Today was a long day, but a good day. After three days in the Pignon region of Haiti, this would be our last as we planned a morning clinic and then a trip to a Speroway-supported feeding centre on our way back to a hotel near Port-Au-Prince, our home base until the end of our trip.
What a time we’ve had here in Pignon as guests of JeanJean and Kristie. Their story is compelling and an example of selfless commitment to the people in this region. A little background…
Kristie met JeanJean when she was here on a university internship program. They were married and moved to her native US for a short time so JeanJean could complete his university studies. They returned in 2005 and committed themselves to tackling the distressing problem of poverty in the Pignon area. They focused on the area’s two biggest needs – education and nutrition. In just 12 short years, they’ve founded and expanded a university and elementary school that now educate 1,800 students every day. (Many of their medical school students worked with our team this week for additional training that we were only too happy to provide.)
Kristie and JeanJean also run multiple, essential daily feeding programs in the area. This region is one of the most economically depressed in the country and home to thousands of families who simply can’t afford to feed themselves everyday. Kristie and JeanJean are making a massive difference here and are, in fact, the largest employer in the area. We left Pignon overwhelmed by their commitment and selfless giving. We were here for a few days trying to help. JeanJean and Kristie are here, on the ground, caring, providing and teaching everyday – extraordinary.
Before the four hour return trip through the mountains back to Port-Au-Prince, we detoured slightly to visit one of those crucial feeding programs, provided by Christie and JeanJean and supported by Speroway. In a ramshackle shed over 150 children waited for community volunteers to prepare their lunch over an open fire in what was really just a decrepit lean-too nearby. The children are asked to bring their own bowls and spoons but even that is a challenge for some. Several ate out of plastic bags or even old (but clean) Clorox Disinfectant Wipes containers. Others simply waited patiently for friends to finish eating before passing their bowls and spoons to them – share and share alike. What was most impressive about these children, and it’s something we’ve seen time and time again in our program areas around the world, is that, despite their desperate circumstances, they seem happy, are polite, respectful and grateful. There was a lot of laughing and playing around, yet some hadn’t eaten in 24 hours. It was another powerful experience for the team.
We have a day off tomorrow but are back at it on Monday and Tuesday with full clinics planned at what started as a refugee camp of sorts to house families displaced by the massive earthquake in 2010, but is now basically a massive slum where access to medical and dental care is simply non-existent. A few of us will also travel by boat to an island off the coast and a poor community where a few hundred thousand residents live – with not a dentist among them! I’ll do my best to keep you up-to-date as our week continues here in Haiti. Thanks for following along and, if you’re so inclined, please share this story – every little bit helps. Below are a few more shots from today including the incredible sunset that greeted us upon our arrival on the coast.