Haiti Update: Packing, Precautions, and Palin

December 24, 2010

in #Haiti

The countdown is in full effect and I am in the midst of prepping for Haiti and winding down for 2010. I guess today I need to check my list of things to pack, and make sure I purchase any other items at the store, since they’ll all be closed tomorrow.

Party People

Packing MedsLast weekend we had our packing party! A packing party is when 20 or so of us pile into our team leader’s apartment and pack 50+ suitcases. We are all allotted two suitcases on our flight, so the team decided to use everyone’s luggage allotment to carry team supplies, and our personal items will be in our carryons. Therefore, we packed our team suitcases in advance.

I thought the process went fairly smoothly, given that it sounded and seemed like it would be unorganized. The medical students sorted out and packed our formulary and medical supplies, while others got to work sorting out and packing all of our clothing and textbook donations. Suitcases were labeled and numbered, and we have a Google Doc itemizing the contents of each suitcase. We loaded the bags onto a UHaul truck, which were transported to someone’s house in Brooklyn. On Sunday morning they will be transported to JFK for distribution to team members before we check in to our flights. Or so we think. We have yet to figure out that last leg.

I personally didn’t pack anything at the packing party, as I volunteered to clean up our electronic medical records system. The data we have on patients needed to be tidied up, and some records needed to be merged together, etc. I used to be a data entry pro, so it was no sweat for me. I don’t really use Evernote much, so I took this time to familiarize myself with it since we will be using it to review and copy patient data while in Haiti.

Safety Insurance

Earlier in the week our team leaders sent out an email warning us about the safety issues we may encounter during our trip. The election season has made Haiti quite unpredictable in terms of safety. They even offered us the opportunity to decline going on the trip and going at a later date. We had medical evacuation insurance, but they have since upgraded it to political/security evacuation coverage. This means that in the event our safety is in danger, we will be transported to a safe haven, and then put on a commercial or private flight home. I didn’t realize such a service exists, but it does.

My dad is really concerned about my trip. I constantly go back and forth between sharing with him all the information I know, or filtering it so he has less to worry about. Every other day it seems he is either thankful I shared some info, or he has a not so happy reaction to what I’ve shared with him. Today, he’s asking me why am I going when there are people trained to go treat people during times of conflict. I don’t really have an answer for that.

The End is Near

As my trip gets closer I can’t help but wonder what happens when it’s over. Will I stop caring about Haiti and all news surrounding it? Will I want to go again? When will I go again?

Haiti has kind of consumed my life these past few weeks, and I wonder what it will be like on the other side. I know that my 8-day trip is not going to rebuild Haiti in the long term. Let’s be real here: I am not saving the world, or Haiti. In the grand scheme of things I feel as though we are just going down to apply a few band aids on people, and offer up some hope. That seems super corny and not long-term solution-oriented; this frustrates me. In some ways this trip feels very selfish, as if it is to benefit me more than it will benefit others. I often question if this is for my own ego. I know it’s not, I know as a Christian we are called to help others. But…it’s like I have First World guilt, and it’s setting in majorly. For now the best I can do is check my heart, make sure I don’t get a good charity, holier-than-thou ego, and try to keep the bigger picture in perspective. I have to start somewhere, right?

Palin Visits Haiti

Last night Sarah Palin was on FOX News channel. She’d taped an hour special about her recent trip to Haiti. While she’s not my most favorite politician, I thought maybe her trip would at least bring some awareness to the people who follow her. Sadly, I was disappointed by the journalism behind the report. Though Palin didn’t speak on camera for most of the special, when she did speak about the issues of Haiti she seemed grossly uninformed about what Haiti really needs, as well as how one rebuilds a post-disaster country with little resources, a corrupt government, etc. I know there are high school Model UN students who could have spoken from a more informed position than Palin did. Not to mention, I felt as though she was looking down upon Haiti with disgust and pity.

It was infuriating to watch, but I could just be projecting. (admittedly, I have a chip on my shoulder when someone visits a “foreign land” and marvels over the abject poverty they can see from their cushy airplane. I might share this story one day.)

At the end of the day, Palin was there to be an agent of awareness (probably also trying to build her foreign policy portfolio),  and an agent of collecting dollars for Samaritan’s Purse. I’m not sure if I can fault her for that, as I do think she has good intentions and she may just not know any better; many people don’t. The whole situation is a Catch-22 as far as I am concerned. I want people to be aware and to help, but not if it’s in a non-productive manner.  You can read more about Palin’s appearance here (with direct quotes from Palin herself), and please read what super dude Paul Farmer had to say about effective ways to save Haiti. I also love MediaHacker’s “How To Write About Haiti” for calling out the media on how they’ve been reporting on Haiti this year. MediaHacker’s entire blog is great to read, actually.

In the meantime, I am going to try and not get too jaded while simultaneously try not to get too egotistical. Or frustrated. Um, yeah.

Thanks for reading.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

SistuhSowuhl December 24, 2010 at 3:12 PM

Hi there. I found your blog via a RT on twitter. I recently went on a similar trip to Titanyen in Haiti. We left the day after the Cholera outbreak was announced and soon before the elections, so I’m familiar w/ the fears mentioned. Had many of your same thoughts. Felt overwhelmed while there and still do because there’s so much to be done in Haiti. There will always be. Making a difference in just one person’s life is doing something. Taking one moment to touch one person’s heart is sometimes all you can do and many times all that matters.

Best of luck on your journey. Please take mosquitoe repellent!!! Stay hydrated b/c that heat will have you laid out flat. Enjoy the people & the culture, as it is rich and the people have much to offer. I pray for your protection. Go with God – that’s all you can do. Looking forward to reading more abouy your experience in Haiti!


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