We arrived in Haiti easily enough although we ended up having 37 duffel bags full of supplies for the children, an American Airlines first. It took us an hour and half to reach our hotel. A drive that normally would have taken 20 minutes without chaos, traffic, and piles of rubble. I was amazed by the thousands of people moving through the streets seemingly not to notice that their city that was literally cracked in half at its core. As we pulled up to our quaint little hotel, The Kinam, I was shocked to see an IDP camp directly across the street. The reality, irony and subsequent guilt quickly set in. I immediately realized that I would soon be tucked into my sweet little hotel, with armed guards, running water and cold beer, and less than 20 feet away, people were forced to bathe and defecate in public. The utter and complete loss of humanity is immensely prevalent.
The next morning we were driven a hour from town to visit the Artists for Peace and Justice school where we would be working. First, we toured the nearby hospital where I immediately fell in love with two babies whose heads were far bigger than the rest of their bodies. This was due to swelling on the brain. Our guide told us in most circumstances that this was a treatable condition. The fluid surrounding the brain could easily be drained if it was caught in enough time. Sadly, for these beautiful babies, they had not been treated in time and the outlook was grim.
Our next stop was to visit the J/P HRO camp, which houses close to 40,000. The camp used to be a golf course. Forty thousand people living on a nine hole golf course. The irony did not escape me. Before I was able to go on my tour, I received a call from the airport letting me know that I had to come and personally pick up the two bags of cameras and computers that we had shipped prior to our arrival. We needed those supplies for the workshop the following morning so I quickly rushed to the airport and provided my passport. I then asked for my bags and was told that they would not be released and I had to come back tomorrow. I begged and pleaded and attempted to explain to him in vain that I could not do my workshop with the children unless I had those bags. I would not be able to work with orphans, sick children, Haitian children, his children. He looked at me with dead black eyes and smiled. I can only imagine the hue of his heart, if he indeed has one. After a few fruitless hours, my security guard told me he was going to try one more thing. He said he was going to another building. I refused to leave the bags and was given an extra cell phone by my translator; to call them in case any danger arose. There I was alone in a baggage hanger with 40 Haitian men and my two black duffel bags that were probably not leaving with me. Ten minutes passed then, 30, when suddenly an alleged security guard came and sat down beside me and asked my name. I politely told him, than he grinned broadly, put his hand on his gun and told me that he needed money and I had to give it to him. I was gently slipping my hand in my purse to press the dial button to call my security when my translator briskly walked into the building. I've never been so happy to see anyone in my life.
Laws, rules and regulations don't exist in Haiti. They are created on the spot to support the need for greed and survival. Is it simply too late for the people of Haiti? I pray not. I pray for hope and peace. I pray for the two babies I kissed goodbye to today in the hospital and I pray for the man with the black eyes who still has my supplies.