Not Goodbye, but Until We Meet Again, Haiti

Editor’s note: This is Dinah Waldsmith Dittman’s fourth and final dispatch from Haiti, where she and Raymond J. Baxter, PhD, senior vice president for community benefit, health policy and research, traveled  for the opening of a new Ministry of Public Health and Population building in Port-au-Prince.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

This is the day that we say farewell, or actually “Au Revoir” (“until we meet again” in French), to Haiti.

A few of the lasting impressions for me have been:

  • The graciousness of the Haitian people we’ve met; it’s clear that they are accustomed to working in community to get things done, and that good manners are important to them.
  • The bonds that people have with the place and its people, while in Haiti and coming/going in the airports, we saw many groups of volunteers and missionaries who have been making regular trips to Haiti to help in various ways (building houses, teaching children, providing health care in remote areas) as well as people who started coming after the earthquake and “got hooked on helping”, as one of them said.
  • The size of the challenge of prudently using the financial support that was pledged to Haiti from all around the world, when there are many competing needs and much to be agreed upon.
  • The importance of understanding the culture and the history when looking at the present. One of the CDC leaders, who has served in public health positions in many countries around the world, gave a brief history to those of us traveling in the van with him yesterday. The historical agreements that leaders of Haiti made with France, regarding ending slavery and breaking up plantations into small farms, shaped the current society, including some of the issues that Haitians struggle with.

I knew this before going to Haiti, but the trip reminded me….. We have much in common with each other. We discover more about the world and its people  if we are willing to let go of assumptions, be compassionate, and try to connect with each another.

Au revoir!

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