In Septemeber 2008, I traveled 6000 miles to Haiti's Kenscoff mountains. My mission: to care for some of the orphaned and abandoned, the sick, malnourished and premature infants of this beautiful but beleagured Caribbean nation.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Staying safe in Haiti

Adressing people's fears about my mission to Haiti is a never ending task. I feel like I go over the same ground again and again, getting no-where. I have even had to stop myself a few times from uttering an exasperated, "haven't we had this discussion all ready?!?"

Of course, we haven't, but I have. Wouldn't it have been so great if I could have gotten every anxious family member, friend, colleague and acquaintance together in one room, one day, and done a group briefing. They could have aired their anxieties. I could have addressed each point:

- No, there isn't a British embassy/consulate in Haiti but I will be registering with the nearest embassy, which, is in the Dominican Republic. The staff there have agreed to assist me, if necessary.
- Yes, gun/gang violence is a problem in the cities, but I will not be in an urban area. Oh no, I will be living and working in a beautiful, and relatively safe community in the Kenscoff mountains, above Haiti's capital.
- The charity I will be working with takes the safety of their staff very seriously. An armed security guard will escort me into and out of the capital, whenever I have cause to be there.
- At the times when Haiti has seen its worst violence, there has been no trouble in the area God's Littlest Angels operates in. (The trouble makers don't come that far up the mountain!)
- The mission's compounds are protected by high walls and imposing, metal gates. I am not sure if there are security guards there but I know they have guard dogs and I also know the thieves and thugs of Haiti are afraid, no, very afraid, of those mangy beasts.
- Yes, there are hurricanes in the Caribbean, but the the mountains in my area will shield me from the full force of the summer winds.

Most people are reassured by these points and accept that the Kenscoff area is safer that where I worked in South Africa. In Haiti, I will be able to take a walk to the local grocery store, take a baby out for a stroll in the late afternoon sun, hike to a nearby waterfall..... God's Littlest Angel's volunteers do these things on a daily basis. Many of them even use the local public transport to explore the area. I'm not sure if I'll be quite that adventurous. The system is informal, unregulated and chaotic. I am generally a sensible woman, you see. There are nods of agreement whenever I remind people of this.

But somehow, the most reassuring thing for them is that I will be contactable when I am in Haiti. The mission has a satellite phone and wireless Internet. I have set up this blog, and I will post pictures, I tell them. They like that, and I am glad, not least of all because wanting to check in on me is a sign that they care. I will carry that thought whenever I feel homesick in Haiti.


nicnacpaddywac said...

I'm not sure if not worrying about you in Haiti makes me a good friend or a bad one lol.

Mentioning taking a baby for a walk though - i have either a ring sling or a mei tai you can borrow if you want, possibly both? Could show you how to use both, or you'd be welcome at a slingmeet.

Cheryl said...

Hi Susan,
Just checking in at your blog again. ;-)

A couple of comments. You can reassure your friends and family that the walls around the GLA property are pretty tall and they are covered with razor wire. I guess in Haiti they call it some kind of American wire because all of the Americans use it there and the Haitians don't. Whatever. In my travels to Haiti over the past five years I have never felt unsafe. I also totally trust GLA to know what is going on security wise. They have friends that own a security company in PAP. This security company also guards celebrities and dignitaries when they visit Haiti. Make of that what you wish.

Also in regards to the comment above, GLA does have some baby carriers such as slings, front packs and such, but can always use more. Some times the orphanages things made of fabric get some mildew, spit-up and the like on them. Surprised? Nope!

It sounds like our church will be sponsoring another team to Haiti next summer sometime. Will you still be there? I would love to meet you sometime. I don't remember if you followed our blog on our last trip or not.

I also read your post about staying healthy in Haiti. I have been very fortunate every time I have traveled there and have not gotten sick. One recommendation I really like is to take acidophilus capsultes to keep your digestive track healthy. I will definitely be recommending this to our team next year when we once again travel to Haiti.

In Him,