A Lesson in Birds, Bees, Seeds & Flowers: Haiti Medical Mission Nov 23-25

A few years ago, Randy was on a holiday tour, and his guide began by saying, “To enjoy this tour, you’re going to need three things: the first is flexibility, the second is a sense of humour, and the third is patience. If you have that, we’re going to have a great time.”

He was thinking of this on Saturday when we showed up for our afternoon clinic with the elderly, set up by the local St Vincent de Paul society. We showed up at our clinic in Terrier Rouge to find about twenty seniors waiting for care… but no local staff and locked doors, which meant no pharmacy, no beds, no prescription pads and no electricity. And in about one minute, we had a new plan. We went into the open-air chapel and converted it into our own clinic. Irene led us in prayer and song, and Betty ran a wonderful stretching lesson. Then we broke off into pockets, and ran our clinic just as we would have in the proper facility. The elders began with the doctors, then moved to be treated by Irene and have their mobility assessed by Betty, and finished with the sacrament of the sick with Fr Duncan and Sr Merilise. The final patients were anointed by the light of a Samsung cellphone.

Betty leads the seniors for a good stretch
Patience, for some of us, has been a more challenging virtue. As there always are, there are logistical mix-ups, unexpected delays and all of the issues that arise with two cultures and languages trying to work together. But the greater challenge is to make peace with the fact that we will not see most of the fruit that will come of this mission. Much of it will be years from now. Alejandra, Betty-Jane, Lucette, Sr Gina and Sr Merilise had the opportunity to teach sex education in several classes in the schools in both communities. Alejandra was surprised and dispirited at how little information the older youth had about sexuality, reproduction and relationships. In this area, rates of young pregnancy are high, and as long as the topic of sex remains a taboo, it’s difficult to imagine much change. Teachers believe that it is the parents’ job to teach children the birds and the bees, and the parents won’t. But our team certainly did, and concluded each presentation with a discussion about preventing abuse, and rousing chants of “Non c’est non!” (No means no).  And while we pray that the youth never need to put this mantra to use, we know that we have planted seeds  of self-respect and the courage to speak up if they are sexually harassed.  As Julia Cameron writes in her book Blessings, “In the present we find the flowers of what we’ve been and the seeds of what we are becoming.”

Non c'est non!

And we have also been blessed to meet some “flowers” who have bloomed from hard work and the patience of Chalice sponsors. We’ve met Kerline, Jennica and Garrison, Jefferson, all who are now in second year university (the women in nursing, the men in civil engineering) and all of whom have been sponsored through Chalice since they were little children. They thanked us, representatives of their sponsors, for giving them their education and allowing them to be, as Garrison put it, “human beings.” The two nurses want to serve their community, where there is such a lack of medical resources. The two civil engineers want to rebuild a country that is still reeling from the earthquake eight years ago. With young people like these students at the helm, the country will look very different in 10 years’ time. When Sr Gina arrived in this community in the 1970s, there were no schools that went higher than Grade 6. If this community can advance that far in 40 years, there is reason for hope in Haiti.

Sponsored students in second year univeristy
And if it hasn’t been clear from this blog so far, we’ve no shortage of a sense of humour on this trip.  Sr Merilise and Ed were conducting community health checkups, and as they approached one home, they heard a dog barking. Ed balked, but Sister marched ahead and got the family to deal with the dog. Where did they put him? The roof, of course. Ed thanked Sr Merilise for her bravery, and her response was, “Non c’est non!”