On our first day of clinic, a “blanc” (white man) came through the doors out of breath and in a panic. Behind him another man carried a woman in his arms. She looked dead. “Please help us, these people are very sick.” He brought another two patients in behind them. He was right. They were very sick. They had malaria, typhoid, with spiked fevers. They were extremely dehydrated. The woman who had been carried in hadn’t eaten in days. The medical team quickly put her and another teenage boy on an IV drip.
“Where did you come from?” I asked “I am just a kilometer from you. I am running a refuge camp. There are about 200 displaced earthquake victims living in a small room. They are sick and hungry. We only have food to last us three more days.” We couldn’t believe what we were hearing. If the people he had just brought in to our clinic was any indication of the kind of sickness that was in his refuge camp, they could have monumental problems. Since several of the people had typhoid, an outbreak was bound to happen. Next would be cholera.
I (Kumar Dixit) volunteered to visit the refuge camp to get a better understanding of what was going on and how severe the situation was. Before I left, I was ordered to wear double masks and double gloves before entering the premises which was suspected to be full of infection and disease. I caught a ‘tap tap’ (motor taxi) and drove 2 kilometers to the location of the site. As I entered the site, I was startled to witness what was before my eyes. It was a dark room without electricity. My eyes had to adjust to the darkness as I saw mothers and children laying motionless on the ground. In this room no larger than 40' x 80', over two hundred people slept in cramped quarters amongst one another.
A young boy about the age of 10 pulled on my arm. He spoke English. “Please sir, take me to Port au Prince.” “I'm so sorry, I can’t,” I replied, trying to move my arm so he wouldn’t touch me. “I need to go. I have to find my mother. She needs me" he said. I looked down at him, into his pleading eyes. He was desperate. We both knew his mother was dead. Lost in the piles of mass graves dug in the hills.
There were six newborn babies laying on the dirty ground. Another dozen kids sat outside, some gazing off in space. Others stood in the filthy gutter water that was running outside of the building washing their face and cleaning their feet. “I hope I put extra mosquito repellent on.” I thought to myself, as I tied my surgical mask even tighter. A group of women cooked outside by a fire. They were boiling rice and making some kind of tomato stew. The smell of human body unbathed for days, perhaps weeks was pungent. Three women were pregnant. There was only three days of food left.
Paul, the man who brought me to the refuge camp was in way over his head. Because he wasn’t running an established organization or orphanage, he wouldn’t be recognized by any of the helping organizations for food rations, health check-ups, or financial assistance. The only hope was for the United Nations to step in. Now that I was involved by visiting, I was in over my head. “These people are going to die.” I thought. Now that I saw these people and the inhumane conditions they were living in, I couldn’t turn my back. To say, “God knows they are here and all I can do is pray for them,” just wasn’t good enough. What if God wanted me to help them?
Over the next several days, I tried to connect Paul with every person I knew in the group. Charles from Eden Garden orphanage offered food and water, and other resources. Pastor Henri from Caanan Orphanage extended assistance for the babies and their mothers. I requested the help of a European Union representative who was staying at my hotel. Monty Jacbos secured some milk and formula from ADRA International that will assist the mothers who’s breast milk has all but dried up.
This morning, Glenn Gibb and I drove to the refuge site for a follow-up visit. We brought with us a bag of soccer balls for the kids to play with. In addition, we brought thousands of immunity booster tablets, ointment for skin rashes and several dozen bars of soap. As we left the compound I kept reminding myself that I cannot save Haiti, but perhaps I can make a difference for even a few Haitians. I am not sure what the outcome of the refuge camp will look like. As the rainy season approaches, the cases of malaria and typhoid are going to spike. Death may be inevitable for some in the camp. I can only pray and hope for Haiti.
This refuge camp was such a stark contrast to what is taking place at Eden Garden Orphanage just a mile away. The mission that New Hope Church is committed to with Eden Garden is huge. I realize we spend a ton of our church resources (like donating our church van), raising funds (like $25,000 in one month from in and outside New Hope) holding colletion drives for medicines, vitamins, clothes, etc. As a Pastor, I have at times felt that this is a drain on our congregation. Perhaps it is. But it is of no comparison to the amount of suffering going on in Haiti. This is the very least we can do.
Because of the sacrifice of New Hope and the donations made by so many of you (across the country and even across the world) to our missions ministry "S.o.S. Haiti" and to Eden Garden, the orphanage kids have access to a physician and nurse four days a week, eat three healthy meals every day, attend a private school on the same campus, and play like any ordinary children should. These things are worth any minor inconvience to us. These"luxuries" are worth a daily diversion of our Starbucks funds, or skipping a meal out in a restaurant, if it even makes that much of a dent in our own personal finances. We’re literally talking life and death here. Thank you for helping make a difference for these kids at Eden Garden. It really is a safe haven and such a better life than what you find outside its gates.
Update: The United Nations gave the refuge camp 1,500 MRE (Meals Ready to Eat). A physician from the United Nations was also deployed to visit the camp for an assessment.
Pastor/Nurse Ann Roda checking the blood pressure on a deyhdrated woman while her son sleeps.
Mother and baby at the refugee camp
Sleeping quarters on the floor at the refugee camp
A meal prepared and served on the dirty floor - but at least it's a meal