Today was a day of tangibility. Having had the privilege to work in this field for the past seven months, the question I get the most is “how do you know you’re making a difference?” And it’s a good question; it is both rightly skeptical and it dives to the heart of this kind of work: trying to do things that make a difference.
I last set foot on Haitian soil four months ago and at that time, one of the things we planned was a new warehouse for medial supplies and equipment – unheard of in Haitian hospitals. Today, I walked into a 3,500 square/foot thing of beauty – it was like walking into a cathedral for the first time. I was speechless.
It’s clean. It’s big. It’s organized. I mean really organized. Like we do at home.
And it was here. No longer a plan or even a dream. It was here because we made it happen. It is a tangible representation of our work and the support of our donors.
For one of the guys on our team, it was the culmination of 19 years of work. He barely held back his tears. And this is all over a big concrete warehouse that probably wouldn’t even pass the building code back in Canada. For us though, it means we can get on to the next order of business – helping this hospital become a model of healthcare in this still-broken country.
The last time I was here I gave a young mother some money to buy her infant more formula because if there was any at the hospital, nobody could find it. Today, I found two boxes of formula on a shelf, nicely labeled and easy to find. A small sign of progress for sure, but progress nonetheless. In this country, they can use all the progress they can get.
That’s nowhere more evident than in the teeming tent cities that still dominate the landscape here. It’s been 14 months since the earthquake and nearly a million people still live in squalid, dangerous, and now, disintegrating conditions. It’s beyond words really and despite all of our good work here at this hospital, the tents are a constant reminder that no matter what we do, hundreds of thousands of poor souls in this city still live in a constant state of precariousness.
Life here was captured for me today by a five-year-old boy who spends his days at the hospital where his father works as a caretaker. I brought some books, toys, and clothes for him and his siblings and in my box of goodies were some bottles of soap bubbles. He had no idea what to expect and it was his special gift to me today to see the look on his face while he was seeing something for the first time.
It was magical. And it was fleeting.
Like most of the people who live in Port-au-Prince, this little boy lives a life that is much like those bubbles.
Fragile. Unpredictable. Short.