I awoke the first morning after our return from Gran Sous to the gentle sound of rain on the roof, classical music on the radio, and the security of my Connecticut life. I found it hard to believe that only 24 hours before, I had wakened to the sounds of roosters crowing, donkeys braying and dogs barking; the sounds of early morning in a remote mountain village in earthquake ravaged Haiti.
Thanks to Roots of Development, this is the second time I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit and be part of this remarkable community. Last year when I visited, I was moved and inspired as I watched the members of APDAG working to help the people of their village in developing plans to improve their lives. On returning this year, I was stunned by the work that had been accomplished and progress they had made in their understanding of group process.
The people of Gran Sous are quite simply, amazing! They open their homes, their hearts to us with warmth, generosity and a trust that is unique in my experience. They have so little, they live with none of the modern conveniences that we as Americans find “essential”, and yet are willing to share what they have without hesitation.
From early morning until darkness falls, they labor to achieve the basics of life. Women and children carry the water necessary for cooking and bathing long distance from the water source to their homes, in basins and plastic jugs, balanced on their heads. They cook their meals over charcoal fires, wash their clothes in the streams and then carry this heavy wet clothing back (again on their heads) to their homes. They walk countless miles over a rocky road to market for food and necessities, and then carry their purchases back. On market day, we joined them on their walk to market, carried nothing back and speaking for myself, were sweaty, thirsty and exhausted! These are the conditions in the main village area of the town. Relatively speaking they are luxurious compared the conditions in the more remote mountainous areas. The conditions in those areas defy description.
Within this community, I have found friendship, affection and acceptance from people of all ages. They gently tease me about my foibles, reach out to steady me when I clumsily trip over the ever-present rocks, hug me and most importantly, laugh with me.
I came to Gran Sous to assist them in working out a plan for improving health care. I continue to work with them to achieve these goals. In my case, I was part of a team assessing the potential for providing additional education for the lay midwives practicing in Gran Sous and the surrounding area.
However, what I can give to them seems small in comparison to what they have given to me. I have learned so much more than I have given. My life and my perspective have been forever changed.
Don’t misunderstand me; this is a physically arduous, emotionally draining trip. I found conditions that broke my heart, situations that appalled and frustrated me from a medical perspective, conditions that I simply cannot understand and find difficult if not impossible to accept. The day-to-day life is hard, adapting to such a deprived and rigorous lifestyle is not easy and it is often a struggle to keep up with the daily demands. I would be less than honest if I said that I wasn’t discomforted or at times miserable, but all in all the good parts far outweighed the difficulties.
Before the January earthquake the country was mired in poverty: confounded by the unjust distribution of wealth and power, working within a fragmented government structure, lacking natural resources, with poor to non existent health care, to name only a few of their problems. Now this natural disaster has compounded all the issues and problems and left in its wake a situation that seems hopeless.
However, despite all of this, I continue to maintain that there can be hope. Through organizations like Roots of Development, there burns a flicker of optimism. Employing Roots of Development’s philosophy of working with the intelligent and resourceful people of Haiti, we can help to show them that they are not powerless, they can work to achieve goals and they can achieve success. Small steps within small communities (such as Gran Sous) to be sure, but steps definitely worth taking if Haiti is to endure.