FHH Board Nearly Flooded Out!
November 15, 2014
By Dr. Katie Wolf
For several years now, I’ve been trying to get the FHH Board of Directors to hold a board meeting in Haiti, rather than in Milwaukee. We finally were able to set it up for November 2nd this year and all the appropriate plans were made for the board members to come down for the meeting and a brief stay in Jérémie. Well, as you know, when plans are made that involve Haiti, they are often subject to change and these plans were no exception! The excitement began a few days before the board’s arrival, when I discovered that Tortug’Air flights were still on hold due to problems with the airplane. So, the first test of the board’s resilience was the 7 hour drive from Port-au-Prince to Jérémie in our jeep and another vehicle. They crossed that hurdle in flying colors when we arrived in Jérémie around 8pm Saturday evening, November 1st. The discomfort of the rough roads was more than offset by the meaningful conversations that took place in the vehicles. And, when we got to Jeremie, we were treated to a wonderful spaghetti dinner, thanks to the efforts of Cherlie, Tim and Ralph (they were with the Montview group and stayed on for the board meeting, helping Cherlie with laundry, bed-making and cleaning in preparation for the board members’ visit).
We woke up on Sunday morning, the day of the board meeting, to the sound of rain outside. It wasn’t just a drizzle, it was pouring rain. Having been through many months of drought, we were glad to have rain, just not on this day! But, rain it did. Our plans had called for going up to the clinic site so the board members could have a grand tour of all the construction, seeing first hand the buildings we have worked so hard to complete in the past few months. Then, we were going to hold the board meeting in the living room of the newly completed residence quarters, looking out on the beautiful valley below. Well, it seemed that the Lord and Mother Nature had other plans.
We slipped and slid our way up the mountain in the pouring rain, determined that everyone would at least be able to see the clinic site and buildings, even if we couldn’t do the “grand tour of the grounds” that I had envisioned. As we went further up into the mountains, we came to several areas where flooding had occurred, covering the road with water and threatening to overflow the banks of the creek running along the road. As we made it through each flooded, muddy section, we breathed a prayer of thanks for a sturdy vehicle and knobby tires! About half a mile from the clinic, though, we encountered an obstacle that required some contemplation – the creek we had to cross had become a raging river and the rain was continuing to fall. We piled out of the two vehicles and stood by the banks of the creek looking at the water swirling in front of us. The general conclusion of the group was that it wasn’t worth risking the jeep and our safety in order to get up to the clinic site. But, if we didn’t go up, the five members of the board who had flown in for the board meeting (other than Tim and Ralph who had been there the previous week) would have made the trip to Haiti somewhat in vain. So, we stood and watched, thinking through alternatives, weighing risks and benefits, counting the cost, etc.
The creek turned raging river.
Weighing our options at the creek crossing.
And, then something happened that made us stop in our thoughts. A local Haitian man, in barefeet and shorts, began walking across the raging creek. The water came up to his thighs, but he was able to cross without losing his balance or being washed downstream. Mmm. Food for thought. If he was able to cross and didn’t get washed away, maybe we could indeed cross in the jeep. Still, there was hesitation. Maybe if the jeep went with a few people and proved that it was safe, the rest would follow. Well, that didn’t make sense, since we need all the weight we can get in the jeep in order to keep the tires on the stone creek bed and not have it whisked downstream. Okay, so it’s everyone or no one. Still there was indecision. What should we do? And then the same Haitian man crossed the creek again. And, again he kept his footing and didn’t get swept away. Finally, everyone was agreeable to take a chance and cross the creek. I turned the wheel over to our Haitian driver, Miller, and we all piled into the back of the jeep. As we held our breaths and prayed a few prayers for safety, we went down the bank on one side, across the creek and slid a bit down stream as we made it up the other side. As we drove up the other bank, we all clapped and saluted Miller for getting us across safely. He, of course, took it all in stride, wondering why these people were so worried about a little water in the first place!
We made it up to the site, walked around all the buildings, took a tour of the clinic, lab/xray/pharmacy building and the beautiful, but very wet residence quarters (without doors and windows, the rain was blowing into the residence living room).
View of the clinic, storage depot and pouring rain from the second floor residence.
As the rain continued to come down, we decided that the better part of valor would be to get back down the mountain and have the board meeting at home, rather than risk not being able to get back across the creek and on home later. So, we went home, regrouped, had a four-hour board meeting and thanked the Lord for all the small miracles of the day. Life and work in Haiti is not usually easy, but it is often exciting!