Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ventures away

This week, I have the opportunity to step away from my nutrition mission here in Haiti to engage in some of the other ministries of Healing Haiti (the organization I volunteer through). My mom is in Haiti this week leading a Healing Haiti mission team, so I am spending the week with them. So far this has been a nice little break from my "normal" routine.

Today, we visited the home for sick and dying. I have been here before on many occasions, as my volunteer work initially started through mission team activities. Since my last visit here, there had been some dramatic changes with the facility. Open, bright, clean... beautiful! They actually had a playground for the kids to play on. Swings, a slide, matted floors. I was impressed. Upon walking in, I was greeted by babies laying on a mat (their bedroom was being cleaned). Instantly, the sweetest little boy clung to me. He was so full of smiles and giggles... it was great. I just love these little nuggets. It is fun knowing some creole now to actually communicate with the people. I found myself really enjoying that throughout my visit, and I could tell some of the people did too. One of the 10 year old girls with malnutrition really liked hanging around me. She would always end-up finding me.. in the hallway, on the swings. She would pick up some of the little babies there and sit with them on the swing with me. It was sweet. The slightly older kids and toddlers just seemed to flock. I guess I was kind of used to hanging out with this age group since they resembled the kids at Grace Village. Towards the end of the visit, the kids were given a packet of Medika Mamba, the supplement I had many of the kids on at Grace Village. It just kept tugging at my heart thinking about the fact that these babies, toddlers, and children shouldn't even have to be here for malnutrition. It is such a preventable condition.

Our afternoon was filled with pleasant surprises at the home for sick and dying adults. When we arrived, there were little faces sticking there heads out of the deck on the second floor of the building. It was prayer time for the ladies, and all of the ones that were feeling well enough to leave their beds were gathered in the hallways on the second floor. The ladies on my team made our way up the stairs to start our mission: comforting the sick and the dying with basic human touch. We rubbed lotion on their arms and legs. I only got through two ladies during my time there. I was able to communicate with them a bit, which was delightful. After my second lady, I had to chase down my mom for lotion and eventually got caught-up talking to a woman in the hallway. I just stood back from the large hospital rooms (literally 3 rooms filled with small beds lined up in rows...like a war movie) to observe the action around me. All of a sudden, I noticed a few little girls peaking their heads in the room were I was. They were just hanging out....watching the missionaries, the nurses, and the activities here. I was so intrigued by them. They were so cute in their matching outfits. Their cuteness definitely attracted me, and I made my way over to where they were gathered. I started speaking to them in my broken creole and asked if they were friends. They giggled (probably because this young white girl spoke their language) and responded yes. So I continued on.. asking them if they had family here and were visiting. A valid question since this wasn't a children's hospital. When they told me no, I continued on. I asked if they were sick, and they said yes. My heart melted, but I continued on again and asked what they were sick with. A few responses were that they had trouble eating (malnutrition) and another said anemia. I told them what I do, that I work with kids about their age, and know all kinds of things about nutrition. They seemed to like to hear that. We continued conversing for a bit and one little girl boldly told me she wanted lotion on her body too... just like the adults were getting. I hunted down the lotion, and started a little spa session with the little girls. They all wanted lotion on their arms, legs, and necks. Putting lotion on their extended bellies made my heart melt even more... malnutrition. They lined up, and when I had to track down the other missionaries for more lotion....they trailed right behind me..giggling. They were absolutely loving the attention and the "spa day." It reminded me of when I was a little girl and loved getting my toe nails painted with my mom. They were so sweet. While I was rubbing lotion on the girls, there was one girl that seemed to be distant from the rest of the group. She had a blue dress on...different than everyone else. Her eyes were yellow, hair pretty dry and brittle, and her skin covered in little bumps. She was absolutely adorable even with her disheveled appearance. She wasn't working overly working hard for attention, but followed along. After putting lotion on all the other girls, I bent down to the little girl in blue and asked her in creole if she had medication on her arms and legs. I told her I wouldn't be able to put lotion on her, but rubbed her belly and her hair to make sure she knew she was just as loved. Soon enough, I was called into the girls room where the bunks were lined up. They were all sitting there with my mom singing songs, and sure enough they wanted me to sing Justin Beiber's Baby. So we did! It was cute. In the corner of my eye, I saw the little girl in blue sitting a kiddy-corner in the bed row behind.. watching us all from afar. It broke my heart knowing she just wanted to be better, to be able to play with the others.

When it was time to go, I told the girls I would pray for them all.. and then I quickly snuck off to find the nun that spoke English. I wanted to know what they were doing for nutrition here. I wanted to know about these little girls. The little girls were mainly there due to malnutrition, HIV, and TB. She showed me a few of her nutritional supplements (both were ones have used at our orphanage). They also had a plumpy-nut program, which was nice to see. I told her about the Medika Mamba product in Haiti-- she wasn't familiar with it. I enjoyed getting to converse with her. I wish I had done so sooner to dig deeper, ask more questions, and possibly get more involved.

As we gathered in our tap-tap outside of the facility, the little girls we had just been playing with were peaking their heads out from the cracks on the deck of the second floor. They watched us pack-up, and as they noticed that we could see them... they smiled and waved. It was one of those picture-perfect moments---a scene you would see in an old war movie. Little malnourished kids in their hospital gowns, peaking out of an old wooden deck with draps hanging from the banester above them.

It is moments like this make my life here in Haiti feel so surreal... I constantly feel like I am in some sort of movie with fake scenery, fake conditions, and really good actors/actresses. If only that were the case. Unfortunately, this is real life.. someone's reality in 2013.

This picture isn't from today, but  captures that "movie" type scene.

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