Sunday, October 25, 2009

May –November 2009: Living with the Kid in the Back -Seat

As important and compelling as it is, my volunteer work with Midwives for Haiti takes a back seat to my regular American life. I have a (wonderful and) demanding “real”job, with Loudoun Community Midwives, so M4H has been sitting in the back seat since May 2009. But WHAT a passenger she is! M4H is the backseat driver (or child) you love dearly and who will not shut up. Always hungry: How to help obtain funds for all the growth of the program in Haiti? Always questioning: When are you coming back? And always talking: Emails keep me connected to the folks down there that I care about—interpreter Theard got married, and I sent him a digital camera, because he asked. I have a “Creole Made Easy” CD (Easy- HA!) in my car, and have learned to say
“Jacques can give her the peanut butter”
“How do you feel?,
“First or Second Baby?”
“Do You Have Pain?” and
“PUSH” in Creole. And I can sing the Creole blessing for my food, too.

In spite of the tension it creates, I love it. Working to train midwives in Haiti gives me a different arena where I can feel my work accomplishes so much. So, in time I carve out of my “real”(USA) life and spend on the Haiti work, I’ve attended M4H planning meetings, and worked on editing the exams that our students take after completing each of their chapters in their textbook. I wrote a preliminary grant proposal to a large charitable foundation that may become a supporter. Haitian Artwork is on sale at the checkout window of my office. And now…I’m going back for another week in Haiti! I’m so excited.

This trip, December 4-12, has several goals. I’ll be teaching students about out-of-hospital birth techniques and some clinical skills. I hope to visit some of the M4H graduates and help ensure they have what they need to help mothers and babies. This trip, my 25-year old son, Stephen, will come along! Stephen volunteered to come and take film, then edit it for a video to use in the US, and maybe on YouTube, to educate others about Midwives for Haiti. We plan to interview a number of Haitian people involved with the work, film our students, teachers, and M4H projects, and just clearly portray life in Haiti, and why we do this work.

My hope is that the initial shock of going to a 3rd-World Country will be less intense the second time, giving me more energy to focus on the tasks at hand. I never want to become immune to feeling the pain or the burdens that others carry. I just hope the shock will be less crazy and stressful. I now know that many Haitian kids will holler “Blanc, Blanc! Gimme dollah!” whenever they see my white face. And I will just wave, rather than create a riot by actually giving away a dollar. I hope to not be too surprised to see pigeons pecking at the scraps on the kitchen floor, or when a bat goes flapping through the living room of the rectory at nightfall. (Note to self: Wear hat to dinner. Always sleep in bednet.) I know now that the first intense sight in Haiti is about a hundred Haitians screaming over a concrete barrier at the airport exit door, shouting to get taxi business. And I know who my ride is. I know where to get clean water, and what little gifts will make a Haitian smile. Being in Haiti is the gift, for me. I hope this upcoming trip will be worthwhile and sweet.