Lindsey, age 17, took part in a mission trip to Real Hope for Haiti, one of our Haiti Diaper Drops. At Real Hope for Haiti, there are about 75 children of diapering age, recovering from extreme malnutrition. We’ve been blessed to supply them with cloth diapers for the past three years. Prior to that, the only diapers they had were a barrel of blue rags donated after the earthquake. The staff and mission teams have expressed extreme gratitude for the blessing of cloth diapers,and we are working diligently at meeting their diapering needs.
Here is Lindsey’s story.
On June 16th, 2016, I left on a trip that would change my life forever. At 11 o’clock in the morning, we boarded our first plane. It was my first time even flying, so it’d better be worth the $816. I just remember my head was in so much pain because I had cried so much that morning. I felt so light headed, I had built up anxiety, and didn’t eat because I was scared of getting sick on the plane. The plane was cold, crowded, and uncomfortable. “oh no, please let this trip be better.” I thought to myself.
We reached Atlanta and relaxed in the airport until it was time to board the next plane. At this point, 15 year old Ethan S. and I searched the airport for food. The Atlanta airport was so large! We rode on a train in order to get from terminal to terminal. We ended up getting some Popeyes chicken and fries! I didn’t have the guts to call my parents one more time because I knew if I did, I would cry. But it was my last chance of talking to them for the next 10 days. I ended up just shooting them a text that It was time and that I’d talk to them as soon as I could!
On the plane to Haiti, they called it the Mission’s Flight because everyone on that flight was going to Haiti on a mission. We didn’t arrive to Port-Au-Prince until around 9 P.M. Casey Zachary (Zach) was the man picking us up from the airport. Immediately after walking off the plane, there was a new sweet smell in the air, and it wasn’t as hot as I expected it to be. I was told that the sweet smell was the smell of burning tires and bodies. All 4 of us, Melissa, Bryan, Ethan, and I, all gathered into the truck.
“This is the last cool air you’ll be getting for the next week and a half” I was reminded by Melissa.
As we drove through Port-Au-Prince, we noticed that there were fires on the side of the road. They were burning trash and tires in order to protest, or just simply get rid of it. One of the biggest reasons people were protesting was because the Port-Au-Prince Hospital was shut down by the government. People were not getting the treatment they needed and it’s probably got to do with the inventory of their supplies.
We arrived to Cazale! It was probably a 40 minute drive from Port-Au-Prince. We drove up the mountain- who needs roads anyways?
When we pulled up to our home for the next week, it was dark outside. It was still kinda hectic. I felt so nervous. People were everywhere, people always wanted inside the compound because it’s where the hospital, clean water, and the ICU was located.( But they also had a respect for the compound because we were there to help.) Now, as that may sound like a lot, it was no more than just two large houses, a green aluminum gate, a small concrete pavilion, and a couple of water tanks.
The first thing our eyes were drawn to in Casale was the fact that two men were carrying a small dead body covered with only a sheet. I would’ve liked to believe it wasn’t a body…
The next morning, I woke up to little kids laughing and babies crying. I couldn’t tell if the crying was from pain or hunger. The ICU was right underneath Melissa and I’s room. The cries started to kinda sound like kitten mews. I looked at the clock, it was no later than 5:37 in the morning. There were people outside the gate setting up their small shacks in order to sell fried food, candy, and rice. Melissa was awake, but Bryan and Ethan were both still asleep. I don’t know how they were since I woke up in my own puddle of sweat.
We finally met the kids at around noon the first day. We walked down the stairs and the kids were playing on the concrete step with a couple of Lincoln logs. It was one of their favorite (and only) toys. There were at least 20 kids in the ICU, a lot of them seemed to be preoccupied with running back and forth and climbing on us. They couldn’t, nobody could, speak English. The first hug I got was from a small little boy named Seismiel. He was probably the age of 3 or 4 and he seemed completely healthy. See? That’s one of the hardest and saddest parts about learning the kids’ stories. A minority of the kids were healthy and ready to go home, but over time the parents decide they can’t afford, have too many other kids, don’t want, or have passed away while their child was in care. But don’t get me wrong because I definitely saw two mothers come in to see the kids the whole time I was there.
I walked into the ICU room. There were nothing but cribs and bunk beds and the sickest kids. The healthy kids were towards the back of the room, while the sickest kids were in the front towards the “door.” Unfortunately, we lost 2 or 3 kids over the course of a week and a half. I had never experienced a small child dying.
One thing I realized is that unless the child was one of the older ones, the ones trying to communicate and speak to us, is that every other child still had a diaper on. The kids always needed to be changed. If you have kids, or even just one kid, think of how many diapers you go through in a day. A week. A year. Now multiply that… Some of these 3 year olds still had full time diapers on! Can you imagine having to change so many diapers in a day? Fortunately enough, Real Hope for Haiti got their hands on some cloth diapers. Cloth diapers are a NECESSITY to the children! In a week’s time, there would be absolutely no place to put the diapers. The filth would just build and build. That’s why they are in need of help and support. Cloth diapers- more cloth diapers- can be washed over and over. And if you’re thinking about how they wash the cloth diapers, I want you to keep in mind that the nannies do not use the clean water. A lot of the time the nannies will wash the diapers in rain water for temporarily clean diapers, but at least once every day or two they will make their way to the river outside the gate. A lot of people wash up in the river. They wash their clothes, dishes, and even their bodies in the river.
One baby who left a serious impact on me is named Francelene. She had the biggest, most beautiful eyes. She was very skinny… she was six months old and weighed 5 1/2 lbs when she was admitted. Her mama was sick and unable to care for her, and her grandmother had taken her to church to have people pray for her and see if she could find help somewhere. Some members of the church offered to make the trip to Cazale, since grandma wasn’t able to walk very far on her own. She was in the beginning stages of kwashiorkor (protein/calorie malnutrition) when admitted and had a fever.
Every week the clinic will weigh the patients to see how much they have gained or lost. Believe it or not, a week makes a huge difference in Haiti. The kids who are severely malnourished are fed a peanut butter substance called “Medika Mamba.” I don’t know if Francelene was on the Medika Mamba or not, but I know that by the time I left, that 4 pound baby had gained 3 pounds by the time I left. I fed her and clothed her. I miss her every single day and I love seeing updates about her and the other kids. I think the most emotional point between Francelene and I was the last time I was allowed to see her. I started saying out loud that I hope she will strive so she can go back to her mommy. And yes, her mom did come to see her while I was there.
Most kids in Haiti are malnourished if the mother isn’t able to produce breast milk. Most mothers don’t know better, or don’t have anything other than rice to try to keep their children alive. Unfortunately, that does not have the correct nutrition a child can survive off of. Most people have access to fruit like mangos, plantains, and melon. Meat is scarce in Haiti. One night, we had fried chicken for dinner… The cooking was wonderful! However, there was very little meat on the bone. No where near what we are used to. So protein is also very deficient.
I would like to get my paramedic technician degree, and then go on to be a trauma nurse. All of this was inspired by Haiti and I can’t imagine my life any differently. Someday, I’d love to live in Haiti and be able to help the ones who need it most.
~ Lindsey Y.