Family Practice Dr.Clara from Medico del Mundo And I Ultrasounding During The Obstetric Clinic

Well, at the end of our week here in Petit-Goave, it’s time to check how well we are meeting the goals for our project that I first envisioned over two years ago while working long nights in Irish hospitals.

I dreamed of a multi-skilled, highly adaptable relief team aboard a self-sufficient support platform that could use 21st Century medical technology, classical medical diagnostics and adaptability to different needs and resources to create long-term health benefits in developing world communities, making a difference one person at a time. Here we are, many months and many days of hard work later, and with many people who helped make this possible now a part of our story, anchored safely in Petit-Goave, Haiti.

For our first mission destination, I chose a tough location—Haiti: more than 800 miles from where we started, with huge challenges facing its people from every possible direction, a couple months after a huge disaster when people are still living in tents but many aid groups have pulled up stakes and moved on. If we could successfully conduct a mission here, I felt confident we could do it anywhere.

At the end of two weeks, the school we are building is practically flying up, we have seen several hundred patients, both in the local DesGranges Clinic and in mobile clinics in the mountains, we are reorganizing all the supplies in the clinic and outfitting a dental room, storage rooms, triage, pharmacy and exam rooms, and despite several gales that we weathered at sea and at anchor and plagued by problems with our generator, we continue to live onboard supporting our team on Southern Wind and deploying ashore every day to continue our work here.

I am watching my dream, the concept that I fell asleep every night thinking about and planning for two years, actually in operation and succeeding. I would have to keep reminding myself that this is real, and that I am not dreaming, except that what we see every day is so very real and immediate that its authenticity is burned into my memory every time I turn around.

Look one way, and your heart breaks. Turn your head, and your heart melts. Incredible beauty and selfless goodwill right alongside the ugliness of pain and suffering and the worst examples of human greed. This is the strange dichotomy of Haiti, the two Haitis existing in the same place. The children especially really get to me—kids can bounce back from so much, and to see kids living under a tarp in the street without toys or much food making their own entertainment and smiling with happiness at such small pleasures is amazing.

I think my favorite part of our time here so far is that we don’t live in a gated compound, or associate only with other aid workers in the hotel, or pay a fortune for an air-conditioned Landrover and driver and drive like lords around Haiti. We live on our boat, and so have become friendly with the fishermen and kids who ply these waters from their canoes and small lateen rigs every day.

Sometimes a driver with a pickup truck from the clinic picks us up to go to work. We all pile in the back, or we walk. Rachel and Nick walk back to the dock from the clinic every day, and, now, all the kids in the area wait for them at a bridge about halfway and walk with them. Sometimes we hop on the back of a motorcycle taxi and catch a ride.

I love meeting people we know as we wander about town on errands. Practically every night we have visitors aboard, usually people who are helping us and are curious to see the boat. Often people from developed countries feel out of place when working in destitute areas, but we love it because we have made many friends here by living and working alongside the community and not separating ourselves from it.

My experience here has paralleled my experience everywhere I have been. Everywhere you go, you will find a few bad apples that cause enormous problems, but I have found that most people in the world are basically good, and want to BE good. I have also found that the less people have, the more willing they often are to share it. People who have experienced true need also truly understand the value of helping.

Just as in California first and then in Florida, many people here have reached out to help us accomplish our mission—and I regard the number of people who have made their goodwill part of our mission as our greatest success so far.

The Sri Lankan UN forces here lent us their trucks and gave us water when we couldn’t run our watermaker due to generator problems. 20 Haitians who were out of work volunteered to help us get our supplies unloaded and worked 7 hours alongside us in the heat to get 20,000 pounds of material off the boat and into the trucks. Local men and women we have met come with us to the market to help us get Haitian prices for things we need rather than the hugely inflated foreigner
rate.

Richard and Arron on Fat Tire (the landing craft serving Kiskeya, a marble quarry a few miles up the coast) have given us some fuel and helped us bring our generator back online. Andrew Macalla, from Direct Relief, brought us more nebulizer solution while he was in Haiti. Tania and her mom and uncles helped us get our material cleared through customs. A volunteer named

George translates for me in clinic, though my Creole is slowly improving. Madame Fievre, from the oldest bakery in town, showed Sky how they make Haitian bread. The Japanese NGO ICA here in Haiti gave us 190 flashlights and batteries to Distribute.

Dr. John from New Hampshire put down his scalpel and helped us unload all our gear. Rachel worked with an Italian orthodontic surgeon and a Haitian dentist here in town as well as at the clinic. Dr. Mark and Dr. Nadia from Canada guided me through my first day in the clinic (sadly, their last day), and dozens of other men, women and children here have reached out to us to make us welcome in the community and help us accomplish our mission here.

Originally I expected to be most proud of our medical and construction accomplishments, but I think I am more proud of something else. I am also proud of my crew.

When the generator was down, and it was too hot inside the boat to sleep, they piled onto the deck to sleep (though twice they were driven back inside by gales in the middle of the night). At the end of a long day in clinic in the heat and humidity, they cook dinner, clean up the boat, do their chores, extend hospitality to visitors, conduct maintenance or repairs, organize their material for the following day, upload their photos and blogs and still somehow find the energy to laugh together as a crew before collapsing into sleep.

All this while maintaining our watch schedule aboard, meaning everyone onboard gets up for an hour sometime during the night to make sure the anchor doesn’t drag, to watch the gauges for our power systems, to make sure our lines aren’t chafed, to watch the weather, maintain security (which despite our good reception here we do not take for granted), etc. No task is too dirty or beneath them, no challenge too impossible to try and solve.

We are able to help in Haiti because all of us lean on each other for support. We accept help when it is offered. We give it whenever we find a way. I have been privileged to work with my crew, with everyone here in Haiti, Florida and California who worked alongside us, and with so many other people across America and worldwide that are a part of the story of Floating Doctors.

Now that our ship is unloaded, suddenly the cabins we built onboard are available. My dad is coming on the 23rd so we can practice medicine together in the clinic. Ryan will be back with us in a week and stay with us until he leaves to attend my alma mater, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Hopefully, many more medical students, physicians, and other health or aid workers will join us here in Haiti.

It is an exciting thing to be here at this time—if anyone wants to come, this is a chance to meet a culture in transition, and to put some fruit back on the tree. Get in contact while there are berths available onboard!

A DJ Set Up

The Vounteer Unloading Team

Mark & Nadia On My First & Their Last Day In Clinic

Me And Our Friend Aneal

Me And Sky On The Way To Work On A Motorcycle Taxi

Johnny,Meyomene & Sky

The UN Troops Stationed Here Are From Sri Lanka

Captain Arron And Richard From Kiskeya's Fat Tire Helped Us Bring Our Generator Back Online

Local Kids Getting Ready For The Dance Party

Sky Paints Meyomenes Nails After Clinic

Rachel With Tania(First Row On The Left)Any The Guys Who Helped Us Unload

Head Nurse And Clinic Manager Jean Francois

Kiskeya's Fat Tire Dropping The Gate To Dock In Petit Goave

The UN Let Us Use Their Trucks


Comments

  1. Herold Duphrezin says:

    keep up the good work and thank you

  2. Marie-Carmel says:

    I think you are doing a wonderful job. How can I helped. I am a licenced practical nurse and I have experience in out reach program and social work. I am haitian I speak creole French and english. Please write back. Looking forward to work with you guys…

    God bless all your good works.

  3. Suzy M . Sicard says:

    Thank you for the fantastic work you are doing at Petit-Goave. May God bless you and your family.

  4. Chantal says:

    Despite Haiti’s long history of misfotune, every once in a while a God sent like you comes around to show the people of Haiti that they too matter, that there are people that care for their well being. I thank you for taking time out of your life to do the work that you do. May blessings returned many folds to you and your family! May God bless your journey! May He encircle you, your crew, your volunteers and everyone you meet, with His srong arms of protection, safety and love! May you be blessed, ALWAYS!

  5. Jungle John says:

    Greetings and best wishes all. I am emailing Jamaica contacts to PB Capt, Rick, Claude in Haiti and Doug for relay via Fat Tire/quarry. Port Antonio info sent last night 5/21. Other contacts to follow. ETA Jamaica? Do u plan to do clinics JA? I can likely have press and Good Gov folks ready to welcome U. Advise best communication/email for future contact? After Port Antonio, MoBay Yacht Club good anchorage, Lucea too, then Negril. Likely will have folks each stop awaiting u. will u Kingston? Port Royal the place there. Arrrghhh! Best to all.

  6. Lopi LaRoe says:

    Hi!
    I’m inspired by what you are up to in Haiti!!
    I am working on a shelter relief project in Brooklyn. I hope to be down there soon with ten geodesic domes to assemble for hurricane resistant shelter for orphans.
    We are looking for sailboats or shipping containers leaving from Miami to PaP in three or four weeks….
    If you know of anyone, please drop me a line
    thanks so much for all you are doing and how you are doing it
    Lopi

  7. […] on. If we could successfully conduct a mission here, I felt confident we could do it anywhere. Continue __________________________________________________________ Stats update: Friday: 9.8 […]

  8. Sam says:

    Hi Ben,
    Been following ur progress on FB! What you are doing and have achieved so far is amazing. Keep up the good work and u never know when we might meet up…..
    Sam

  9. Dr. John says:

    You guys are great. Love following the adventure. Want to see pics of the school in Petit Goave. Cathy, my wife, is headed for Port au Prince on 6/14 to assess the prosthetics status. She has funding to make sure even the poorest get prosthetic limbs. Mark and Nadia are getting married in Aug. Honduras is close to my heart. I’m excited for you and will follow. God speed, John

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