By Joenal Castma
As our plane touched down in Port-au-Prince, I held back tears. It had been eight years since I last laid eyes on my family’s homeland, in the aftermath of the earthquake.
I had nearly forgotten the degree of poverty.
This visit would be my chance to get reacquainted and to see a new side of Haiti – I would get to tour HAS for the first time since joining the U.S. team as a Major Gifts Officer. As one of HAS’ MGOs, I serve as a bridge between our donors’ passions and HAS’ greatest needs. Seeing the hospital in person would strengthen my ability to help donors fulfill their interests when giving to HAS.
Home Away from Home
Upon entering HAS, I discovered a bright and welcoming space. A far cry from the gloomy interior I had imagined. The updated facilities and professional staff signaled to me that this is a modern hospital making the most of the resources they have. One striking difference from hospitals back home, of course, were the open windows.
My experience in Deschapelles helped me realize there are a lot of people depending on me. Walking through the hospital, seeing mothers with children in the waiting room, seeing sick patients in bed – you realize you can have a huge impact on their lives, whether you’re a staff person, a volunteer, or a donor.
What impressed me the most was the eagerness of the doctors and nurses to help patients. In spite of patients’ limited ability to pay, the doctors do all that they can to save lives. That stood out to me more than anything.
Highlights of my Haiti Trip
Come walk with me through some of my favorite moments of the trip:
This view of the mountains wowed me as I was coming back from the community health center in Bastien. It was such a gorgeous view that I had to take this picture. The scene also triggered memories of stories my mom would tell me about how she provided for my family. She used to carry food down the mountain to sell and buy goods. Because the trek up the mountain was so long, often she would have to wait until the next day to return home.
Just as people go to great lengths to take care of their loved ones, HAS goes far into the mountains to make healthcare accessible to Haitians. Our network of community health centers and mobile clinics ensures Haitians don’t have a whole day’s hike to see a doctor.
Here I’m surrounded by a group of kids who were retrieving water from a well that they would carry home in containers. This well, which is next to the community health center in Bastien, is one of hundreds of wells that HAS built to give the community access to potable water. We believe that providing access to clean water is a vital step in preventing diseases like cholera.
In collaboration with Haiti Friends, HAS grows thousands and thousands of seedlings each year at several locations. This is part of our efforts to teach farmers in the Artibonite Valley how to sustainably produce and harvest timber.
Thanks for taking this short walk with Joenal, and most of all for supporting us as we walk alongside patients in their journey to feeling their best. Every step we take depends on you. Your generous gift keeps essential health care and clean water within easy access of people in rural Haiti.