When the English Language Isn't Enough


When you return from a developing country, people always ask, “How was your trip?” “What did you do?” “What was it like?” More than once I’ve heard, “Is it as bad as it looks?”  While I don’t struggle to answer those types of questions, I rarely trust that my answers adequately represent the experience. It’s very difficult to understand the conflicting ways that a people and culture can exist.  Haiti, and Haitians are no exception to that statement.  

While Haitians have suffered endlessly from human unkindness of various levels and nature’s incessant wrath, they remain the most kind, loving, smiling, generous and ambitious population of people I have been fortunate enough to spend time with.  The country is both beautiful and lush, deforested and destroyed.  There are SO many wonderful contradictions!

On our trip to Menelas with Team Tassy we had a unique opportunity to immerse ourselves with the families that the organization is impacting through meaningful jobs, education, health care and community support.  We were welcomed into their homes of various stabilities and sizes.  We shared their meals, heard their stories and beat them at Jenga (the last part may or may not be true).  We watched the kids dance, play, laugh, argue, and do homework. We saw people going to and from work, to and from trying to find work, and make meals.  We saw goats and chickens and pigs, oh my.  Basically, beyond all poverty and against what our Western minds can make sense of, kids are kids and people are people, but these communities choose to have a level of optimism and charisma that you don’t see in the US.

We also visited the First Mile community of Molea and learned about aspects of life in a landfill–the importance of pride in your work, territory, and plastics picking.  There, we witnessed the reality of children and parents feeling lucky to live in a landfill so that they have access to prime pickins, and thus money by trading in goods for processing. We may or may not have lost a man’s pig.

To the point of my blog title, I cannot make this post more concise and feel like I have done the trip justice.  I could go on and on and on and on, but I will conclude with a brief note about my time at the hospital.  

As a nurse, I had a chance to spend time with Dr Julien at Hopital Fontaine.  My first thought was how relatively clean the hospital was kept.  There were many members of the community waiting to be seen for various maladies, but no one was yelling at the nurses or doctors as they waited (totally different from America).  My heart hurt as I saw women who had lost babies due to lack of prevention of recurring infections.  My soul ached for a little girl that not only had typhoid fever, but was diagnosed with malnutrition and her family had no money to pay for her medical bills.  I wondered how it was fair that one man can be responsible for the confidence and health of  an entire community of people.  We learned about the struggles and needs of the hospital.  I observed a team of providers struggling to find confidence in their own differential diagnoses.  But I also observed how the passion, leadership and awe inspiring tenacity of one doctor can infect a community with faith and trust.  

I run community health programs here in the US and I wish that I could somehow bottle the passion for community health that Dr Julien and Country Manager John Jules have.  They are amazing men.  They are leaders. They love the people that they serve, and they do it even when those people cannot pay.  

Basically, I’m sayin’ come for the food, stay for the families and spread your story, because you don’t know who it will impact. Haiti has a true “no man left behind” feel to it, and that’s worth trying to find the right words to share!  

Learn more about traveling to Haiti with Team Tassy! 

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EngagementVivien Luk