Discover The Journey was on the ground in Haiti less than 72 hours after the 7.0 earthquake on January 12th. Devastation and hope were both witnessed and entered into; a myriad of memories and faces remain. We left for the island not knowing what to expect. Below are our objectives we carried into this disaster and what we experienced.
1. Provide medical support and disaster assistance
DTJ ferried several hundred pounds of medical supplies to Haiti, mainly consisting of basic wound care arriving in the crucial time period of less than 48 hours after the quake. The wounded were everywhere. People were transporting their injured friends and family in the backs of pickup trucks or cars, horns blaring, people yelling. Clinics had completely closed down; bled dry of all their supplies, there was no more care to provide. Hospitals were overwhelmed, patient loads far exceeding capacity. People‘s critical needs were getting more and more acute – the longer acute trauma wounds remained un-addressed, the higher the risk grew threatening their lives. Amputations were common, occurring wherever there was space and with whatever tools were available. Pain medication was nearly all but gone, amputations were done with minor pain medicines. If left untreated, normally minor wound infections can go septic (entering the blood stream) becoming deadly.
And thus we entered this chaos of pain and need bringing only what we could physically carry into the country; a very small dent in the sea of want. We delivered the medical supplies to two medical facilities: Child Hope International and a makeshift clinic setup at an old amusement park on Route de Tabarre, run by an organization called NOAH.
Maison de Lumiere, run by Child Hope International, is a children’s home housing over 50 children. Thankfully only one child was injured in the earthquake. But immediately following the quake, hundreds of injured people seeking aid began arriving. There was only one response; love. The boys home was converted into a makeshift clinic and the staff at Maison de Lumiere began treating the patients. Nearly 200 people were treated in the first few days, with injuries ranging from head trauma to broken limbs to life-threatening wounds. The children of Child Hope worked alongside the staff to help those in pain. The children served as translators and helpers, bandaging wounds, loving the patients, scrubbing the floors. DTJ delivered half of the medical supplies to assist and sustain Child Hope in their ongoing daily medical care for hundreds of Haitians in their community.
NOAH is a non-profit dedicated to the restoration of Haiti. Many of their volunteers are Haitian-American medical professionals driven to respond to the needs of their people. Alongside a collection of medical experts from the Brooklyn, NY and Seattle, WA areas, Noah spearheaded setting up a makeshift medical facility in an abandoned amusement park in Port au Prince. During DTJ’s visit, we saw dozens of patients arrive and be treated with love and expertise. But their supplies were critically limited. The field surgery and wound care equipment DTJ brought was extremely appreciated. Sutures were used to close wounds and the supplies were immediately dispatched to their field units treating people across the shattered urban landscape of Port Au Prince.
DTJ documented the stories of many of the patients at both Child Hope and Noah. Watch some of our footage on CNN which was shown on Larry King Live about Child Hope’s impromptu clinic below:
2. Document the quake’s impact on children
The earthquake has forever changed the fabric of Haiti, and especially the future of Haiti’s children. Before the earthquake there were over 380,000 orphans and 200,000 street children. Today, there are over 1 million. Some expect the number to reach 1.5 million orphans. 1.5 million children orphaned, 1.5 million children at-risk. The number of street children and restaveks is rapidly rising. We met a little boy named Dickinson in Leogane, one of the hardest hit areas by the earthquake. Dickinson told us that he doesn’t know where his parents are. He is now a restavek (a child slave) working for his aunt. He does not think he will ever get to go to school. Dickinson said he wanted to be a doctor – his friends laughed. All around him buildings have been turned to dust; the hope of education reduced to little more than inflated dreaming.
Haiti also has had a history of child trafficking, and in the midst of the chaos of the earthquake, child trafficking is on the rise. DTJ is investigating this growing problem, particularly a case DTJ has been following for over two years. DTJ is laboring so that justice may be ensured for children being exploited.
DTJ sat with, listened to, walked with, cried with and ached alongside the children of Haiti who have lost nearly everything. Their words are prophetic and profound and DTJ is eager to share their voices.
DTJ’s Executive Director is currently producing a documentary with a major international network focusing on the orphan crisis, trafficking and caregivers in the midst struggling to uplift Haiti’s children. Click here now to follow us on twitter for updates
Look for Photography and video we will be releasing in the coming weeks featuring the voices of Haiti’s children.
3. Provide emotional support for victims
DTJ was present with people in pain. And though often all we could do was offer our hearts and our presence, this posture was received with gratitude, which humbled us.
Our first deep interaction with an earthquake survivor was with a mother who had just given birth to twins two days after the earthquake. She clutched her two children as she told us she had been barren her whole life, but always wanting children. She said she felt blessed God finally gave her children, but she simultaneously grieved, not knowing how she would take care of them. We were inspired to witness new life entering the world, and at the same time overwhelmed at the reality they were entering into.
DTJ visited a tent community where thousands of people were living, people who had either lost their homes or were too scared to sleep inside. One man said we were the first people who had come to see how they were living, the first outsiders to ask them how they were. Another woman told us of the loss of her husband in tears that streamed down her face, while she gripped her pregnant stomach and told us of the four children she is responsible for, and her fear that she will not be able to provide for them. With these people we listened and offered our prayers, alongside these friends we existed together for a time.
Psycho-social help in the aftermath of a major disaster is critical. Allowing people to express their particular story is elemental to the grieving process. Through listening, their pain is validated, through empathizing, their loss is acknowledged, and in their pain, comfort can be offered and received. We found quickly that showing up illustrated a solidarity that can only be felt in order to be understood. Just the fact that we had come. We persist that we have done something very small, but these small things are offerings of hope amidst the chaos of despair.
We remember Rosie. Rosie survived the earthquake – she is just three years old. Rosie was so traumatized by the experience that when she speaks, the only thing she says is, “the bathroom is falling on me, the bathroom is falling on me.” Her trauma and her pain compels us to keep seeking healing. Rosie urges us forward.
4. Reconnaissance and Research
DTJ was able to locate several friends who had gone missing in the earthquake and relay the information back to people who love them. The joy of the discovery of life was beautiful.
DTJ is now compiling an Intervention Report detailing the needs and challenges that continue to face Haiti’s children. We hope our experience will provide needed direction to those continuing to labor for healing and restoration in Haiti.
We are returning soon and will continue to elevate the voices of Haiti’s children.
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