It is hard to say goodbye: a homecomer looks back er Heimkehrerin

by Saskia Hankel/FBA,  2010/04/01

There is an idiom saying: it is hard to say goodbye. And I am right now experiencing myself how hard it can really be. I am sitting in the car, travelling from Léogane to Port-au-Prince and I am aware of the fact that this is my last trip in Haiti.

Tomorrow I will return home. Of course I am looking forward to seeing my friends and family at home, but at the moment I rather feel like crying, because I will miss the people and kind of life here. I will miss crawling out of the tent in the morning, sleepily and in pyjamas and walking to our office through the queuing patients in front of our outpatient clinic.

Queues of patients waiting in front of the treatment camp in Léogane. Photo: humedica/Saskia Hankel

I will miss the tarantulas in front of our tent – we gave them names and could even touch them. But what I will miss most are the children who came to the fence of our outpatient clinic every day and shouted “Saskia, Saskia”; those children who had learned to sing “Brother John” in German and who in turn taught me to sing the song in Creole. I will keep these memories close to my heart and never forget them.

I have just spent a very touching evening of farewells inat the yard in front of the “Hospital of Hope”. The day before our departure we sat around the camp fire together with our friends – people from eight different nations and eight different charity organisations. We were laughing, playing the guitar, singing and crying together. Everyone played a song typical for their country. We sang the German and the Haitian national hymn, played Cuban songs on the guitar and even sang the Italian song “O sole mio”.

The evening offered an opportunity to thank each other for the good cooperation of the last few weeks. Also our two interpreters, Karl and Emmanuel, expressed their heartfelt thanks for the support we offered in Haiti. When they then told us of their experiences during the terrible earthquake, they had tears in their eyes, as had almost everyone else.

Saskia Hankel holding a Haitian girl. Photo:humedica

Both of them had lost many of the persons who had been close to them. Karl had to watch his best friend die right next to him. I thought it very brave of them to tell about these horrible experiences and traumatising situations in front of so many people. On the other hand, I also felt that talking about their experiences to people who listened to them, offered them some consolation. I was deeply moved by these very personal and emotional descriptions.

It once more reminded me of how safe and protected we, the relief team, were living in our German camp here. We did not lack anything and due to the strict safety regulations we hardly ever left the camp. Under these circumstances I could sometimes almost forget about the terrible blows of fate which every single person in Léogane had lived through during the earthquake and about the deeply anchored traumas everyone had to struggle with.

Looking back, this awareness helps me viewing patients in a different light, who came to our outpatient clinic complaining only about a headache or an upset stomach but who seemed otherwise to be all right. I will enjoy remembering this mission for a long time and I hope that following doctor teams will also have the opportunity of gaining such valuable experience in Léogane.

I would also like to ask you to support the work of humedica in Haiti and to provide people there with new hope.
      humedica e.V.
      Donation reference “Earthquake Haiti
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren

PLEASE ALSO DONATE ONLINE. Thank you very much.

Saskia Hankel one day before her trip back to Germany, holding a Haitian girl. Photo:humedica

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