By Heather O.
On Saturday, we teamed up with HODR–Hands on Disaster Relief–and spent the morning clearing rubble. It had been a house that had been reduced to a big fat pile of concrete. We worked for 4 hours,a team of 10— young and fit people, fueled by idealistic zeal, working with sledgehammers, wheelbarrows, pick axes, and determination to change the world. At the end of 4 hours of hard physical labor, we had cleared less than a third of the slab.
The homeowner, I would imagine, is probably not young, or fit, and probably couldn’t lay his hands on a sledgehammer if his life depended on it (which, in a way, it does). Even under the very best of circumstances, our team leader told us, it would take 2 weeks to clear this slab. And if there is one thing you can count on in Haiti, it’s that you will never be working under the very best of circumstances. He did reward us with fresh mangoes, though. Yum!
So, we ask the question, where does an aid organization put its time?
One student here very bluntly told me that she didn’t think Sustain Haiti should bother with gardening. I wanted to bluntly tell her back that we shouldn’t bother going to orphaneges if we can’t figure out how to feed those kids. It’s easy and fun (not to mention enormously emotionally satisfying) to hold babies and play duck duck goose and take pictures of children who almost never see their reflection and watch their faces break out in delight when they see their own digital likeness. I myself had a fabulous time painting orphan girls’ toes and fingernails, laughing with them about the color and the stickers i had brought to go with the nail polish. But all that happy happy feel good fun joy goes away when a 3 yr old with a distended tummy holds out his hand and says, “manje?” which means eat.
And so while I recognize that the obstacles to gardening may be as big as the piles of rubble, I still think our aid group should continue our slow movement towards establishing some measure of self sufficiency, to teach a skill that can transform a life. And to be honest, I have more hope for the gardens than I do for the rubble. And the trash.
On a lighter note, this morning we went to work in a hospital that is trying to reopen. We painted baseboards and touched up a rainbow that was painted on the wall of a nursery. Afterwards, we were treated to gatorade WITH ICE. It made me ridiculously, overwheminlgy, embarrassingly happy.
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