Guest Post by Nina Brandi
Michel Martelly, former president of Haiti and well known musician, has a song entitled “Haiti”. When I first heard this song I was excited, because I was able to understand a few words!
“Mwen sonje peyi mwen, mwen sonje zanmi mwen,
Mwen sonje fanmi mwen, Mwen sonje Ayiti cheri mwen…”
This is my rough translation:
“I miss my country, I miss my friends,
I miss my family, I miss you, I miss you, my sweet Haiti.”
And miss Haiti, I did.
I’m sure many people are aware of the strong political instability Haiti has faced in the past, and present. This year mission trips came to a complete halt. For the first time since I have been volunteering, it became unsafe. My heart would break as I would see the 5:00 news display clips of the unrest, violent protests, and anger that radiated from the faces and hearts of the Haitian people. Truly a beautiful country who has endured so much, I knew they could overcome this as well. I hoped people would not associate negativity with the country that I had so much fallen in love with and I prayed that this would all come to an end soon. A right to protest, I agree with—but violence couldn’t be the solution.
Similar to the song above, I missed Haiti, I missed the beautiful people who live there, and I missed the friends that have become family. I missed my country. No—contrary to popular belief I am not Haitian. Haha! I am a proud American citizen and I do love the USA. But, if a doctor took a look at the shape of my heart... I think they would see that a part of it would resemble something that looked like Haiti.
While Haiti impacts me every time I visit, there was something different about this trip. Our first day began with the magnificent voices filling the church… the singing, music…. wow… no video would really do it justice. Do I have any idea what is being said? No, not fully. Some may think it’s silly to hear that just the instruments, singing, worshipping brings tears to my eyes. And while I wish he did, God doesn’t talk directly back to me when we have conversations. But He seems to show his presence and love in the most remarkable ways, and on that Sunday in Haiti I think he wanted to touch all of our hearts. I don’t know what His voice sounds like, but when the church in Haiti is singing, you get a small glimpse of what it could be.
After the church, we visited the Les Cayes Hospital, a place where medical supplies, medications, and staff are limited. We brought baby formula, which I recognize is a temporary solution but can still save a life in those visits.
In these hospital visits the constant question rushes toward my mind: Why me? I looked to the left and there was an abandoned child, crying, alone, and terrified. Her eyes and small angelic face are engrained in my mind. She was 6 months old, had a large tumor on her head. This sweet child was not in an environment where she could be treated, have the necessary surgery she needed, heal and grow. Instead, she was born in the most impoverished country in the western hemisphere. Why me? Why was I given so much opportunity and love? We sang a prayer, with all the mothers and children in this pediatric unit and I was in awe of their faith and love for God. Voices echoed throughout the hospital, and people raised their hands in praise. If these situations can’t shake their faith, I shouldn’t let my minor problems at home shake mine.
A visit to the new hospital land, and construction site followed this difficult visit. I tearfully looked at the strong earthquake proof foundation, and cinderblock walls. I remembered this once as a plot of soil. I remember early trips to Haiti and standing on the dirt. I remember the groundbreakers and the first construction trip. Now? Now that 4 letter word… HOPE.
Hope was alive. Hope was there all along, but now hope was tangible.
The days followed with busy medical clinics that had not been present in over a year. We ran out of medication daily and provided care to 550 patients in 4 days. Working in the pharmacy, one of my most favorite things was being able to give people the medications that they so needed. Conversations started out so seriously, as the interpreter began to tell them of their regimen that the doctor recommended. I have learned, that if you take the time to stop, look someone in the eye, smile, ask them how they are doing or even just give them a compliment—you in turn can make them smile. Yes! This is an obvious thing, but when you get caught up in the business of life—or in this case the clinic, you can sometimes forget. In the midst of sickness, I think it is always good to remind yourself that a patient is not just another intake form, but rather an individual with a story, sometimes a struggle, and is looking for answers. This is something that I try to apply to my own life back home.
All people we meet—whether that be in Haiti, your place of work, someone you run into at the grocery store—are going through something. While I don’t have all the answers, I think that slowing down, looking at people in the eye, genuinely inquiring on how they are doing, and smiling can do more good than you can imagine. Today I read a quote from Mark Twain, where he said the most important days of your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why. I think I am still figuring out my why, but one thing I do know for sure is that for as long as I live, I will study and learn and give everything I have to assist in forming solutions to this intense need, inequality of care, and to showing people the true beauty and potential that lies beneath the poverty. All humans are so deserving of being born into a world of opportunity and love where they can survive, thrive, and make a difference in their communities. So I guess, Mark Twain, that’s something I strongly feel is part of my “why”. I feel strongly that a big part of my why, my purpose was to give back the love and opportunity that I have been given to those around me.
I can see it.
I can see people walking into the doors of a clean, well equipped hospital. I see babies being born in sanitary conditions, in a place where they can survive. I see people getting x-rays and MRIs and cancer treatments. I see people getting their broken bones healed in a sturdy cast, I see the surgical room with Haitian doctors and nurses and anesthesiologists, I see educational programs for moms, women, and children. I see nursing students and residents. I see a pharmacy equipped with the necessary medications needed for their survival. I see computers and medical records and birth certificates. I see photos of the land, the first wall, the second walls, the ROOF, decorating the hospital walls. I see patients in individual rooms, with clean sheets and IV poles with functioning IV drips. I see people pursuing careers in research, and even finding cures to diseases. I see an elevator! I see staff! I see my friend Ti Madi working security at the front desk. I am so overwhelmed with a vision of this place in my mind. It is like I close my eyes and I can SEE it. I see people walking in and out of a hospital. Not just walking in. I am excited for the changes to come…one step at a time.
Nina, the dreamer. She needs to take one day at a time. But man, I can’t help but get excited. And I hope whoever you are reading this, that you get excited too. Whether that is for this hospital in Haiti, or some other adventure God has in your plans. Embrace it, be who you are, enjoy the journey, and don’t fear if it takes you in a new direction. His plans are much better than mine… (Jeremiah 29:11) but that’s a story for another day.
Lastly, I see myself—graduating next year from my Master of Public Health Program. And I see this as only the beginning. I am excited for the plans that God has in store for me, and the different ways he will use me to help his people, however that may be.
My sincerest gratitude goes out to the other piece of my heart, Steven Rohrig, who is fully aware of my dreams and love for this work. I am still figuring out many things in life but one thing I know for sure is that I have never been more at peace than when I am with you, and when I am serving the people of Haiti. Know that you also have my heart too. And I am so thankful for this incredible Christmas gift. You are one of my greatest blessings.
Thank you to anyone who took the time to read this. And as PL says, if you are moved to want to come to Haiti, lets talk about it over some lunch, maybe a prestige too! 😊