Thursday, August 26, 2010
The first day in Haiti was a whirlwind of cultural integration. We sailed through customs and the Port Au Prince airport with no problems. Sister Mary from Matthew house was waiting there to pick us up. Sister Mary is a small, tough woman who has been in Haiti for 5 years. She was formerly a professor of nursing at the University of Buffalo. She is 78.
Our first drive through downtown Port Au Prince was a dusty, trafficky ride, fighting our way through the crowded streets, sharing the roads with tap-taps, people, vendors and UN vehicles. The air is white-dusty, the humidity clinging. We passed piles of rubble, viewing a few buildings that had been destroyed by the earthquake. Sister Mary patiently answers our questions as we try to get up to speed about Haiti.
We arrive at Matthew House to find a virtual developing world oasis. There is filtered bottled water, electricity, fans, screens, clean beds and towels and a newly tiled bathroom. I love Haiti already.
We ask Sister Mary if we can interview some of the families that are living in the tent city. She knows exactly who can help us -- Tey. Tey is the President of the tent city community. Basically that means that he is the go-to-guy for everything. He took us on a tour of the water filtering system at Matthew House, then brought us over to the tent city. It is mid-day, so most of the adults are out working. The children are contained in a safe place and look after themselves. The tent city was constructed on a soccer field that belongs to Matthew House. 70 tents were donated by the Lions Club and maybe ten or twenty more have added on. It is estimated that 700 people live here now. That's down from the 5000 that were here after the earthquake. This is deemed temporary housing and will be taken down in December.
The children are happy and that is the hope of Haiti. Within the walled-in perimeter of the tent city, the children play, jump rope, go to school. The above picture is of some of the girls waiting on line for milk. Matthew house offers milk to all of the children every morning. Tey mixes up the milk from powder at around 6am. The children wait on line with a cup in hand. They each get a glass of milk.
The tent city also offers a special larger handicapped tent. 10 people stay there, all amputees from the quake. We talked with a beautiful 14 year old girl who lost her leg.
A young family found us and wanted to show me their baby. We worked our way through the tents to where they were. A beautiful, chubby 3 month old was sleeping. They woke him up and dressed him so that we could take a picture of him. So proud.
We saw so many smiles. We are learning Creole. We are experiencing Haiti. We're in!