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Glimpses of Haiti

Haiti is another country that seems to have an ongoing and evolving presence in my life. When I was a teenager, my best friends’ mom traveled there with her church and took slides that she showed us when she returned. I was fascinated and hoped I’d one day travel there. I got an opportunity in 2002 to visit when a friend was working there and invited me to come along for a brief vacation. The extremes of the country are definitely striking (the poverty and deforestation existing alongside the natural beauty spirit of the country and the people).

And then last month, I was given the opportunity to travel there again, this time for work. I felt privileged to have the opportunity because it’s such an historic time for the country. One year after the horrific earthquake, and amidst a cholera epidemic and a chaotic election process, it felt good to be given the chance to possibly help just a little. I worked with a local organization called Profamil who have clinics throughout the country that provide contraceptives as well as obstetric, gynecological and pre-natal care. I was there to do an assessment to determine the feasibility of implementing a computerized clinic system.

Not officially there to photograph, but still having my camera with me constantly, I was able to take photos here and there, capturing both the beauty and the more difficult reality of life.

Flying into Haiti, one is immediately struck by the landscape. Port-au-Prince is a huge, sprawling city next to the blue waters of the Caribbean and nestled amidst mountains.

The deforestation is brutal.

And it doesn’t take long before you see the camps that are home to nearly a million people, still displaced a year after the earthquake.

Yet amazing wealth exists too. It’s hard to believe that people live in homes like these in the same city where people are living in tents.

There are election campaign posters and graffiti everywhere.

And then “Baby Doc” Duvalier, the ex-President who’s been living in exile for nearly 25 years, showed up the week before I got there, just to add another level of chaos into the mix.

Nearly every day, we’d pass through one of the camps. And sometimes it seemed the conditions there were actually better than some of the other places people were living.

Up north in Port de Paix, the earthquake didn’t hit, but the poverty seemed even worse. And then I’d be surprised and see something beautiful like this little church.

Or this scene from my hotel:

It was always a pleasure working with the staff in the clinics. They welcomed us openly and often would hug us good-bye when we left.

They appreciated we wanted to help. They have so much work to do and not enough resources.

More than everything that is wrong and bad in Haiti, what stands out is the natural beauty.

The colors.

And the people.

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