Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Coming Home to Venice

I returned home six days ago and spent the first three days recovering from exhaustion, minor aches and pains . . . Oh, and sleeping - a lot! I tried to post an update over the past few days and finally asked Kleiman why my efforts were in vain when he realized he'd forgotten to invite me! So with that problem now resolved I will add photos and update information.
The reality of what has happened in Haiti sadly becomes more apparent the longer I am home. The feelings I anticipated once I returned home have become more noticeable the longer I am here. Guilt is the most overwhelming feeling and it doesn't seem to fit into traditional categories [such as guilt over leaving, the complete devastation of a country or even the tragic death toll]. It is far more complex and tends to increase with my education of Haiti's tragic history, the abuses committed against her and her beautiful people.
As Americans, the most important thing we can do to help in Haiti is to educate ourselves about her history and her people. We owe it to ourselves to at least understand the truth about our involvement and its effect on her people. The world's response to the devastating earthquake has provided immediate and life saving relief to the Haitian people. However, successful long-term recovery efforts in Haiti will depend on global education, acceptance of responsibility and a wholly committed effort to improve the human condition.
I will be returning to Port Au Prince on March 13 and Brett, my oldest son, will be accompanying me on this second trip. He will be assisting with several projects; one of the most important will be helping construct adequate shelter. The rainy season is rapidly approaching and the need for durable shelter is now a most pressing issue. The lack of shelter in any country poses a number of problems in spite of the circumstances and in Haiti it will undermine many of our successes. The risk of infection increases complications, which can lead to death and will certainly affect our patients recovering from amputations, wounds and other injuries.
Many people including friends and colleagues have asked how they can help as Haiti enters this next phase of recovery. There are a number of organizations to contact depending on the specific area of interest. The most critical is shelter, clean water, adequate nutrition followed by intensive clean up efforts and proper removal of the dead.
The day before I left I went back to the clinics we had set up in the early days and visited the homes where Jerry and Carla had taken me to treat people with injuries. It was distressing to see that very little had changed [in those areas] over 5 weeks and there was no coordinated effort to remove debris or assist with restoring vital services. However, the most disturbing aspect was the lack of assistance by any organization with removal and proper burial of the dead.
Once we arrive back in Port Au Prince and depending on the status of Internet connectivity, either Kleiman or me will begin daily posts about the relief effort. Please contact me if you would like to know about any of the agencies I have worked with in Haiti @ stefletcher@earthlink.net.