“They’re back,” we heard. “The doctors from Gatineau are back.” “Miss Cherlie, Miss Cherlie – we’re glad to see you.” Such were the comments we heard as we headed up the mountain from Jérémie to Gatineau last week. Our absence was longer than expected, due to the earthquake and the time we spent helping with relief efforts in Port-au-Prince. But, our patients were proud of the fact that we had been able to help in an area of need, even if it took us away from them and our own clinic. They shook their heads in wonder as they looked at the photos we had taken in Port-au-Prince – the crumpled presidential palace, buildings in rubble, people wearing masks as they walked along the streets. Very few country people in our area have even been to Port-au-Prince, so they were particularly fascinated by the photos, as they realized just how significant were the events of January 12th.
We’ve increased our clinic days from two to three times a week in order to accommodate the increased patient load we are seeing due to people who have migrated out from Port-au-Prince. Many of those we saw last week were students, sent to school in Port-au-Prince, now back living with their parents in the country. Others were family members who had been working in the capital but who came back to the country when their houses were destroyed. Each of them had a story to tell. One woman was with her young infant and told us that the house she was in totally collapsed around her. Miraculously, she and her baby were buried, but alive. They spent two days in the darkness, not knowing day from night, until someone dug through a wall and freed them. “It was truly a miracle,” she said. “We had no broken bones or injuries at all, while many other people in the same house died.”
We heard from many people that their houses in the country have, indeed, been damaged from the earthquake. And, many others are living with 5-10 additional family members in the house, putting a strain on their already-meager food supplies. The seed project that we previously sponsored (see Hurricane Relief Grant) has helped many farmers with this present planting season, providing extra seeds to plant in their gardens. In the weeks ahead, we will be discussing with the communities ways that we can expand this program and help even more farmers meet the increased food needs of their extended families.