I always said I would not serve in a war zone and that I would weigh any health risks carefully.Yet, the UK foreign office is currently advising against all but essential travel to Haiti because of the threats to personal safety, security and health, and I am still going.
"There have been random shootings of civilians in incidents of street robbery. Foreigners have also occasionally been caught in the crossfire of gang violence.... There has been an increase in the number of kidnappings since November 2007... There have been attacks on the vehicles of aid agencies and diplomatic staff.... The political situation in Haiti is continuing to improve tentatively, but remains fragile and supported by UN forces."
"There have been several hurricanes in recent decades causing loss of life, major damage and severe flooding...Emergency services are ill equipped to cope with a major disaster. Should a hurricane strike Haiti, basic services - transport and communications - could be severely disrupted."
"Medical facilities are very limited and offer a poor standard of care. There have been outbreaks of malaria and dengue fever in Port au Prince and the Cotes des Arcadins area... In 2007 there has been an increase in the number of reported cases of dengue. Parasitic infections, other intestinal problems and hepatitis are also common." (Foreign and Commonwealth Office, March, 2008).
And in the context of all of this, there are no diplomatic relations between the UK and Haiti. No Haitian embassy or consulate in London, and no representatives of the British government in Port-au-Prince.
I have considered the Foreign office's advice carefully. I am no thrill seeker; the bright eyes of danger hold no attraction at all. I do though, feel called to go, as a pilgrim and a stranger. I am not overly anxious about the risks. I will manage them as well as I can, and trust the rest to God. Come sickness or health, the rainbow, the storm, a rise or a cross, I give myself body and soul to God, for his purpose. For me, the question is not why Haiti? But, why Not?
Haiti: a road less travelled