Doherty Travels to Haiti With “We Care to Share” Group

By Maddie Doherty.

I was recently afforded the opportunity and experience of a lifetime. I spent a week in Haiti, as part of a medical mission.

I was, by far, the youngest volunteer to travel alone. One teen accompanied her parents, but all of the others on the trip were adults, most either medical professionals or retirees. They were shocked at my choice to venture internationally by myself.

The overwhelmingly hot weather was not the only wakeup call upon our arrival in Port au Prince. We experienced a glitch of sorts when one of our group members was flagged in the customs line, and 200 pounds of medical supplies were confiscated.

Modern infrastructure in Haiti is virtually nonexistent; speed limits and traffic laws, likewise, are not legitimate concerns for drivers. During the six hour drive from Port au Prince to Chantal, a rural village, we drove through a creek. With every swerve and lurch, I feared that the man sitting on the bus roof, holding our luggage down, would topple to his death. I also found it startling when hitchhikers climbed onto the back of our bus without invitation.

Throughout the week, we ran a clinic to serve the local people. Doctors, nurse practitioners, dentists, pharmacists, and other volunteers provided care to more than 1,000 people. We hiked for hours through the mountains to make house calls for elderly people unable to travel to our clinic.

In Haiti, I was referred to as “blan,” a white foreigner; even with this unique identification, I didn’t feel out of place. Whether I was handing out toothbrushes, helping in the pediatric unit, perusing handicrafts, or wandering the streets with my favorite of the local kids (who broke my heart when they cried upon my departure), I felt totally welcomed and accepted in Haiti.

Over a seven day span, I experienced, learned, and felt more than I had in 17 years. To me, the most critical and touching lesson was the spirit of the Haitian people. They are strong and resilient despite having endured years of slavery, colonialism, poverty, corruption, and natural disasters. Children with rust-tinged hair, an indicator of severe iron deficiency from malnutrition, are grateful and happy. Little girls in pristine uniforms may walk two hours each way to school, sometimes without shoes; upon the completion of their school day, they work outside, collecting water or tending to their family’s farm. Despite living a reality very different from many children in the United States, these kids remain upbeat and grateful for everything they have.