Greetings from Haiti! Today started with another roof top yoga class from Kristy. It finished just as the sun was coming up (I guess Kristy was late to class on purpose). We all enjoyed a breakfast of Jude’s amazing oatmeal and had a more relaxed morning as we did not have to leave the guest house until 9:30. Our first stop this morning was at the Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien (MUPANAH). MUPANAH is a museum featuring the heroes of the independence of Haiti as well as Haitian history and culture. Since our team is so large, we divided into two groups to tour the museum. Our tour guides were very knowledgeable and did a great job explaining the extensive and complex history of Haiti. We learned about the tumultuous and often brutal road to independence experienced by the Haitian people. We had the chance to view some artifacts of Haitian culture that helped to make the history come alive for us. I think our experience at the museum helped us to have a deeper understanding of the resiliency and pride of the Haitian people. Of course a major goal of our trip is service work, but this is a college course not a mission trip and Professor Hankin and I were glad to have such experienced and talented guides to contribute to the academic component of our experience.
After the museum we went back to the guest house for a couple of hours. We were surprised to see that the road in front of the guest house was being paved!! It is great to see some real improvements happening around Port au Prince. Later in the afternoon we went to Mother Teresa’s Children’s Hospital. We spent a couple of hours holding, feeding and playing with sick babies and children. We also helped the staff to put away the Christmas decorations. Some of the students described the experience as painful but rewarding, and definitely eye-opening. There were so many children there, and while it was a pleasure to hold them and play with them, it was very hard to leave them when our visit was over. There were quite a few tears, and not just from the children. This was different from the other work we have been doing, we did not have to use any special skills our bring any equipment. Sharing some human contact was the most important thing we could do. After Mother Teresa’s we came back to the guest house and prepared for dinner. We also had some visitors today. Natasha’s family is originally from Haiti and she had a visit from two cousins she has never met before. We also had a visit from a local merchant who set up a bunch of souvenirs so that we could go shopping right inside the guest house. It was fun to look at all of the items and many of us made purchases.
We were not allowed to take pictures inside MUPANAH or Mother Teresa’s so there are not too many photos to share today, but thanks to Marcia and Silvia there are some images from other parts of our day. While we were at the museum today, we learned about the motto on the Haitian flag: L’Union Fait La Force (Unity is Strength). It is also a good saying for our course because we are definitely stronger together. The cooperation of our students and interpreters and staff has enabled us to accomplish some great work over the past week. Tomorrow is another full clinic and education day at an orphanage in Port au Prince. It is our last official work day of the trip and we are all ready to give it our best. Good night from Haiti.