By Sr. Marie Vittetoe, CHM
Having lived and worked in Haiti off and on for over 25 years, my heart is aching and I am grieving with others, not only for friends and colleagues who haven’t been heard from, but for the millions of earthquake victims.
The e-mails from colleagues on the ground, especially those in Port-au-Prince and Milot, are heart rending, but tell the story of heroism and collaboration among the volunteers and local populations.
I am hearing many stories from Hopital Sacre Coeur, supported by CRUDEM (Center for Rural Development of Milot), a charity of the Knights of Malta, and thousands of volunteers, and where I have worked to create a clinical laboratory.
I hear of hospital employees working long hours — doctors, nurses, laundry, kitchen, cleaning, maintenance workers, etc. — holding the hands of small children in the hospital without family; being interpreters for medical personnel if they know English; giving up their school classrooms so desks can be turned into beds; offering their school yards for triage centers; helping to feed, bathe and care for those who are not even their relatives; filling potholes in the road, so ambulance patients can ride more comfortably; cleaning the soccer field for the helicopter pad.
I hear of volunteer doctors and other medical personnel from many parts of the U.S. who are making a great difference in the lives of so many amputees, burn victims and others with severe conditions; volunteers sleeping in tents and on the dining room floor; non-medical volunteers doing a lot more menial tasks to keep things organized; corporate jet pilots ferrying volunteers into and out of Haiti gratis.
I know many of these physicians and nurses, the hardships of losing sleep and yet having to be sharp for performing demanding procedures. I know these schools where hundreds of children attend in two shifts because they won’t all fit into one classroom. I know these roads and potholes — really small ponds — and the difficulty of keeping them filled.
And yet all of these sacrifices are considered as nothing in comparison to the reward of knowing you are the helping hands of Jesus — being in that place at that time, called by providential circumstances to minister to his little ones, his injured ones.
It is living out the Beatitudes. Blessed are those who operate in the middle of the night, who stand beyond what their backs, knees and feet can take, but who know they hold a life in their hands. Blessed are we if we hear the cry for help to support all the efforts of those who do the physical work while we provide the financial and spiritual support. Indeed this is the vivid living evidence that we are the body of Christ — every one of us!