Last week we had three, Spanish, Dentists visiting with us here in Jean Rabel. They came to volunteer their professional services to the local people. Oriol, Marieuna and Carmen worked as many hours as possible and must have attended up to 100 patients at very reasonable costs.
Oreol has volunteered in Haiti before both in Port-au-Prince and in Gros Morne. This was his first visit to Jean Rabel and he brought staff from his Spanish practice to help him. They were two lovely young girls, eager to use their skills for the benefit of others.
They told me that if they hadn’t seen the misery in which the people of Haiti live day in and day out, that they would not be able to believe it!
Last year they had accompanied Oriol to the Republic of Cameroon and told us there were many similarities between there and Haiti, regarding the poverty they experienced and the conditions in which the people of both countries live.
Coming for a week and working flat out during that time is a wonderful thing to do for any professional person, but I think to get a real sense of a place you need to spend a little bit longer there.
I could see the two girls were a little squeamish about the abundance of insects that seemed to congregate at our evening meal, once the light was switched on, and they were a little anxious about eating some of the food, and I wouldn’t blame them, I probably felt the very same when I initially came to Haiti.
However, after a few months here, I have to admit, I have kind of gotten used to them (although I still don’t like them sharing our meals)!
It’s only when you are here and you see the like of this for yourself that you appreciate the difficulty of life here for Haitian people. To them such insects are just part of everyday life, but surely they are as entitled to live without the discomfort (and risk of illness and disease) of such insects and pests as those of us from the first world. But items for relief and the elimination of bugs, insects and all sorts of pests are sheer luxury for Haitian people and therefore not regarded as necessities. Food is their number one necessity and its production and harvesting is always weather dependent on this Caribbean island.
And so the fact that hurricane Matthew crashed in on Jean Rabel while the Dentists were here, drew closer attention to the real and very basic necessities for life in the town and its surrounding areas, such as the need for food and sustainable housing, the lack of any suitable transport to get around the very poor road surfaces and network, its isolation from other areas and the difficulty in accessing clean water when sudden catastrophes occur.
These were brought home to us very clearly as we weathered the storm safe from its effects, while we learned how misfortune had befallen our neighbours and their livestock in a week neither the Dentists nor ourselves here will easily forget.