The morning was welcomed by the sounds and calls of roosters, parrots, and even what sounded like geese. Everyone was greeted with a lovely breakfast of eggs, oatmeal, cereal, bread and of course – plenty of coffee. Part of the team went to church while the rest stayed to help unpack the twenty two bags/luggage of supplies that came on the plane with us. Items brought include sterile solution, needles, gloves, stethoscopes, sutures, glucometers and other vital tools and supplies needed to help provide treatment to acute/urgent needs, as well as long-term maintenance of health. Later in the day we went to a court made of cement and blocks to have the annual basketball game – KORE vs (St Michelle team). We all cheered, playfully booed, and watched how every team player sprinted across the court, jumped to make a shot and dodged defensive moves. It was very exciting – so exciting, in fact, that some children and adults from the community came to watch with us and help cheer. At the end of the game, a group picture was taken at which point Stevenson, CEO of KORE Haiti, gathered everyone around in a circle. He began to speak to all of the children and adolescents there. All of us who were watching and cheering gathered into the circle as well. “I want to tell you something important,” he said. Their eyes focused on Stevenson with immense interest. It’s almost as if their hearts opened up like lockets held around their necks. “Work through life’s problems the way you worked through the obstacles, challenges and frustrations of today’s game. Whatever you do in life, do it with the same passion with which you played today.” The children’s singing voices in the church next to the courtyard echoed in the background. His speech was full of encouragement, empowerment, and empathy. Other people in the circle, including the mayor, shared some other positive words with the group. With a warm smile on his face, he closed with the following words: “represent your country and encourage your people.” Hugs and hi-fives were exchanged, and then everyone parted ways. No opportunity where an experience can be turned into a life lesson seems to ever be lost with KORE Haiti.
Here’s one thing you should not do: don’t make a promise to go to church the next day, after being sleep-deprived and exhausted from the day’s events. And yet, that is exactly what I did; I slept so hard, I almost missed the ride to church. I even slept through the rooster alarm clock. (Those familiar with Haiti know of how the roosters love to wake up the residents and visitors of Haiti in the wee hours of the morning whether one liked it or not.) However, I managed to make it in time, and traveled with other fellow volunteers to church.
Thus began Day Two: set up and prep up day. Those who opted out of church were busy helping set up the equipment for the different areas of healthcare we would be providing on this trip. This fourth trip was special in that, unlike the previous trips where General Medicine was the core of the care given to our community, this trip had added areas of OB/GYN and Women’s health, pediatrics, dentistry, and sports medicine, as well as health education sessions.
The day progressed on, and we managed to take a trip to the clinic site where we would be hosting our 3-day clinics, starting Monday. Finally, the church goers were reunited with the rest of the crew back at the house, and it appeared as if most of the tools were set up, set out, and ready to be used. But as the saying goes: work hard, play harder. And play we would. It was time to uphold the traditional sports match between Kore and the villagers. This year featured basketball. Looks like we were bringing March Madness to Haiti.
Now, I won’t bore you with the details of such a game, especially considering my lack of knowledge of the rules and regulations of basketball (I just like the jersey colors; I cheer for the team with the best jerseys.), however, I’ll try and paint the picture with fragmented descriptions. Sun. Blazing. Team players practice shooting. Missing and making. Jumping and rebounding. Opponents arriving. Not that intimidating. Soon the game is beginning. Dribble. Shoot. Pass. Miss. Whoops. Rebound. And it’s good! Foul here, travel there. Free throws sinking in. Going hard in the paint. Game over. 42 to 15. Kore wins.
The second half got really interesting when the male opponents were swapped out with the female youth team of the village, and let’s just say, they gave our boys a run for their money. What a game! Father Stevenson ended the day with providing words of motivation and inspiration to the younger generation, and others joined in on the encouragement as well. The youth seemed rather thankful and enthusiastic, and it was warming to see how bright their smiles shined.
As the sun began to set, we retreated back to the house. It appeared as if the power went out, so we simply rolled with the punches and fellowshipped in the dark. After one final trip to the clinic by some team members to finish set up, we were soon reunited all together back at the house, with the power thankfully back up and running. Honestly, I fell asleep so I actually don’t know when that happened.
One final meeting before bedtime occurred just to recap the day, and prep the team for the mission ahead. Our clinic would begin tomorrow, and although we did not know what to expect, we wanted to be prepared for anything and everything. We received our station assignments, final directions, words of caution and motivation and instructions to be on the bus by 7am the next morning.
As I groggily retreated up the stairs to our rooms after the meeting, I mentally cringed at the thought of being up by 6am. Well, it was for a good cause, I simply reminded myself constantly, until I dozed off.
Day Three was around the corner, and that’s when our work would truly begin.
First night in Haiti was too exciting for anyone to get a full night sleep. Everyone was up bright and early. A group attended church and another stayed in the guest house to help organize the supplies and equipment we bought along on the 22 checked luggage bags.
Most of the team members attended church as a cultural immersion outing to interact with the locals they will be serving. A few stayed behind to meticulously organize the supplies and equipment. Inventory of medications purchased from local pharmacy was conducted later when they arrived.
The basketball game was the highlight of the day. Despite difference in background, sports always seem to unite people across culture, nationality and background. It was a heated rematch of last year basketball tournament. By the end of the game, the winner did not matter. They appreciated the gesture of reaching out to them how we best know how.