Bright and early, Thursday morning we began our next day of work in Haiti. After breakfast, we walked down to the on-site clinic run by the organization that was hosting us. As I mentioned before, the clinic was in operation before the earthquake and saw about 75 patients a day. Now they are seeing approximately 250 patients per day. We were told that many of the patients that they were seeing in the clinic while we were there were ones that had chronic conditions but were having their treatment put off by more urgent earthquake related cases. There were also newly diagnosed cases of TB, malaria, and typhoid. There were many pregnant women who were receiving their first prenatal care.
When we arrived, the line to be seen had already filled the waiting room and was spilling out into the courtyard. Mothers were waiting with several small children each, so we jumped right in to entertain them to help pass the time.
We colored with crayons, painted finger nails (and even got our own nails painted), and played with bubbles. It was fun to see the children laugh and watch their mothers smile with appreciation.
Eventually I ended up sitting next to a little boy named David. He loved my camera and it quickly ended up around his neck.
He snapped hundred and hundreds of pictures until the battery died. I wished for better Creole skills trying to explain to him why the camera wasnt working any more!
After being passed part of a deck of cards, David and I started a game of War. Since I can somewhat count in Creole, it was a game I could explain! For a game of chance, David was sure an expert and beat me by quite a bit every time. He got the biggest kick out of counting the cards and telling his mom how many I had and how many he had. Pointing to himself, kenz! (15), pointing to me uit! (8). He thought it was the funniest thing ever!
The whole time we were playing, we were moving through the clinic line and I wished I could have stayed with David until it was his turn to be seen, but all too quickly it was time to leave. David expressed a few times that his head was hurting him, but I hope that despite my limited language skills I was able to bring him a little joy in the midst of his pain and that the clinic staff was able to figure out what was wrong.
After lunch, we headed to another orphanage. Unlike the one we had visited the day before, this one had sustained major damage from the quake. The schoolhouse had collapsed completely and their church building had major damage in the front of it. Again, the lesson from January 12th was preserved on the chalkboard. We were told however, that miraculously all of the children and teachers had survived.
No one wants to be back inside any of the buildings that remain (even if they are safe), so all the kids and their caretakers are living in tents on the property. There was a large tarp tied to the top of some tall trees that provided the only shade. It was definitely harder to get the kids to smile that day than it had been the day before.
You could tell that they were still scared. Even though we later found out that there were over one hundred children at the orphanage, we probably only saw half of them. The rest never came out of the comfort of their tents.
It is really difficult to describe or put into words here, but the joy and encouragement that we felt for Haiti and its children the day before were replaced with feelings of grief and sadness as we left the orphanage that day. We later found out that there were very good reason why.
There were two stories we heard later about that orphanage that made it clear that there were some very bad things going on there.
There was an adorable little boy named Matthew that we met during lunch that day at the place we were staying. He is actually in the process of being adopted, and had been found a few months earlier (pre-earthquake) lying near death in the corner of the orphanage. He was very sick and severely malnourished. They think he is around a year old now, and it finally gaining enough weight to have a little fat on his little legs.
There were also adorable six year old twins staying at our site, also in the adoption process [you can see them in the background of a lot of my pictures and I will talk about them more during the last day of the trip]. Even before the earthquake, it can take several years for a childs adoption to be finalized. These girls had been removed from the same orphanage as Matthew and in addition to severe illnesses there was evidence of other horrible abuse.
The children in most Haitian orphanages are not available for adoption. The orphanages are set up in such a way to give the children stability and a sense of family and that cannot happen if their siblings are constantly coming and going. It is an indication of something bad if multiple children have been removed from one place.
It seemed that just when the sadness of the day was going to be completely overwhelming, it was slightly relieved by a funny circumstance that night. It was not unusual to see goats roaming the property, but apparently during the day a baby goat (umbilical cord still attached) had wandered into the clinic. The nurses tried to return it to its family but it kept coming back to the clinic. When the nurses got off their shift, they decided it was a good idea to bring it up to the guesthouse where we were all staying. They found a bottle and started feeding it baby formula. I could not believe it!
I think I was the only one that thought the whole goat business was a little ridiculous. Every time it cried, I jokingly threatened our team that if the goat kept me awake that night with its crying, we would be having goat sausage for breakfast. Even I have to admit though, it was a cute little creature!