Friday, August 19, 2011
On my last full day in Haiti, Dr. Franco held another med clinic in the morning. I interviewed Dr. Franco the day before about Haiti’s tent cities. After the earthquake, it was estimated more than one million people were left homeless. The result… numerous tent cities. According to Dr. Franco, living in a tent city is “hell on earth.” But on Thursday, we traveled to one of Port-au-Prince’s tent cities. They are rebuilding with small matching homes for each family. The mountains in the background were an incredible sight. Their church, a makeshift tent, was placed right in the middle of all the homes. We passed out peanut butter sandwiches and juice. People emerged from their homes, excited to have a free meal.
When we got back to the compound, everyone started preparing for the feeding that night. Dustin and I worked on finishing up our stories – set to air Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday on the FOX CT Morning News. Hundreds of people lined-up outside of the compound. We lined all the tables up outside, filled plates with chicken and rice, and then let the children come to the table first. I looked at Dr. Franco and said, “This is just incredible.”
He replied, “Sarah, isn’t it amazing what 300 dollars can do?”
I agreed saying, “People buy outfits for 300 dollars.”
Dr. Franco said, “Yes they do, and 300 dollars can feed hundreds.”
I just watched as each person cleaned their plate, knowing that tonight these people won’t go to bed hungry.
Miakel followed me around all night. He kept saying, “Sarah… me… you… go to America?” My heart broke. I didn’t know how to handle it.
The next morning, I went into Miakel’s room where all the boys sleep. I gave him my pillow, and then placed the watch he wanted so badly on his wrist. His eyes barely opened, he looked at the watch, then looked up at me, smiled and said “thank you Sarah.”
As we drove away in the tap tap, all the boys waved goodbye. Some of the toddlers were crying. I tried to hold back my tears. My friend Sarah said, “Just remember… this is harder on them than it is on us.”
Once we got to the airport, Sarah and Joannie went to the American Airlines terminal. I was flying Continental. Dustin was on a Delta flight. Thank god we were in the same terminal because as we approached the entrance, the workers (who barely spoke English) told us we weren’t allowed inside until 10:30. It was 6:30. As we stepped away from the gate, Haitian men started surrounding me, trying to sell me things. They were grabbing me, yelling at each other. I was petrified and felt completely helpless. All of a sudden, Dustin grabbed my arm. He had paid-off one of the workers to let us inside. Once we were in, we were told not to get in line until 10:30. So we sat there for four hours, packed like sardines in this little room. There were no lines at check-in, and people were just screaming at each other. It was a nightmare. There was a lot of waiting. Once they finally opened the Continental line, which was really no line at all – we waited another hour. Dustin went to the other side of the room for the Delta line. They pushed us back and finally set up a table to check bags. Then a lady came through and took some people’s passports, but not others. Mine was one she took. I started to panic, thinking what an idiotic move that was… giving this woman my passport. I was watching people get their boarding passes and leave. I finally just pushed my way to the front (this was the time to be aggressive). I said, “I need my passport!” The lady just said “bag.” So I grabbed my bag, which the security guy had already gone through and put to the side. He tried to stop me, but I grabbed it anyway and brought it to the lady who took my passport. She weighed it, checked-it, then finally gave me my boarding pass and passport. Makes no sense at all, but when I finally got to my gate, I was relieved. Getting on the airplane was amazing. The seat was the most comfortable thing I’d been in all week. I closed my eyes and fell asleep before takeoff.
This week on the FOX CT Morning News, you’ll see three stories that I did in Haiti with Dustin. They are set to air Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
We had another free med clinic today. People lined up for hours to see Dr. Franco. A 79-year-old man had an old wound from a pick ax. This took place even before the earthquake and was left untreated. His left hand was scrunched and his fingers turned in. This was a result of a stroke untreated as well. I was amazed watching the nurses take care of him and treat him, especially my good friend Joannie. They didn’t even speak the same language, and she could read him. She understood him. She's an incredible nurse, and I will always look up to her for her ability to connect with a patient.
After lunch we visited the Port-au-Prince Hospital. The workers were on strike, so no one was there to care for these people. As we walked by, each and every one of them held out their x-rays for Dr. Franco. He stopped for everyone, spoke to them, helped them as much as he could, and then prayed with them.
One man was confined to his hospital bed with handcuffs. I asked Dr. Franco to translate for me. This man was put in prison in 2006 for supposedly owning a gun. However, the police here who accused him of this crime never found a gun on him. But they put him in prison anyway. When the earthquake happened, he escaped. But the police found him and shot him in his legs. He will now spend the rest of his life confined to this bed.
As we were leaving, we walked by the tuberculosis tent. Every person in that tent will die of TB. They do not have access to the treatment and medication they need. Hearst cars lined the streets in clear view for all the patients to see.
Everyone was kind of in a daze leaving the Port-au-Prince Hospital. But as soon as we entered the compound, all the boys of the orphanage came running toward us!
I was walking around with a little boy named Olry. He’s 4-years-old. Joannie and I gave him a mini butterfinger. He literally put the entire wrapper in his mouth after eating the candy bar. As the sun set, we got in the hammock together. It only took a few minutes and Olry had passed out. And let me tell you… it’s not that easy getting out of a hammock with a child asleep on top of you.
"I find it hilarious (and sort of sick and atrocious) that I have internet access right now, but no running water."
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Today, patients are lined up outside waiting to see Dr. Franco. Some suffer from dehydration. Others have cholera and even HIV. But Dr. Franco will see all of them.
The internet connection isn’t great here, so the stories Dustin and I are shooting might not air until next week. Regardless, the people of Haiti have incredible stories – some so sad it’s almost beyond comprehension. I wonder where all their joy comes from. But they are full of so much hope, and Generations of Hope Haiti (GoHaiti) is making that possible for so many people.
The streets of Port-au-Prince
Property where Dr. Franco's friend is building another orphanage
View from the orphanage window
Generations of Hope orphanage's backyard
Monday, August 15, 2011
Sunday, August 14, 2011
The Generations of Hope (GoHaiti) Orphanage is working on clearing an area in front of the orphanage so the kids can have a soccer field. After all of our work yesterday, we told the kids we had a BIG surprise for them. Kim and I pealed mangos in the kitchen to bring out to all the children. I was thinking… “Are these kids really going to get excited about mangos??” But low and behold, when we brought out the mangos, you would’ve thought the kids just walked in to FAO Schwarz!! It was amazing. They are so grateful for sliced mangos, a hug, a high five, even a smile. They just want to be loved.
Today we went to church. Dr. Franco gave the sermon… granted it was in Haitian Creole, but I tried to follow with the help of a translator. Some of the songs were in English but most were in Haitian Creole. However, music really is a universal language.
One of the young orphan girls here, Linda, was cleaning dishes outside today by the sugarcane field. She borrowed someone’s ipod and was jamming out to Justin Bieber! There I was standing next to a sugarcane field, with goats running around me, clothes were being hung on the clothesline between two trees – and there was little Linda cleaning dishes singing at the top of her lungs to a Justin Bieber song. Who would've thought?
I also met a young boy today. His kneecap was so swollen. I asked Dr. Franco what happened to him. He said it was an injury from the earthquake in 2010. His mother cannot afford to pay for his surgery. He’s coming to the compound on Tuesday with a few other kids. If all goes well, technology wise, I’ll be telling their stories on the FOX CT Morning News this week. I'll let you know how you can help if you want to pay or contribute to the cost of surgery.
Again if you want to donate to Go-Haiti, click here.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
There have been some improvements in Haiti. Paul Farmer and Bill Clinton built the PIH (Partners in Health) Hospital in Kreyol, which provides free treatment to patients living in poverty. The hospital helps them obtain effective drugs to treat tuberculosis and AIDS. However, the patients at St. Marc Hospital cannot reach the PIH Hospital.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Thursday, August 11, 2011
I’m excited to officially announce that I’ll be traveling to Haiti tomorrow morning. This entire journey began when I interviewed Kim Cornell on the FOX CT Morning News for National Nurses Week. I was so inspired by her story of traveling to Haiti, being there for the 2010 earthquake, changing her career path to nursing and now adopting a little boy named GayePaye from the orphanage in Haiti. Read her blog, and you’ll see just what an amazing woman she truly is…
“I went down [to Haiti] the first week of January 2010. I stayed after the rest of the team left to head back home, and that is when the earthquake struck. My life would never be the same. I would never know such fear and terror that I did on January 12th, when I felt the earth move beneath me and felt so incredibly helpless. We immediately traveled through the destruction to get back to the orphanage to make sure the kids were okay, including my little guy, and what I saw on the way will be forever engrained in my mind… It was that moment when I found out he was okay that I decided I just had to move forward with trying to adopt him.”
When I started researching the non-profit that inspired Kim to volunteer in Haiti, I knew I had to be a part of this incredible group. Generations of Hope, Haiti (Go-Haiti) is a non-profit organization committed to reaching the lost and poor of Haiti. President and founder, Dr. Franco Jean-Louis has been working as a missionary medical doctor since 1995. His goal has always been the same: to meet the physical and the spiritual needs of the Haitian people, especially abandoned children and the sick. With Kim’s help, 34 volunteers will be working with Go-Haiti for the month of August. During this time, volunteers will be working at a medical clinic, counseling center, community orphanage, primary school and more.
I’m lucky to have two of my best friends traveling with me. As fate would have it, a fellow Mizzou alumni – Sarah – recently decided to switch career paths from the journalism field to the medical field. I applaud her for figuring out what she wants in life and going for it! And this trip to Haiti was perfect timing for Sarah. She’s an amazing travel companion (we traveled to China together to cover the 2008 Olympic Games), and I’m so happy to have her on this trip. Click here to read Sarah's blog.
Joannie is another gem in my life. If I ever have a bad day, I talk to Joannie and quickly realize – like the book says – “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.” Joannie worked in the burn unit at New York Presbyterian Hospital. When she moved to San Francisco, I was sad not to have her close in NY anymore. But she must have been there for a reason because when the gas line explosion happened in San Bruno, Joannie had just started working at a small hospital near-by and she was one of the only nurses with burn unit experience. I realized, in that moment of my life, that things happen for a reason. We might not always be able to explain why. But I think they do.
Many people ask me why I’m going to Haiti. They say it’s too dangerous. It’s just deplorable living conditions down there. But all I could do was think… If not now, when? If not these volunteers, then who?
So I booked my ticket and off I go.
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