"We must not get impatient"

by Ruth Bücker,  2011/01/12

More than 100 persons have travelled to Haiti for humedica during the last year in order to offer some relief to those who had not only lost all their belongings and property during the earthquake in January 2010, but also loved ones and their own will to live.

A lot has happened since then and some of these 100 honorary assistants returned to Haiti for another mission at the end of the year or stayed in the much-shaken island state for a longer period acting as coordinators. In interviews they have told us what they think about the developments of the past twelve months and what they expect the future to be like.

Dr Irmgard Harms (in Haiti in January and from October to December)

Dr Irmgard Harms and Dr Markus Hohlweck are treating a little girl who had been hit by collapsing rubble. Photo: humedica/Simone Winneg

Our mission – only a few days after the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010 – was particularly touching for our team and for each individual team member. But the experiences I gained during another mission in Haiti at the end of the year 2010 were not less impressive for me.

Yes, Port-au-Prince is being reconstructed, everywhere, although we often wish we could accelerate the process. Again and again I could see small and large signs of hope: streets were constructed, houses rebuilt, there were drinking water systems, Haitians in their yellow shirts – CASH FOR WORK – were cleaning the streets and clearing away the waste, children were once more attending school, and our “Hospital of Hope” has been rebuilt, modernised and finally reopened.

I am convinced that Haiti has a perspective and a future. We just must not get impatient and must not lose confidence in Haiti.

Wendell Endley (in Haiti in January and since December)

The professional orthopaedic technician Wendell Endley from South Africa considers the international attention to be a decisive opportunity for Haiti. Photo: humedica

I have already worked in Haiti at the beginning of the year 2010, and I have returned once more in December. During the past twelve months numerous reconstruction projects and measures for improving the infrastructure have been initiated – although progress seems to be slow in general.

Most people seem to have returned to a certain every-day routine. Unfortunately, living conditions and social circumstances still leave a lot to be desired. In particular for the many persons who have to live with amputations.

Therefore, humedica has initiated a separate project in order to care for children, women and men with prosthetics or physical disabilities. This project will contribute substantially to improving the situation. humedica also intends to train local employees as professionals in the field.

I am a little worried about the future of Haiti due its political instability, since this could mean further delays for reconstruction in the country. Besides the progress made during the past year, the earthquake has certainly had the positive effect of drawing international attention to this much-shaken country.

Simon Oeckenpöhler (in Haiti in January and November)

Reconstruction is still in its initial phase, but the foundations have been laid. Photo: humedica/Irmgard Harms

After the earthquake one year ago, humedica was incredibly fast to offer medical help to numerous people in extreme misery. But humedica did and is doing even more – in my opinion incredibly much has happened since the disaster!

When I returned to the Hospital Espoir at the end of 2010, I could not believe the change the hospital and its staff had undergone: chaos has been turned into a well-functioning hospital that has not simply handed over its operations to the teams from Germany, and is now working better than ever before.

Haiti continues to depend on our help – above all structural help! Offering education and creating new opportunities will be the key to success, but this will only be feasible if basic provisions are granted. This is the point where we can take action and this is what I wish the Haitians for their future! Reconstruction is still in its initial phase…”

Caroline Klein (in Haiti since May)

In order to help those in misery, Caroline Klein has been working as a project coordinator in Haiti since the middle of last year. Photo: humedica/Ruth Bücker

Over the past twelve months, Haiti has slowly tried to recover. Small houses and ministry buildings that had collapsed have been cleared away, roads are being built and repaired, some streets in Port-au-Prince are simply repaired by the population itself.

Unfortunately, to outsiders there seems to be no obvious improvement to the living circumstances of the Haitians. More than one million people are still homeless and living in poverty. And then there was the cholera epidemic at the end of the year.

I wish the Haitians strength and new courage to live, and I hope to see more and more smiling faces. Haiti is an incredibly interesting, wonderful, diverse, complex and sometimes contradictory country that has changed my live in the almost one year I have spent here.

I am looking forward to overseeing the projects in Haiti in 2011 and, by doing so I will not only help the Haitians, but above all learn from them and share their experiences.

Dr Markus Hohlweck (in Haiti in January and November)

Since his missions in January and November last year, Dr Markus Hohlweck has felt a strong connection to Haiti. Photo: humedica/Dieter Schmidt

Even almost one year after the devastating disaster, I have still noticed many piles of rubble and collapsed buildings. But what I have also noticed, and what made me very happy, were many newly built streets and people who are keeping their emergency shelters meticulously clean even under difficult circumstances, and who always have some time to spend for a smile or a friendly greeting.

humedica was one of the first relief organisations to take over a commitment in Haiti and, being a member of the first mission team, I treated patients with terrible injuries. We could save lives, treat painful bone fractures and wounds, but above all we could make the people feel less alone after the disaster by means of giving them our love and attention.

Due to the earthquake, Haiti has gained the attention of the world public for a short time. A lot of funds and aid has been offered. But above all the people of Haiti have left a strong and lasting feeling of connection with all those who have been there and experienced the daily misery and gratitude of the Haitians.

In January 2010 the world population has joined forces and we all need to stay at the Haitians' side also in the years to come and fight with them for a better future".

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