I have just returned from a life changing and eye opening experience traveling with Bridge of Diamonds to bring yoga based stress relief to children. Haiti....the impressions are still very clear-in my mind, heart, and senses. Traveling from Philadelphia to Miami and then to Port au Prince. The contrast is sharp, almost surreal. Third world country. The heat. The noise. The chaos of baggage claim, yelling, jostling, pushing, sheer pandemonium .One of the church group I met there compared it to when she was in Africa. As you leave the building faces of vendors press against "security" fencing attempting to make a buck hawking their wares. Horns beeping, UN Peacekeepers with assault rifles very present. There are buses, "tap-taps"-brightly colored small trucks that carry way more people than they can hold safely, and cars going in every direction. There is a scent-smoke, diesel, excrement, and a dust that pervades your very being, with an underlying floral. Traveling to my encampment hosted by Partners in Development, the roads are rocky craters with enormous puddles. I worry about mosquito borne disease. People are everywhere, there is graffiti, trash, razor wire, and rubble at every turn. Goats, chickens, and malnourished dogs cross our path as they graze through the trash. Yet amid all this, as our bus....some holes in the floor, tempermental, door that ties shut...bus.... drives by, and the people wave, smile, chasing us saying .."hey you!" We arrive. There is a clinnic on site, we unload suitcase upon suitcase of donations and supplies and prepare for the morning. People line up early to get into the clinic, but not all will be seen. There is alot of hypertension and diabetes. There are babies that are nine months old and weigh nine odd pounds and their parents turn here for help. They become part of what is called "Medica Mamba".The construction team goes to their site to construct a home for a lucky family. The day starts for the yoga team as well, as the children roll in and we teach on tarps and dirty mats under a corrugated roof in the courtyard. The children are very appreciative all week long...a hug, a smile, a bead give them joy. Their clothing a mix of hand me down fancy dresses to hand me downs with holes in them that reveal no underwear. Many seem to have respiratory issues, and they are very thin. They are hungry, and beads, plastic bags and paper are observed in mouths. We feed them when they come-"spagetti," (Creole version) with a hotdog and an onion round. We see them sneaking a spoonful at a time out side the perimeters to their friends who were not fortunate enough to come. There are just too many. They receive a cup of "ji"-juice which is extremely sweet. They ask for water, which there is none, and it is extremely hot. We practice yoga, read a story, make some art. They leave, and we see more. We take excursions to visit orphanages, and it it intense, yet the children seem glad- we leave them with a Beanie baby, goody bag, and treat. They lick wrappers and smile. The director and I talk and he says he cannot give them much, but he can give them an education....we agree that children are the future of Haiti. I feel immensely sad that I can't do more. At a church service I smile at a mother holding a baby boy, she smiles back and hands him to me-me, "blanc" stranger. I hold and rock him and he falls asleep for the whole service. These are beautiful people, with much faith, and they deserve better. To Hades and back.....I am looking foward to my return.
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