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Mary Resk’s Haiti Journal, Part I

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EN ROUTE—April 6, 2012

Two weeks ago I was worried that as the only non-medical team member in Haiti for two weeks I’d be in the way. Now I’m worried I overscheduled myself in a foreign country, in a place where no help is ever enough.

It’s exciting and daunting and everything in between. As a seasoned traveler, I’m always up for a new locale, eager to explore my world. As an anthropologist and teacher, I’m curious to notice cultural changes and shifts, both among the Haitians and among the medical and Rotary compatriots with me. Already some silly questions and “concerns” have arisen—in casual conversation and in my own head. I’m pretty sure that in a couple weeks’ time lack of hairspray, flips flops in the shower and whether we brought enough granola bars to sustain us in between meals will feel paltry compared to the realities of seeing first-hand the most impoverished nation in the western Hemisphere. Ours are truly first world problems.

The cash we brought, tucked away in careful denominations of 1s and 5s and 10s exceeds what most Haitians live on nearly 30 times. I think we’ll manage. We’ll certainly manage in our sheltered medical compound—secure, well-fed, with clean water and soap and Cipro if we need it, requisite malaria shots and mosquito repellent, cameras, money, and the ability to leave in two weeks’ time, instead of a permanent dire forecast.

The humanitarian and concerned citizen of the planet in me just aches already for what’s to come. Not enough time. Not enough skills. Not enough money or support or knowledge to help. But an inspirational Haitian woman who spoke to the Rotary group last week, Rosedanie Cadet, said it’s important to remind ourselves that anything we do is enough. Each day, each way we help is something.

I know that at least I have enough love to share, caring to spill over to those with whom I interact in orphanages, the clinic and on the streets. This is actually a good lesson to keep in mind anywhere in the world. The need to help our fellow human beings is everywhere. Just like the director for Wenatchee’s Lighthouse said on KOHO last week, you can serve a mission right down the street, you don’t need to go all the way to Africa (or Haiti) to serve.

Though this trip is rooted in religion, through Hopital Sacre Coeur in Milot, I feel it’s also important to stress that plenty of good work and service can and should be performed outside of church ties and religious beliefs. It is important to get to know our fellow neighbors on the planet, it makes sense to help those in need, and it can be unexpectedly and immensely rewarding to volunteer. Everyone has skills they can share.

That brings me back to the work I will be doing in Haiti. I have no idea what I will be doing. I’m a teacher, a writer, and I’m fairly strong, so things could go any direction. I’m hoping to spend time in schools, a nearby orphanage, maybe visit Limbe with the Rotary, see the Citadel and San Souci, and help at the clinic. But I will gladly go where needed. And a creative bent could be unanticipated fun, and useful, too—writing and maybe helping with a few media projects to bring back home to NCW.

Things on my mind: How will it be to work alongside my husband for the first time and see him in a medical capacity? What will the group be like—both personally and as travelers? How can I teach things or reinforce simple public health and sanitation lessons without sounding pretentious and know-it-allish/big brotherish? How can I really connect with people there despite language and cultural barriers—is it even possible? What can I learn from and about the Haitian culture and ways?

How will I react to the devastation, trash, inevitable deaths that I will no doubt witness while there? How will I be able to support my husband in this stressful, new professional and personal challenge? What will I learn? What questions will remain? What will I do when I’m home to keep the hope and help alive?