February 8th, 2011
08:45 AM ET

From wwo.org: Dr. Jane Aronson returns to Haiti

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It is 11: 45 pm on Monday night, Jan 25, 2011 and it will be a year that I came to Haiti for the first time on the 27th of Jan, 2010...and I have been back a few times since then and it finally does look different. I hear dogs barking loudly outside and I could swear that I am in Ethiopia. The dogs come out at night in Addis and bark all night so if you find it hard to sleep, Addis is not the place for you! And now, maybe Haiti is not the place for you either...but both places are just fine by me.

The flight was a quick 4 hours; when compared to my recent travel to Ethiopia last summer and then Australia and Vietnam for the Christmas holiday, it felt like I had taken a train to New York City from my home in Maplewood, New Jersey. That is likely a good deal of the attraction of Haiti...it is very close to the US. I can't help myself when I tell you that I look forward to coming to Port au Prince. I begin to anticipate the sweetness of the people ...friendly and smiling. The music that greets us at the airport is inviting and whimsical. And yes, that was all there today...smiling faces enticing me to smile back and I did. I felt like I knew everyone at the airport and I gave a thumbs up as we smiled at one another.

The crowds were oppressive and annoying, but at the same time, there was the comfort that other people were coming and going even though everyone is saying Haiti will never be fixed. Nou Bouke is said and seen about town, which means "We're tired" in Creole. And yes, the people are tired especially this past week because Baby Doc came back and then left and then came back. Maybe former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide will be back any moment, as well. Who knows? And who can understand all of this political nonsense? I can't, so I return to the main purpose of my work in Haiti. There are hundreds of thousands of children living in squalor without proper nutrition, without adequate primary medical care, and barely enough education to give a child a chance to rise up and out. I must be here...no choice I guess for now.

The rubble is cleared away from so many places that were once unpassable. There are new construction and banners everywhere which announce re-openings of schools, clinics, pharmacies, stores. Some are grand openings and new addresses head the banners. Yet, the roads are still choked with cars, trucks, Tap Taps, and people. The street life was flourishing today...more alive than ever. Every kind of goods was hanging on walls, hooked on doors, spread out on roadsides, and piled high in supermarket baskets and wheel barrows. I took a lot of snapshots of the street chaos today. It was an eye-candy and in fact I let my window down and took iPhone photos all the way back to the hotel after our afternoon at the Rosemina Foundation orphanage. The drivers of our two cars were each sure that their way to the next destination was better....but we let them work that out. Of course, we got lost for just a few minutes and had to double back to find the right address. I am happy actually to see that no matter where you are in the world, finding an orphanage is challenging and even after you go a few times, you will still miss the entrance and get a bit lost.

People’s lives also seemed different. They were still living in tent cities, but there was order to that life. I could see at the end of the day, that people had returned from work or school and they were lining up as in a routine to get clean water at the entrance of their tent city. And everyone had that expression of "It’s the end of my day and I can't wait to get home to my family". And there were men and women who were dressed really nicely and neatly, even though they might have slept in a tent for the last year. They were living a routine life now and that was a given. The contrast between the rubble and crushed buildings and the new construction and neat walking commuters was pleasant for me. There was always excitement and eagerness wherever there were little groups of children in school uniforms hanging out and on their way home from school. That was really fun to see. The kids were dressed so carefully, especially the teenage girls, with uniforms that had some individuality reflected in a belt and stockings or a sweater and beautifully coiffed hair. Their faces were shiny and clean. They were going home to do chores and homework amidst the chaos of a nation almost destroyed in a matter of seconds just a year ago and a history of child slavery and tyrannical leaders.

Visit to Rosemina Foundation orphanage

Off to Rosemina Foundation, an orphanage run by Pastor Rolande Fernandez, an elegant woman in her 50s whose grounds house 86 children. Mostly children have families in some location, but no one is collecting this information. Case management by a social welfare system doesn't seem to exist in Haiti. These are what I call "social orphans"; there is a parent and likely some extended family, but they are too poor and not educated. Many believe that being in an orphanage is the only solution.

So the kids here are protected from harm and are getting an education and some food. The rooms are barely recognizable as bedrooms...the babies are on mats or in beds… the older kids are on the floor. Sanitation at the orphanage is non-existent. Toilets are being constructed and amidst that construction is one commode in a quasi outhouse with a door swung open. I couldn't resist taking photos of: the toilet that likely is draining into the open grounds; four new sites with the PVC tubes up from the ground; and then potties in the back filled with kaka and flies buzzing about. I didn't get too close because I gagged just from looking...

Read more on wwo.org

Related on wwo.org: Dr.Aronson in Haiti – Journal #2

Related on wwo.org: Dr.Aronson in Haiti – Journal #3

Filed under: Haiti • Haiti Earthquake
soundoff (One Response)
  1. Stephanie Dobrindt

    on Haiti –
    My daughter and I are still following Haiti and wish the world was. I would like to hear more about this poor country. I do not see much on the news about what is going on now, since the earthquake and cholera. Nor do we see any improvement in the housing for them.
    Somebody and or country has got to help them. How would we feel if it was here, but then take a look a New Orleans and I guess that says it all doesn't it.
    Where did the moneys go that all was donated, I would be curious about this as well?
    Why cannot a construction company step in and help to rebuild their homes for them. There has to be something that can be done.
    Our hearts are still with them and our prayers.

    February 8, 2011 at 7:02 pm |