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Communiqué #035


to the PEOPLE of HAITI

December 22, 2006

Traveling with a pastor friend of mine and two young men who would serve as translators, we left the city and headed toward the mountains. After traveling in a van for about a half hour, we left the vehicle by the side of the road to walk the rest of the way to our destination. Temperatures were in the comfortable low 80s and the path was not too terribly steep, but yet it would take us another half hour on foot to reach the people who we had set out to visit. The path consisted mostly of blonde-colored clay that was rock hard. As we neared our destination the breath-taking view, in the foothills of the mountains, was also coupled with a cool breeze. We arrived at an unbelievably small structure that was home to two adults and five children. The roof was made of grass. Three walls of the home were made of clumps of blonde-colored clay awkwardly stuck together. The fourth wall was made of palm fronds woven together, allowing a cool breeze into the tiny home. But needless to say, that wall also allowed rodents and raindrops to penetrate the home. A cement floor was the most modern element of the home. One lonely smaller-than-twin-size bed filled one half of the home … one bed for seven people! A few clothes were visible, as well as a few stainless steel bowls each containing small portions of a fruit called labapen … a fruit whose shape resembles acorns. There was no table, no chairs and no other visible food. This is where we had come to visit a four month old baby, a baby who has hydroencephalitis. The baby had been turned away from the medical clinic where the staff refused to give him the immunizations that the parents had come for. In spite of having no money, the family ventured to the hospital where they learned what was causing the baby’s large head. They left the hospital in despair, as no help could be offered the child. It was following this news, that the family had approached my traveling companions, earlier in the week, when they were working in that village teaching English to some of the youth. Knowing that I had obtained medical help from the states for some other Haitian children, the volunteers had turned to me wondering if somehow I could offer that same hope for this child. I had come to this place to take photos and to gather the medical and social history needed to start the application process for a request for treatment in the states. So many times in Haiti, I feel as though I am walking through the pages of National Geographic. This was one of those times. Two of the half-siblings stood before me with no clothes on. We were unable to determine the real ages of the four half-siblings. There were no birth certificates, no memory of what year they were born, and their size was no real indication of how old they were. The hair of the only daughter of the family was red-tinged and matted. The bellies of all of the children protruded. They were all small in stature. To be sure, these children were badly malnourished! When we arrived, the baby’s head was wrapped in turban-style rags and he had on a cute little “onesie”. The mother was away, but the father cuddled the baby with admiration in his eyes and in his touch! There we stood, under the shade of a bread fruit tree, asking questions and writing down the social and medical history that we could gather. Neighbors began surrounding us to hear what it was that the white woman was here for. To allow for some privacy, we moved into the small home and continued questioning the father.

Upon completion of the necessary forms, our descent down the mountain was a somber one. Each of us spoke about what we had just seen. The Haitian men commented that it was unbelievable that such conditions existed in a location so near to their own homes. However, we were also in awe of the fact that in spite of this family living in desperate squalor, we also saw a father who dearly loved his little baby son. He was so grateful for ANY hope that we could offer him.

On the path back to the van, we saw a HUGE dead tarantula. I must say that I was glad that we saw it on the way DOWN, instead of on the way up the mountain, or I may have changed my mind about this visit. NO! I take that back! The trip was worth every step! I am so grateful that God chose me to be His instrument. If He can use even me, He most certainly can use YOU!

As if this one child was not enough, God brought three additional cases to my attention in the matter of a couple of days! A five year old girl whose medical condition and poor living conditions landed her in the hospital with dehydration and malnutrition, an abandoned baby whose guardian came seeking help for the tumor growing in his abdomen and a 15 year old boy that has a growth on his leg that is ENORMOUS.

For the latter case, I would travel near dusk on foot to an isolated village about 45 minutes from the orphanage. We would approach a river, having then to take a boat to the opposite shore. Walking down a muddy foot path, we would wind our way through the small homes, back to a home on the ocean. There amidst the mosquitoes and fading daylight, we would meet this child with a grotesque condition. As Leon held the flashlight, I tried to fill out the forms, while swatting the insects from my legs. I finally concluded that this was not working and asked if the sister could come to see me the following morning. We gingerly wormed our way back through the darkened village. This village has never had electricity, so our little flashlight had to suffice in getting us to the river, where we once again would cross by boat to the other side. This visit was yet another Haitian adventure, but also one that was almost unbelievable, and definitely unforgettable.

Upon arriving home, I could not get these children out of my mind. Conditions like these would never progress to this state in the United States.

This last child has had this growth for over 9 years and lived with it because years ago a hospital had turned him away, giving him no hope. By the grace of God, I was able to connect with an orthopedic surgeon in Les Cayes who examined him for free. After paying for x-rays, blood tests and other tests, the sad conclusion is that the doctors here do not have the expertise or equipment to deal with his medical condition. I am praying now that the doors will open for him to come to the United States for treatment.


Nora Léon

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic Until next time ………….

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