Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hopeful Message from Port au Prince

Although I am rarely there, I am an attender of the Providence Monthly Meeting of Friends, and an active reader of emails on the listserv (yecch sorry about that word). Elsie sent this out, and it is very moving. I do not know the author, but this person wants this message shared, and I am happy to do so!

Addendum: 4:05 P.M. [still Thursday the 21st]
Here is the link to Sasha Kramer's blog and within, more information about Sasha's history and that of S.O.I.L...

Sasha Kramer sent a message to the members of Sustainable Organic Integrated
Livelihoods (SOIL).

Subject: Kouraj cherie: Update from Port au Prince

January 19, 2010

This afternoon, feeling helpless, we decided to take a van down to Champs
Mars (the area around the palace) to look for people needing medical care to
bring to Matthew 25, the guesthouse where we are staying which has been
transformed into a field hospital. Since we arrived in Port au Prince
everyone has told us that you cannot go into the area around the palace
because of violence and insecurity. I was in awe as we walked into
downtown, among the flattened buildings , in the shadow of the fallen
palace, amongst the swarms of displaced people there was calm and
solidarity. We wound our way through the camp asking for injured people who
needed to get to the hospital. Despite everyone telling us that as soon as
we did this we would be mobbed by people, I was amazed as we approached each
tent people gently pointed us towards their neighbors, guiding us to those
who were suffering the most. We picked up 5 badly injured people and drove
towards an area where Ellie and Berto had passed a woman earlier. When they
saw her she was lying on the side of the road with a broken leg screaming
for help, as they were on foot they could not help her at the time so we
went back to try to find her. Incredibly we found her relatively quickly at
the top of a hill of shattered houses. The sun was setting and the
community helped to carry her down the hill on a refrigerator door, tough
looking guys smiled in our direction calling out “bonswa Cherie” and

When we got back to Matthew 25 it was dark and we carried the patients back
into the soccer field/tent village/hospital where the team of doctors had
been working tirelessly all day. Although they had officially closed down
for the evening, they agreed to see the patients we had brought. Once our
patients were settled in we came back into the house to find the doctors
amputating a foot on the dining room table. The patient lay calmly, awake
but far away under the fog of ketamine. Half way through the surgery we
heard a clamor outside and ran out to see what it was. A large yellow truck
was parked in front of the gate and rapidly unloading hundreds of bags of
food over our fence, the hungry crowd had already begun to gather and in the
dark it was hard to decide how to best distribute the food. Knowing that we
could not sleep in the house with all of this food and so many starving
people in the neighborhood, our friend Amber (who is experienced in food
distribution) snapped into action and began to get everyone in the crowd
into a line that stretched down the road. We braced ourselves for the
fighting that we had heard would come but in a miraculous display of
restraint and compassion people lined up to get the food and one by one the
bags were handed out without a single serious incident.

During the food distribution the doctors called to see if anyone could help
to bury the amputated leg in the backyard. As I have no experience with
food distribution I offered to help with the leg. I went into the back with
Ellie and Berto and we dug a hole and placed the leg in it, covering it with
soil and cement rubble. By the time we got back into the house the food had
all been distributed and the patient Anderson was waking up. The doctors
asked for a translator so I went and sat by his stretcher explaining to him
that the surgery had gone well and he was going to live. His family had
gone home so he was alone so Ellie and I took turns sitting with him as he
came out from under the drugs. I sat and talked to Anderson for hours as he
drifted in and out of consciousness. At one point one of the Haitian men
working at the hospital came in and leaned over Anderson and said to him in
kreyol “listen man even if your family could not be here tonight we want you
to know that everyone here loves you, we are all your brothers and sisters”.
Cat and I have barely shed a tear through all of this, the sky could fall
and we would not bat an eye, but when I told her this story this morning the
tears just began rolling down her face, as they are mine as I am writing
this. Sometimes it is the kindness and not the horror that can break the
numbness that we are all lost in right now.

So, don’t believe Anderson Cooper when he says that Haiti is a hotbed for
violence and riots, it is just not the case. In the darkest of times, Haiti
has proven to be a country of brave, resilient and kind people and it is
that behavior that is far more prevalent than the isolated incidents of
violence. Please pass this on to as many people as you can so that they can
see the light of Haiti, cutting through the darkness, the light that will
heal this nation.

We are safe. We love you all and I will write again when I can. Thank you
for your generosity and compassion.

With love from Port au Prince,

I was going to select certain lines and put them in bold face or italics, because they particularly captured me, but as I reread this, I think the entire letter deserves attention.

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