Partners in Development Haiti website link:
Here are some of my memorable Haiti Trip Stories!
During a service trip with Habitat for Humanity, my freshman year over spring break, I met my group leaders Mary Rose Becker and Bobby Michaud. Prior to our Habitat trip to NYC, Mary and Bobby went on the Saint Joseph’s College service trip to work with Partners in Development in Haiti. I will never forget Mary Rose driving our small group down to New York City in the school shuttle van, she was the brave one. We stopped in Worchester Massachusetts, to meet her father for lunch and go on a surprise museum trip where the smiley-face was invented. This is the moment, Mary started to tell me all about her amazing accomplishments volunteering in Haiti. Mary Rose, discussed building houses, meeting the local community, and one of her favorite parts of the trip which was shadowing an ultra-sound in the PID Clinic. Learning more about the service trip to Haiti from Mary Rose made me feel very inspired.
Finally, this year I could make the commitment to volunteer in Haiti. Everything came full circle, after discovering the alumni Mary Rose and Bobby would once again be my group’s leaders, but this time for Haiti 2017. In 2015, Mary Rose and Bobby graduated from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine. Mary received a nursing degree, Bobby received a biology and a psychology degree as well as currently attending medical school at Tufts University in Boston. Over the summer in August, Mary Rose and Bobby were married on the beautiful campus of Saint Joseph’s College overlooking Sebago Lake.
The day after Christmas, I took the train from New York to Boston. Mary Rose and Bobby, generously had our group over to their apartment the night before flying to Haiti. There were four of us girls staying over. They showed a slideshow of photographs from their previous work in Haiti, shared insights about what to except, and truly started to make us feel like a team. In the morning, Mary Rose’s parents picked us up from the apartment for our flight. After locating Terminal C of the Logan international Airport, our entire team came together. Partners in Development gave each of us a suitcase full of medical supplies, we checked in with our airline, and off we were to Haiti.
Once our team arrived in Haiti, we hopped on the bus and went to the Partners in Development Clinic. After looking out the bus window, I was pleasantly surprised by the way the PID Compound looked. There were beautiful banana trees, flowers, and very nice buildings such as the clinic and bunk house. We all chose a top bunk in the bunkhouse, and started unpacking. Sandra Noël, introduced herself as the PID leader and brought us on a walk through town. Walking around Blanchard, I remember feeling immense culture shock. There were children running without shoes on or parents in plain sight, street shops selling sugarcane and plastic bags of water. A group member from the University of Scranton, Maggie Parks, brought a jump-rope for the local children to play with, they loved it. We played jump-rope with the children for a half hour, they were very excited when we gave them the jump-rope to keep forever. Once we returned to the compound, it was time for a delicious dinner of rice with fried plantains.
On the second day Leia Berube, Amanda Tarlow, Autumn Zubricki, Maggie, Bobby and I went over to the Canaan worksite. All us girls and Bobby wore short sleeved shirts with scrub pants, 98% deet bug spray, lots of sunblock, baseball caps, and gloves. The children loved holding our hands, dancing, getting piggyback rides, and helping us work. There were little boys who came over and took the pick-axes, and would not give them back. We were so nervous. After not responding to our English, speaking French was a life-saver when Bobby and I started telling the little boys, “Donnez-moi! Donne moi s'il te plaît .” The boys immediately gave us the construction tools. Whenever, we brought the sifted dirt for cement over to the big bucket to be mixed, at least five children would grab the wheel barrow and try to help. On our break, I held a little girl, while another little girl was sleeping on my lap too. I loved meeting all of the children at the construction site. The biggest challenge of working construction, was moving the ginormous pile of cinder blocks at the end of the day. All five of us formed a line and passed the cinder blocks to the right, and up the stairs into a storage house. When it was time to leave, we gave the children of the town the water and they were very happy and excited.
In the airport, we accidently picked up the wrong bag, because it looked identical to the one we packed and the Port au Prince Airport is bustling. We were pleasantly surprised to see fifty soccer balls in this bag! Later in the week, Sandra Noël planned a New Year’s Party for local children in Blanchard Haiti. We made them a peanut butter sandwich, hardboiled egg, and popcorn. Amanda Tarlow popped all the popcorn for the party in the kitchen. Autumn Zubricki came up with the idea to make paper airplanes, for the children to write a wish on and fly off the roof. Maggie Parks thoughtfully brought a Polaroid camera. Maggie, Leia Berube and I took pictures of the children in 2017 glasses and props for them to take home. Molly Cobb with Mikayla Cook were holding onto and dancing with children, while helping them with their arts and crafts. There was karaoke and lots of dancing. This party was spectacular, and in the end every child received their very own soccer ball.
The rest of the week, I stayed at the Partners in Development Clinic to shadow nurse Emily Gerardo. This was such an amazing opportunity, and she taught me very special life lessons in addition to the clinical lessons. Emily has traveled all over the world as a nurse, one of her favorite places to volunteer is Zanzibar, Africa. One of my favorite moments shadowing in the clinic was holding a new born baby. A mother came in with her nine day old baby, both of them had a consultation. While the mother was being seen by nurse Emily, she gave me her baby to hold. This baby was so small he fit in the palms of my two hands, and I was rocking him to sleep. He was just so precious sleeping in my hands, I adored every second. At the same time, it was sad to see a baby this size who would have much different health care availible in the United States.
Partners in Development picked up patients from a village an hour away from the clinic in City Soleil. PID was informed that one woman was too sick to come over on the bus. They asked if the medical professionals could go to her home for an appointment. Bobby and I were shadowing the two nurses, his wife Mary Rose, and Emily Gerardo. All of us joined the driver in the tap-tap with all of the patients going to City Soleil. Sometimes just being with someone, holding them and showing them you care, makes a significant difference.
We arrived to their village, and it was really heartbreaking. I will never forget seeing the burning tires in the streets, feeling the heat off the fires, the smell of burning garbage and children walking over broken glass bottles on the ground without wearing shoes. Our group followed everyone, deeper into their community. After about ten minutes of walking, we made it to the home and her mother let everyone inside. The patient was very lethargic, and it was really sad. Outside her thin bedroom wall, there were large decaying pigs covered in black mud. There was not clean water or food for the patient. Different hospitals gave her medications, but she was too sick to take them. In the end of this consultation, the nurses decided to bring her into the clinic on a stretcher the next morning.
We went back to City Soleil the following morning. The father was holding his twenty-five year old daughter and ready to put her on the stretcher. She was dressed in a beautiful sky blue dress. The grandmother was giving the four boys baths, before the entire family came back to the clinic with us. The boys were seven, five, three and the youngest was an infant. I started carrying our special patient on the stretcher to with her father. Then, her brother who is in the military came over to carry his sister with the father. Everyone on our team held one of her babies for the bus ride. When she was settled on the bus, we would look and smile at her saying, “you are okay” and, “it is going to be okay,” then she smiled back up at us. We were communicating through our translator and always made sure to look at her while speaking instead of the translator. Once we were in the clinic, she was resting comfortably on a clean bed with fluids.
The community in Haiti is very inspirational, no matter their circumstances they are still continuing to live their lives to the fullest, having families and making a living to support their families. They work from sunrise to sundown to support their families, it is incredible. Being in Haiti made me realize what really matters the most in life, love. Material objects are not necessary for survival, but love is necessary. Through love comes strength and happiness, which is the foundation for a truly beautiful community. I feel blessed to have been with the Saint Joseph’s College community, we were a great support system for each other experiencing everything together in Haiti. Everyone in our small volunteer group of ten were there for the right reasons.