It’s been over a week since Hurricane Matthew blasted through Haiti. There are so many feelings and thoughts swirling around in my head and heart, and it’s been hard to sort it all out. I don’t think I have yet, and I don’t know when I will. Little nuggets keep popping to the surface, and I’m thankful that they’re small because that’s what I can digest right now. Like so many here, I’ve been seeing posts from friends and other organizations on the ground that are helping with relief work down south. It’s devastating. Heartbreaking. I wish we could be there and on the ground, but I know that’s not our role in this.
It all feels overwhelming at times.
Yesterday I was thinking about the clash of emotions and thoughts. The conversations in my head where I would remind myself that we do something really well, and we’ve had experience with this kind of thing and know how we can best be supporting relief efforts right now. And yet, I would daydream about what other things we could be doing. Then I would remind myself that I needed to get filter forms prepared for another delivery day and get stuff ready for the guys to take out. That tomorrow we would be building filters again and preparing stuff for the next batch of installations that are most likely happening on Monday. That there’s a Community Promoter taking orders and collecting the co-pay that we require from each household so they invest in their filter and care for it well. All of these pieces working together like a well oiled machine, because it is. We know how to do this well from many years of trial and error, from making mistakes, from working with the local community and our Haitian staff, and we keep tweaking. Always trying to do it better.
I think about the press notes released from the WHO (World Health Organization) this week. The documented cases of Cholera throughout the country are starting to climb. The numbers grow most rapidly in the south, but the Artibonite is in there too. It’s several departments away from the southern regions, but showing the third highest increases in the country. This is our area. This is where we’ve been working for years.
I feel overwhelmed again because Cholera brings with it a sense of immediacy. For those with weakened immune systems, it can kill in 24 hours. The Artibonite is the area that has been most affected by this stealer of life since 2010 when cases were first reported. I want to shift into high gear. To get out there faster. To push harder.
But then I remember that this is not who we are. It’s not what we do.
No. Harder and faster is not the way we work. We work steady. We work calculated. We work in a way that means we can provide the follow up and care in line with our initial output of filters. Our whole goal is to be a constant presence for the long term. We’re not running a sprint, we’re running the marathon. We know how to do this well, and the answer right now, no matter how much we might feel we could be doing, is to stick with what we know works. What others have affirmed works.
I find my thoughts shifting from what I wish we could do, to what we have done.
And then I feel the conversation turn a bit.
We have been working in the Artibonite for years. We have been working in the Artibonite for years.
We have installed thousands of filters there. We have installed THOUSANDS of filters there.
I think of the number of new Cholera cases again. And I remember when the outbreak started back in 2010. The cases climbed by the hundreds every week. It was out of control. It came so fast, and so hard, that people were blindsided. Running to try and catch up. Running to try and save lives. To educated people on how to protect themselves. To provide access to medicine, water treatment, help…
And I think about the numbers slowly going up. No case is a good case, but what if those thousands of bio-sand filters weren’t there this week? Would the numbers be going up by the hundreds again?
And I feel overwhelmed.
The full weight of what we’ve been working so hard for, of everything we do here at Clean Water for Haiti hits me like a wall.
People have filters. Not everyone, but thousands upon thousands do. They’re getting clean water. They know how to protect themselves from this killer. We have communities waiting for filters because they’ve seen their friends and family and neighbours with one and they know it works. People who have filters aren’t getting Cholera. Plain fact.
We’ve done this thing, pushed at it and worked so hard for so many years because we know it works. But in that, we don’t get to see every life affected. We don’t because those people don’t get sick. We can’t count numbers of people that are protected because of the work we do, because it’s not possible. You can only count the ones that aren’t, the ones that don’t make it. We often talk about the fact that we will never truly know how many lives we’ve helped save because of what we do, simply because those people are still walking around today, healthy. Those kids might be going to school and sassing their parents. Moms might get to see their babies grow up, and grandparents live into old age. Dads might be out working in the fields to provide for their families. We will never know how many.
My heart feels so overwhelmed right now, but it’s not from feeling helpless this time, it’s from gratitude.
Gratitude that we get to be part of this. Gratitude that all the hard work, the worry, the sweat, and even the tears over the years has been worth it. So very worth it.
It settles in. This deep knowing.
There are thousands of people at work in the south right now helping in relief. This is their role. They are saving lives after this disaster.
And we are here. This is our role. Continuing to do what we’ve been doing all along – preventing a different kind of disaster.
So does it make a difference? This work we do? The support you give? All the dollars sent and used here in Haiti over the years?
I know it does. Thousands upon thousands in homes all through the Artibonite know it does.
Thank you for supporting the work we’re doing, whether you’re sharing about us with people in your circle or sending your hard earned finances. You are helping us save lives here. That isn’t an exaggeration, that is a fact.