I spent this week directing medical clinics for a team from Virginia that was visiting Sherrie Fausey’s place in the Ravine. There was a nurse and nurse practitioner, but neither of them spoke Creole, so I recruited students from Quisqueya Christian School to be their translators. Each day, I brought 3 tenth, eleventh or twelfth graders with us and watched them step out of their comfort zones.
In general, the girls did better than the boys. Sarah fell in love with a newborn. Lorena made friends with a 9 and 10 year old, and let them play with her hair, touch her skin, and kiss her good-bye on the cheek. Katherine, Abir, Rachel, and Celine all did a great job translating despite the heat and the abundance of patients.
A sophomore named Stephanie had 2 fears: handling babies and falling into the river in the Ravine. However, when I asked her to hold Mackenson while we vaccinated him, she did not hesitate. And when we arrived on the muddy banks on the river, she was the first of my 3 students that day to dare to step onto the rocks. She made it across perfectly (with a little help from Chris).
The first time I taught Chris Zuraik, I got a clear picture of the eleventh grader: a boy with lots of attitude who is just too cool for school. Turns out I was very wrong. Chris was one of my favorite assistants this week. He did everything we asked him to do, from translating to being our official medical records keeper, from counting pills to administering polio vaccines, he did it all cheerfully and willingly. He even asked if I would take him in the Ravine every week as the book-keeper.
Laurent, a senior, had several bad experiences with police officers as a child, so wouldn’t you know, it was just his luck that when I sent him across the street to buy some sodas, a policeman saw him and started questioning him about what we were doing. Laurent explained about our clinic, but the officer insisted on coming inside to see it. I saw them come walking in together and to be totally honest, I was scared. Police in Haiti are notoriously corrupt and I wouldn’t have been surprised to have him demand an exorbitant bribe to allow us to continue treating patients. Instead, the officer asked if I would give him cough medicine! I gave him the medicine and he left, only to return 3 minutes later to ask for my phone number. When he was finally gone, I turned to Laurent. The boy was anxious and furious. “Miss Furth, it just makes me so mad that we had to let him pass in front of all these other people who have been waiting patiently! But if we didn’t, who knows what he would have done to us.”
Fares, my senior who plans to be a radical and change this country, was visiting the Gonaives orphans with me one day after clinic. He called me over to see something strange on a little boy’s back. “That’s ringworm, Fares.” He instinctively recoiled from the orphan. So when I brought a cream to put on the spot, I asked Fares if he was willing to apply it. For a moment, the 18 year old looked at me like I was crazy, but then he pulled himself together and took the cream from me. Little steps towards a big future.
Douglas, a typical tough guy basketball player, helped us by holding babies while we gave vaccines to all of Dorothy’s kids after clinic one afternoon. Most of the time, he looked like this: overwhelmed and terrified that he would inadvertently hurt an infant.
But occasionally, he relaxed. One of the team members told me later that she saw him holding a baby when he thought no one was looking – he was actually cuddling with the little one!
In 5 days, we treated nearly 300 people, vaccinated 45 children, introduced 4 Americans to the medical challenges of Haiti, and helped 12 Quisqueya students conquer their fears. It was an exhausting, but very successful week. To Kim, Sandra, Penny, Dina, and my 12 students: THANK YOU from the children of Haiti.