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Haiti: Gift to All

Posted on December 1, 2016, by Loretto Community

By Barbara Wander

Instead of starting with yet one more description of a disaster in Haiti and an appeal for help, I would first like to talk about what Haiti has given to the rest of us.

The first thing that comes to mind is an example of unflinching faith. I saw this firsthand when, after the earthquake, prayers were chanted so fervently. The Little Sisters have great faith, and, therefore, they have great strength, and this is an example for all the people they serve. It used to annoy me when I first went to Haiti and their sentences ended with the phrase “if God wills” instead of a period. Example: If they said that we would be leaving at 4 a.m. if God wills, I would think, no, if everyone is on time, we will leave on time. Only now when I realize how many variables beyond their control must fall into line before anything happens do I truly understand the use of that phrase.

Peasants have come to me after a disaster and asked why God is so angry with Haiti. I tell them that God doesn’t create disasters but rather gives us the strength to get through them. One old man then told me that God must sure want him to be very strong. This example of having faith and continuing to try to lead your best life no matter what should certainly inspire all of us to try to emulate them.

They have a saying in Haitian Kreyol — Ti pa, ti pa, narive — “Little by little we will get there.” There is this sense that if they all just keep trying to do their best, lives will improve. The Little Sisters dedicate their lives to helping the poor in Haiti. For them to see parts of their hard work come down time and time again and keep plodding along on their mission is an example for all.

A Haitian sunrise offers hope of better days to come.
Photo courtesy of Barbara Wander

Now for a hurricane report: About 10 of the Little Sisters’ missions were either destroyed or seriously damaged. This includes nine schools, five professional centers, a home for 100 elderly people (four old people and five workers died here), two hospitals, three clinics, eight houses for orphans and others living at the missions, 10 agriculture projects and 10 convents. They are now trying to rebuild yet again. About 1,000 people died in the hurricane, but many more are dying in the aftermath all over Haiti. Since most of the gardens and fruit trees were destroyed in one-third of the country, food is very scarce. People are dying of starvation now. With no sanitation system in place, cholera also is taking many lives. Mosquitoes carrying malaria and dengue fever are causing more deaths. They have tried to reopen their educational and medical programs under tarps, tents and partial structures so that children can learn how to combat these diseases and take that information home to their families and then have the medical facilities to treat patients.

I often am asked how I can continue to work in a place like Haiti. What I do is celebrate and be thankful for the time I have with anyone. When they die, I take some time to mourn and then turn my energies to being thankful for those who are still there. I am so grateful to Loretto for all of the help you have given. I am never alone when I am in Haiti — you are always with me. Instead of using a photo of the destruction from the hurricane, I have chosen to include one of a Haitian sunrise. Even if clouds hide it, we know it is up there.


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