After the Christmas break, we returned to Haiti raring to go.
After a taste of life here in December, we now had 3 months ahead of us and a strong determination to get stuck in.
Christmas time in Haiti had brought about a somewhat predictable amount of turmoil and unsettlement. The Prime Minister left in early January amongst a series of protests in Port-au-Prince, and had been replaced with an ex radio DJ. Luckily, Île à Vache is a much more tranquil place, and it was great to be back in Madame Bernard.
Our first night back in Île à Vache saw Katy attend a medical call-out during the afternoon. A group of volunteers working for the International Rescue Service (sound familiar?!), yachts which provide medical supplies, were moored up in Ki Kok. One of their crew had slipped off some rocks at the beach and injured his leg. There was an impressive amount of blood which Katy was able to clean up for him (this turned out later to be a compound fracture of his leg). We were then invited aboard the main ship for drinks and food; it pays well to be married to a nurse sometimes!!
This was a steep contrast to our usual life in Île à Vache, and, making the most of it, we woke up the next day feeling very worse for wear. The following day was Carnival, a thrilling day on Île à Vache of singing, chanting and dancing. It was, however, sadly tainted by the tragedy at Port-au-Prince Carnival, where 18 people died after one of the floats came into contact with an electric cable.
After that little adventure, it was back to work. Haven had just started the houses in Point Est, which I’d scoped with them before Christmas. Since coming back, I’ve noticed a stark contrast from west to east in terms of development on Île à Vache. In the west, around Ki Kok with its major hotels and harbour, the houses are bigger and, generally, there is a feeling of development starting and money to be made.
Madame Bernard, in the middle of the island – and generally in the middle in terms of development – feels less developed, but still has the major markets and a medical centre. Point Est, on the other hand, feels somewhat forgotten. To get out here involves a 45 minute walk along a very flat, stoney path, with no shade to speak of. The lush green vegetation which coats the majority of the island is replaced with flat shrubby land, which feels very dry, bar the mangrove swamps. The area feels physically separated from the rest of the island and lacks a decent supply of fresh water.
There are approximately 105 houses in this area which Haven is currently renovating. It’s the first time I’ve been out to see the work since the start, and I’ve been very impressed! The speed at which the guys can work, making do with inadequate materials and very basic tools (i.e. carpentry with a machette rather than a plane) puts most western contractors to shame. It is great to see an area like that transformed through the work of Haven, and, when we’re finished, it is going to have the look and feel of a completely different place.
During this time, Katy has been splitting her work load between community work, visiting people that cannot attend the local clinic, and working alongside the NGO Medical Team International to visit disabled kids living at home. The goal is to evaluate their condition and future needs, including equipment and house alterations, so that they can continue to live and thrive at home with their families, something that isn’t very often achieved in Haiti. She is also continuing the first aid training in schools, and has had some fantastic feedback from kids who have happily put people in the recovery position when they passed out! Next blog, we will write about the ante-natal programme that we will soon be starting for the many expectant mothers on the island, the majority of whom will never see a healthcare professional throughout the duration of their pregnancy, or for the birth!
There have been some good news stories since we left. A guy in La Hatte who had a rather nasty machete wound to his foot has made a remarkable recovery. For my money, his wound was so bad he was going to lose his foot. Seeing him walking around with the wound almost completely closed over was very uplifting. The local lady who Katy showed how to dress and clean the wound properly had done a great job. It was also interesting to see just how resilient the human body can be to such a traumatic-looking injury!
Katy was also able to refer a young girl showing slow signs of development to a team in La Cayes. This little girl is now visiting a specialist once a week and will hopefully start to prosper. As a result, the family is over the moon, and Katy is becoming very popular in the community.
Being here for over six weeks now, we are starting to feel the benefit of being out and about in the community. A surprising amount of people shout out our names as we walk down the street, greeting us with a big smile. It can be a bit embarrassing when you’re rubbish with names yourself! We have also been subject to some great generosity – from being handed your third full coconut of the day (and trying hard to appreciate it) to being invited to a full fish supper courtesy of people with so little money, but who really want to show their appreciation to you.
On Thursday last week, President Martelly made an overdue visit to the island. There was a surreal and exciting feeling, watching the helicopters land on the sands in Madame Bernard. There seemed to be a lot of support for him on the island, with a lot of impromptu singing and dancing, and you definitely felt that, overall, he’s quite well supported, despite the controversial development plans. With a briefing from John to try and get a photo with Martelly, we then spent the day out in the sun looking for an opportune moment. We managed to grab a chance to holler at him and make a very brief introduction. A group photo wasn’t really on the cards; however, Katy did manage to snap a shot of him talking with Nadine. Turns out he is somewhat camera shy for a president!!
Last week ended with the trauma of watching the Six Nations finale as an English couple residing with the Irish. But also, on a more positive note, we were invited to a wedding. When I say “wedding”, what I actually mean is 20 couples all getting married at the same time in a mass ceremony, before breaking off into 20 different house parties. It was a great spectacle to be a part of and a very happy day to be on the island.