The young boy sat across the desk from me as I asked for the second time, “So, you came all alone to the clinic today, just you, without any parent or brother or cousin or anyone?” He shook his head confidently as he answered, “No, I came all alone,” as if it was no big deal for a 12 year old with a history of seizures and asthma to walk for two hours down the mountain to come see his doctor. “I’ve been here before; it was no problem,” he said. And, indeed, he had been here before. In fact, from his first visit back in January 2009, he had come to see us every month, faithfully taking his medications and renewing his prescriptions with each visit.
I chuckled as I examined him, wondering if my mother would have let me walk for two hours to go to the doctor when I was 12 years old. And, really, what 12 year old American child would want to walk for two hours to go anywhere? How different life is for these young children in Haiti. They grow up without toys, computers, TV’s, or electricity, have to walk miles to get water for cooking and bathing, and yet they often seem much more contented than their US counterparts. They play soccer with oranges when they have no soccer ball, tell each other stories when there’s no other entertainment and surprise their girlfriends with a mint candy or flower they picked from the side of the road.
“Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” (James, 2:5)
The people we serve in our rural mountain communities are certainly “poor in the eyes of the world”. But, many of them are rich in their faith and they all have amazing patience and flexibility. Friends for Health in Haiti is committed to helping Haitians of all ages improve their health, but we make it a priority to take care of the health problems of children and young people like 12-year old Watson. Infants and children are especially vulnerable to infectious diseases, such as pneumonia, often because of concomitant malnutrition. And, their illnesses quickly become severe when not treated appropriately. So, we encourage parents to bring their children to our clinic. In addition, we keep our prices low, help the most indigent with our Patient Poor Fund and see them back frequently to follow up on their illnesses. We love it when youngsters become accustomed to seeing us and actually look forward to their visits – self-confident youngsters like Watson.