Erin, One Young World Delegate Message from Haiti
I am sharing Erin, One Yougn World Delegate message after returning back from Haiti.
I am home safe and sound from a truly life-changing experience in Haiti. I never could have imagined what these days would entail -- and woke up each morning to new challenges, hope, and unforgettable moments. I spent two plus weeks on a medical relief trip at a field hospital in Port-au-Prince: Project Medishare (projectmedishare.org), the city's foremost acute care hospital. It has been in operation since just after January’s devastating earthquake, although the non-profit has had a presence on the ground in Haiti since 1994. I travelled to the island nation with a group of NYU students, seven Wagner graduate students and myself, over spring break.
Our focus was primarily on efficiency streamlining of the medical record system, patient and visitor tracking, and inventory of supply, among other pressing logistical matters. I have zero medical background, but was quickly thrown into the thick of things, learning the ways of that world (jargon and all) from the many professionals with whom I worked. And from there, it evolved into so so much more. The wisdom I gained about another culture, human nature, long-term investment in development, and pure survival skills has been invaluable. I was placed in leadership positions with great levels of responsibility, and asked to assume roles in which I had no previous experience. My duties were wide-ranging: speaking directly with patients in all of our units (including a fully operational OR, the only neonatal ICU in the country, wound care, pediatrics, ICU, general hospital, orthopedics), manning command center, supervising orphans (perhaps my favorite task -- caring for seven boys ranging from babies to fifteen years old), working the pharmacy overnight, and numerous others.
My time in Haiti was unbelievably rewarding for myself, my coworkers (leading doctors and nurses from around the world and other brilliant volunteers, as well as a large team of Haitian workers), and the hundreds of critically injured patients we served daily, along with their families. I chose to extend the duration of my stay by an additional eight days, not only due to my own feelings, but also for the success of the operation as a whole and implementation of various new policies, and even then it was near impossible to walk away.
I filled my days with incredibly meaningful one-on-one work, interacting with every single one of our patients and family members, over 400 people in total, as we created a new patient tracking system... and even learned some Creole in the process! The personal experiences are what changed my life: introducing a few-hour old newborn baby to its mother for the first time, propping up an elderly woman in bed, handing out water to parched patients waiting in the midday sun, hand feeding one of most severely malnourished children, holding a mother’s hand while her daughter was in surgery, and having my little “brother” fall asleep in my lap.
Additionally, I had the great opportunity to meet with James Alcime (Haitian delegate to One Young World) on multiple occasions both at camp and beyond our grounds to talk about the projects which we are creating and collaborating on related to Haitian and global youth... look out for news about those in the very near future!
The time which I spent exploring Port-au-Prince was incredibly powerful. Witnessing the physical devastation of the earthquake is unreal; the visuals are even more haunting in person than on television or computer screens. Floors of buildings collapsed atop each other, piles of debris blocking streets, flattened cars, leveled lots, and tent cities make up block after block, yet people are finding a way to survive. The country and population does need much aid and assistance right now, but I believe that with continued international support, continued presence, accountability, innovative leadership, and collaboration, Haiti can find a healthy and secure future.
Update on my fundraising: I raised over $3100 in that one week before I left, shattering my goal! Thank you all for your generous contributions in person, mail, and paypal (all still very much open by the way!). After spending time on the ground and surveying the needs, I have decided that the money will go directly to Project Medishare and another phenomenal organization called ShelterBox (shelterbox.org). ShelterBox is an international disaster relief organization that delivers emergency shelter, warmth, and dignity to people affected by disaster worldwide. Teams of trained volunteers respond immediately to natural and manmade disasters with aid boxes, including 10-person tent and essential equipment to survive while displaced or homeless. I am so impressed by what ShelterBox is doing and have seen firsthand the impact of their tents and supplies for people in Haiti -- 10,000 tents already on the ground and more coming everyday!
Much more news about my projects and involvement in Haiti to come shortly, including something very exciting with Green My Parents to launch on Earth Day. I have become so attached to the work of Project Medishare, NGOs grounded in PAP, and the people by whom I was surrounded – and know this is only the beginning of my work with the Haitian people and the start of a long term commitment to relief work and sustainable development in the country.
Please pass this along to anyone you think may be interested. Thank you all so much for your support of me and this incredible adventure to Haiti!
All my best,