Today was a wild ride. I was expecting a quiet day, filled with meetings as I worked on passing my responsibilities on to others. I’m leaving tomorrow (will be home in PDX 11am Thursday the 28th), and don’t want to leave more gaps than I have to. Instead, the political situation at the hospital finally blew up. Without going into tons of details, the Haitian woman in charge of the facility is thinking about her “long-term” survivability and is anxious to start charging patients again. This isn’t very compatible with our donation-based strategy, but we’ve been trying to make it work. Despite every offer we made, she resisted, and we were left with no other choice than to pack up and leave.
It’s bittersweet. Things have been really rough the last couple days as this situation simmered, and I think everyone was relieved when it finally boiled over. Knowing for sure is better than the passive-aggressive games we’ve been forced to play. We loaded up our trucks in record time and pulled out this evening.
Let me clarify a few things before I go on. First, we’re not leaving patients hanging. We will have staff there the rest of the week until all the patients we admitted are discharged. There’s a full Haitian staff now, not with the same skill complement we have, but they’re the folks who were running the hospital before us, and they’re anxious to take back over. We know there are other non-MTI teams coming to the hospital in the future who can pick up slack too. The hospital director wants us gone and is sure she can run the hospital herself, so we’re obliging and moving on.
This really is good news, and I think this happened because we needed a push out from where we’ve anchored. First, the sheer volume of work we’ve had to do to navigate these complex relationships and power struggles has been taxing our admin staff. Our HQ staff can’t plan teams because we aren’t consulted on staffing needs. And we have a lot of volunteers on our roster who are anxious to come, but we’ve been unable to place.
Our new mission is to regroup at our guest house and set up base. We’ve turned one of the bedrooms into an office, and we’ll store all our supplies here. The plan is to send teams out to three or four tent cities around the country for 3-5 day stints. We’ve made contact with several locations anxious for our arrival already. This is a perfect fit for us because that’s really what MTI does well. Most of our volunteers are experienced in field hospitals, not what we’ve been doing. And the supplies we have are better suited to that sort of work as well. It’s really a good move for us. We’ll be able to serve a lot more needy people distributing our resources than we’ve been able to do constrained by the hospital.
It’s weird to be packing up myself as we pack up the hospital. It’s an awkward time to leave, as everything is changing and there’s an opportunity to start fresh and really see us excel. But I think it’s also time for me to leave. I imagine I’ll be back at some point, though.
I’ll have to write at least one more post in summary, once I’ve had a few minutes to sit and reflect. What I can say now is that the Haitian people are amazing. Their spirit is indomitable. Despite the terrible things in this country – and THEN the earthquake – they have nothing but joy. Every morning and evening we hear them singing joyous songs. They smile. They are so grateful and thankful. It seems there’s nothing that could happen to break their spirit. It’s been a surreal experience to be surrounded by the combination of such terrible destruction and such unquenchable joy.
The Haitian pastor who has been caring for us shared these words tonight:
“Thank you very much. You not only bring the medication with you, but you bring yourselves. Bring yourselves to experience this life, to experience this event, to experience this nation. Please know that we will keep you in our prayers. And continue to keep the joy of the Lord, obey Him, and keep your eyes on Him.”