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Here and There

Haiti 2011 001By Irene Gutmann

I went to Haiti with NOVA for the first time this year but had been to the country 30 years ago.  I have the weirdest feeling when I am there.  I can’t quite wrap my mind around Haiti.  I can’t put it into the boxes or categories that work in the rest of my life.

If you look at the poverty alone, it can be very discouraging.  At first I felt so hopeless and overwhelmed.  I didn’t want to talk to anyone on the team.  I just wanted to cry or yell. Then I started seeing the humor and the pluckiness of the Haitian people and I felt better. They are more resilient than we are.  The kids are so cute too and the parents are proud of them, much like we are.

It wasn’t until I saw the work we were doing and the nearby programs, that I started to feel hope.  There are some amazing things happening in Haiti. I kept filling up with tears when I saw people making a real difference.

My life in New York seemed normal to me before I left. Then after a few days, our privileged life here seemed so far away.  Coming home it seemed over the top – kind of wonderful but so insulated from how most of the world lives. For example, I went into the A&P and couldn’t go to the deli counter because I was too emotional – the cleanliness, the choice of foods – the wonderland that was the supermarket – so crazy different!

Now that I’m back a few months, I’m not sure what’s real – here or there – I guess both.  I just know that I want to be part of a program in Haiti that really makes a difference.  NOVA does just that.

I was blessed in that when we left this year, for the first time, we had a doctor in the clinic at Boileau and that people would go there if they needed care. I didn’t have to leave fearing for the children who got asthma a month after we left.  They now have a place to go.  It will be even better when we have the clinic in Martineau.

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