It has now been a solid two weeks since our team returned from Haiti. Overall, the experience was amazing. We all would collectively say that we learned and saw more than we ever could have prepared for.
We were able to see a total of 75 patients. We did a combination of several cleanings, fillings, root canals, and a few extractions. We did everything we could to hold people over for another full year until we are able to make it back. Dr. Zollinger and his entire staff would agree that it is very hard to leave dental work undone. Not only did we leave work undone, but we left people that were still in dental need. Leaving was the most difficult part for me personally. Not only were dental needs left behind due to time restraint, but overall general need for our help.
When we were in Haiti we learned that just our smile, our touch, and happiness can cure people. We saw people living in the most awful conditions possible but yet they were still happy. Children, parents, infants etc.. Everyone was grateful for what they had. They had next to nothing. I’m not sure if I could survive for any amount of days living in the conditions we saw. Most of the people of Haiti we encountered were happy to see us. They are all smiles and very nice. When we were in close contact with them they were appreciative of the work we were doing even though there was a strong language barrier. They speak Creole. Since none of us know Creole, most of the communication was done through a translator. Some of the best highlights were the moments where a translator was not needed. A smile and a head nod meant a lot. Little kids knew little English but they knew that saying “Hey You” gets our attention. Hearing all the little “hey yous” from all ages was one of the cutest things ever.
The worst of what we saw is when we were in Cite Soleil. Cite Soleil is about an 8 square mile area niched in the Port-Au-Prince-Bay. It is known as the largest slum in the western hemisphere. I didn’t really understand what that meant until we got there. The overwhelming smell of rotten garbage and feces was unbearable. We saw a large pile next to the bay that was a burial ground for people that perished in the 2010 earthquake. They did not have the resources at the time to dig graves for such a large amount of people so it just became a pile. Overtime, it also became the region where the townspeople use as a latrine and for building up trash. We walked right by it. The amount of emotion we were feeling was hard to contain. The children basically led us to this area- They were hopping, singing, dancing and running barefoot through glass, garbage, feces and sewage. We spent about 15 minutes down there. They spend their lives here.
As most may have noticed, we blogged for the first 3 days while we were there. After that, our correspondences seemed to have disappeared. Although internet was in and out, I think the biggest reason for the lack of communication back home was due to our emotional state of mind. The first 3 days we were not in the thick of it. After day 3, I think things set in.
We did so many good things. Pictures and blogs don’t quite do the job of showing/describing what we saw. What I will say is that we will be going back. One year from now, we will assemble another team. We will pull together more supplies, and everything we can to do even more. We have heavy hearts but we are motivated.
Adjusting to life here in the USA is not easy. Only being there for 7 days changes the lens I see life through. I never thought spending one week in a 3rd world country could change the way we see things. Haiti isn’t that far from here. I thought I’d have to travel halfway around the world to see poverty like this. I was wrong. In fact the other side of the island (The Dominican Republic) is flourishing. It is still a tourist destination and it is beautiful. It’s crazy to think that just a border separates paradise from what I call hell.
Things that were once a huge deal are now trivial. People are struggling to survive. They do not know where the next meal is coming from. We saw that there are so many things that are not a high priority when your life is in the hands of the next water delivery. All of the sudden paying bills and having to go to work each day isn’t something I will complain about. I am grateful.
This experience was more than just a mission trip. It was a gift. It was the type of gift you can’t buy. I feel that everyone at some point in their life need to see what we saw. The world would be a better place if we could open our eyes and embrace what we have. If we all got a glimpse at the ‘other side,’ life would be different for everyone.
Thank you to everyone that made this Mission Trip possible. Advance Family Dental will continue to help where we can, and keep you updated in the future.