What’s it like to travel seven hours through one of the poorest countries on earth?

It’s exhausting. Physically and emotionally.

Physically in my case yesterday because the road we traveled has to be one of the worst anywhere on the planet. Of the 7-hour trip, the last three are spent on what I can only describe as a bumpy garden path wide enough for two cars (barely) over terrain that has never been graded. There’s no worn-down flat part because this ‘road’ is made out of rocks (small boulders actually) and three times, we had to cross a river without a bridge. When the rains come, the road is impassable. And this is the only access from Port-au-Prince to La Pointe where we are staying. To dull the monotony of the return trip, I’ve convinced my host to let me drive home.

But the real drain is on your emotions. I found myself tired last night. Tired of seeing people live in miserable conditions. Tired of seeing little babies struggling for life due to malnutrition; one of whom surely died through the night. Tired of hearing doctors telling me stories that would make you cry. Tired that the world, despite uncountable efforts, seems so damn incapable of ridding us of this scourge. Of poverty.

And then the guilt sets in. I get to go home. I will eat tonight. I will sleep safely. And then…how dare I let myself get tired from just seeing their poverty. They’re the ones who have to live it.

The guilt is crushing. And it’s a useless emotion because in the end, it’s selfish.

The balance comes from, all of all things, the wisdom of the tacky serenity prayer you see on bumper stickers: know what you can change and what you cannot. Our work cannot rid this land of poverty, nor can it solve the crisis that is public-health here. We can however, help a little hospital work a little better. Patients there will get care that is a bit more timely, a bit more effective, and a bit more clean today than they would have a year ago. There’s a little baby boy that (hopefully) had his first birthday last week because two of our volunteers saved his life minutes after he was born last October.

I held that baby last year. I wish I could see him today. Maybe he’d give me the hope I crave.

One thought on “Conflicted

  1. Dear Peter:

    How can one not be in tears by reading this? We have roofs over our heads and food to nourish us.

    When Ryan Graham spoke at the opening of International Women Celebrate!, AyrSpace gallery’s exhibition observing the centenary of International Women’s Day in March he emphasized patience for the situation in Haiti. One step at a time, one day at a time. Remove the cynicism and stick with it – the support of the people there.

    Disparity. It exists even in the Waterloo Region.

    My dear Californian friend, Ann Wolfe, said to me decades ago, ART SAVES LIVES. The sale of art in Ontario, offered by women around the world for an International Women’s Day effort, helped fund installation of a water system in Haiti.

    That same work of art may encourage an overwrought North American to see beauty in their overwhelming day, even if for a few moments. The artist in North America must be paid for their artwork, in order to sustain themselves and offer assistance for those in need. It is a cycle to be respected.

    Thank you for your good work and patience…


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