As the van taking me to the airport pulled out of Deschapelles, tenderly making its way over speed bumps, I was fully aware that I had left a part of me in that oasis of fertile land, lush gardens, genuine people, and splendidly contrasting realities. What I learned, most evident and pertinent in my stories and writing, ultimately dropped me in a room, mirrors on all sides, reflecting the complex truths and realities of the world, applicable to my everyday life. These reflections were not foreign, though, for I had seen them in Deschapelles; at Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, Haiti.
It would be a shame, though, to portray the hospital as a place in which everything is wonderful, for one cannot ignore the suffering that is endured by the patients old and young, passing away and being born. This struggle, an outstretched hand grasping for what life may linger within reach, is the most essential reality, and in many ways the most relatable one, for it is universal. Not only does this struggle impress, it provides a foundation for the things that are done in the hospital to help those in need.
In watching doctors, nurses, and family members working to bring patients back to health, I began to realize how important communication is to a community, regardless of its size. Watching these interactions occur every day made me reflect upon the lack of face-to-face communication in the United States. Advances in technology (Facebook, cell phones) have allowed us to talk through inaudible mediums such as the chat box or the text message, and from what I have observed, these forms of communication simply will not suffice if we are trying to strengthen, heal, build, or maintain a community. In fact, an excessive amount of virtual communication results in what I would unofficially describe as ‘Real-Time Communication Potential Deficiency.’ Some of us begin to lose the ability to interact with and speak to one another genuinely and articulately. This realization sparked my interest in a young patient of about 19 who spoke English extremely well. He was an amputee, and I had seen him in the surgery ward a couple days earlier, but never had any conversation. I decided it was important to make a connection while in Haiti, and knowing his passion for literature and English, I befriended him. For a couple days, he would teach me French as I taught him English, and what came of that communication is something I won’t ever forget, for it was fortifying and comforting, free of pretensions altogether.
The determination and commitment with which those involved with the hospital conduct themselves can be explained by one fundamental philosophy, a phrase coined by Albert Schweitzer himself, which is “Reverence For Life.” These words are embedded in more than just the hospital entrance, for they are evident in those who enter and leave HAS every day: doctors, nurses, patients, and, as I like to believe, visitors.