Thursday, July 8, 2010
Green, Yellow and Red-Hope in Haiti
Green, Yellow and Red -- Hope in Haiti
To the average person, these colors might not mean much. But in Port au Prince, Haiti, these colors are signs of improvement. If you drive around PAP, you will notice one of these three colors stamped with some letters on all of the buildings. A structure with a green stamp means the building is structurally sound and is livable. Yellow means repairs need to be made before a family can move back in. Red means these buildings will eventually come down and be rebuilt.
After spending a week in Haiti, you become desperate for any signs of hope because some of what you see can leave you thinking, “Things will never get better for this country.” When you walk around the tent cities, you get a sense that these families have resolved themselves to the fact that living in tents is their new permanent reality. You can find everything from a hot plate of food in a tent “restaurant”, to a barbershop, a movie theater, and vendors selling goods. We call them resilient fighters, but I could not help thinking, “No! These tents were not supposed to be permanent. Families should not have to live under the constant threat of rain, not to mention the hot sun with no trees for shade. Children should not be abused due to a lack of security in these tent cities. Women should not give birth in a tent without any medical assistance.” But this is the new reality of the people of Haiti. So we look for hope in a place that seems hopeless.
Signs of hope came in a two-day conference teaching women leaders about trauma and how to run small groups for trauma victims in their communities. What I thought was a trauma conference for earthquake victims, ended up being a healing experience for many women who have not allowed themselves to recover from a number of other horrors. We laughed, we cried, and hope was restored among this group.
“God please let me never come back to Haiti,” is what Fresnel said after his first night in Haiti. I must admit, the airport scene in PAP alone will have you wishing you had never entered Haiti. But God heard Fresnel and instantly started changing his heart towards Haiti. That same evening, Fresnel and the medical team we were with walked through the community setting up mosquito nets for several families. When he came back, Fresnel had several stories about families in the community. One was of the mother who had just given birth that same day and flies were making the baby’s face their landing spot. The mosquito net was very timely, and Fresnel knew he was at the right place at the right time.
If Fresnel was not yet convinced that he was needed in Haiti, maybe meeting his biological sister for the second time in his life sealed the deal. The big reunion took place at 7a.m. Be mindful that 7a.m. Haiti time is like 10 a.m. US time. He was finally reunited with his sister whose name is “Renese.” I don’t think he realized until that moment that she and our oldest son shared the same root name after their father’s name. When she told Fresnel, “We are the only ones left, you’re my only sibling, and you’re all I have,” I knew God had definitely changed Fresnel’s mind about Haiti.
My favorite moment was while visiting an orphanage outside of PAP. That place reeked of urine, and I secretly told myself not to touch any of those beautiful babies because I wanted to go back home healthy. I guess Fresnel did not have that same concern, because before I knew it, I found him holding and rocking a little baby girl whose nose was covered with mucus. I think God has given Fresnel several irrefutable reasons to go back to Haiti.
Haiti is still in desperate need of our attention and help. The needs continue to be great. But it was encouraging to see the people holding on to hope as they celebrated over the World Cup. Streets were decorated in either Brazilian or Argentinean colors. Conversations about “football” went on from morning to night. The World Cup gave the people a distraction; it gave them hope. There are many reasons to hope for a better Haiti. Sometimes it may come in something as simple as colors stamped on buildings, or a group of women healing from trauma right before your eyes. It could be watching a man getting connected to his roots and realizing it wasn’t as bad as he thought. Or it might be a woman connecting to her only sibling and big brother. We call them glimpses of hope. I call them God’s grace in helping us cope with whatever life may bring.