve. They coordinated the trip with "Mission Possible" in Haiti. MP still serves Haiti and the Dominican Republic with seven schools. Our team was there for 7 days and we went to a different place every day. This is why it is very hard to condense the story into one post, but it gave us a great overview of the problems the Haitians faced, even without an earthquake.
The picture above is from the airplane- our first view of the mountains of Haiti. You will notice that they look very barren. They are. That condition is not due to their great height. It is a result of the stripping of the mahogany forests decades ago. The ecosystem was completely ruined, and the forests have never regrown. It is very difficult for people to even maintain subsistence lifestyles.
I'm assuming that since Haiti has been in the news so much this week that you don't need a locator map. So I'll just zoom in on the Baie du Port-au-Prince. You can see the numbers 1-7 in red. Those are all the places we worked: some city and some very remote. We acted as support for a medical team, but we had varied tasks.
We flew into the airport that has been so much in the news. It is very small, what you see in the picture is what there is. We flew in on a small jet from Miami, which parked on the tarmac, and we just walked down some roll-out steps and into the airport. It is my understanding that the tower came down in the earthquake. CNN quoted a pilot this week as saying "there was somebody on a radio somewhere in the airport who is trying to help kind of coordinate the landing of planes. But it is - it's literally just somebody on a radio and no one is sure where that person is." So when there have been so many complaints about flights not being able to land, there is a very real physical limit to the number of planes that can be on the ground before they just plain run out of room. I've heard reports today that they are landing an aircraft every 12 minutes. This is pretty amazing considering that they have to be unloaded. Seriously, this space isn't as big as the parking lot of some malls.
This was a typical sight that we saw almost every day. This is a marketplace. Does it look like it came from another century? (Well, technically is was... haha... I can't believe how long ago I took this trip), but this is how commerce is done pretty much everywhere outside of Port-au-Prince and a couple of other cities.
We spent a day at one of the largest Mission Possible schools in Montrois. These ladies were cooking the school lunches on the charcoal burners you see. They were fixing lunch for 700 people! For most of the kids at their schools, this was the only meal they would have for the entire day. At school they also had access to clean water which was trucked in and gravity fed from a large plastic tank on the property. The children proudly wore uniforms of white shirts and blue pants or skirts. This was like a badge of accomplishment for them. It meant that their family cared enough to make sure that they could go to school. Other schools were also orphanages, where the uniforms were provided.
Tomorrow I'll show you some of the tasks we did.