You may remember back in January we offered a special blend of coffee to raise money for an organization called ‘Aid For Haiti’. Since that time I’ve gotten to know one of the doctors/founders, Caleb Trent, and this month I had the opportunity to go to Haiti with Caleb and Aid For Haiti.
We met up with the team in Haiti. There were 5 medical personnel, 3 non-medical (me being one), and 3 Haitians that helped with translation and other things. We journeyed to a remote village in the mountains called Potino. It’s so remote that I can’t find it on a map and we couldn’t get to the village in a vehicle. By foot or by donkey was the only access.
The doctors set up in a clinic in the village, and they estimate the clinic serves about 50,000 people in the surrounding area. Clinic makes it sound more glamorous than it really is, though. It’s an old stone building with no water/bathroom facilities and no electricity. When one of the doctors performed a surgery we moved the table to a nearby window and shone flashlights to aid him.
We used those stone walls well, though. The teams saw about 90 patients per day. Before we arrived we figured that we wouldn’t see much of the cholera epidemic as we were going up in the mountains, and since it spreads mainly through the rivers we thought most of the bacteria would be downstream. But upon arriving we learned that as many as 15 people in the two weeks prior to our arrival had died from these nasty bacteria. We saw a few severe cases while we there, and though we thought at least one of those would not pull through, they all did. I am grateful for that. But each patient we saw had family members that had recently died from cholera, and knew of more family members that were symptomatic.
I’m confident that the most helpful thing we did there was to teach people how to clean their water and how to make a treatment for cholera out of ingredients most Haitians have in their kitchen. It is, after all, simple to treat if it’s treated promptly.
From what we saw, I’m convinced the cholera is much more widespread than the Haiti government and the media are portraying. The country is in disarray and it goes much deeper than the recent tragedies. The elections this past weekend are just one of many examples of the disarray. I have traveled to some poor countries before, but nothing quite like Haiti. It is, however, encouraging to know that there are people (such as Aid for Haiti) that are committed to long-term healing in Haiti, and not simply dumping ‘aid’ that equates to throwing resources at a problem without intimately getting involved (which only begets further reliance).
I also did get to talk a little bit of coffee while down there (and share some of mine) and I have some footage I will post later of the typical Haitian coffee prep. The best way I could describe Haitian coffee is like filtered Turkish coffee. Really thick and sweet but a bit cleaner than Turkish.
The week I spent there was an irreplaceable experience.