James Pierre, member of the Haitian American Hurricane Matthew Relief Effort, addressing the crowd of over 2000 in the provence Jeremie; where many are still left with nothing after the Hurriaine Mattew.
By Shirley Thimothee-Paul, RN MSN
A promise made by many that have left the once beautiful island of Haiti.
Thousands of people wait outside the gates of an area designated for the relief effort in the town of Beaumont, deep in the southern part of Haiti, tragically pummeled by hurricane Matthew. The buzz of the excited crowd is almost tangible as we quickly unload the buses and trucks of medication, food and donated personal items. Armed security personnel form a path to make way for us to enter. One by one we make way to set up the clinic, pharmacy and giveaway room. Always expecting the unexpected, we are excited and apprehensive all at once, like a performer eager to please the crowd but terrified that something may go wrong. Only this crowd isn’t filled with entertainment seekers; it’s filled with the beautiful people of Haiti. A people that have for far too long been described not by their strengths and gifts but by the needs they possess as a result of a multitude of both natural and unnatural occurrences.
Despite the obvious desperation in the numbers, these beautiful people have maintained hope. Surrounded by devastation, illness and filth, they follow the lead of Tico Armand, a Haitian professional model, host and motivational speaker, as she sings the words to an old Christian song “Louez- Louez” glorifying Jesus and the forgiveness of our sins, barely able to hold back tears of joy and pain. Young and old singing with hands held high, clapping as they are welcomed by James Pierre, an award winning Haitian journalist of South Florida and native of the now devastated Jeremie. His presence is a true gift to those who remember him as a child, impressed by his comfort amongst the crowd and undying love of country.
A small army of love-filled angels packed with soldiers from all over the world. Nurses, Doc-tors, Teachers, Entrepreneurs and Artists like Angie Bell, another South Floridian, well known poet and activist, who has taken on the challenging task, along with Tico, of leading the group of Haitian American Mathew Relief Effort to a successful mission. Most of the crowd was probably unaware of the greatness amongst them but visibly grateful to those that took the cause no matter the titles, successes and status, we kept a promise.
“Mesi pitit mwen, Bondie va beni’w” … “thank you my child, God will bless you”, says an elderly woman, while she kisses my face and cries after being seen because she was left with her dignity by being told that there is nothing wrong with being unable to read, write or remember her age; that she is still here and God has not forgotten her or anyone else for that matter. Because what Haiti has produced through generations of those who have gone abroad to seek more opportunity is a family of like hearts and minds that cannot turn a blind eye to what has happened to our country, and who will stop at nothing to bring change to her. We believe that distance is nothing compared to the love in the hearts of Haiti’s diaspora. Now our second trip in less than four weeks. We tackle the crowd one by one, crying with the parents of the children in pain, laughing with the elderly, sharing words of wisdom and encouraging one another to go on. Experiencing what we all know is the true purpose of man: to give, to share, to support and love one another.
The hours passed in what felt like seconds and a crowd of over 2000 dies down as most have been seen by the medical group, which provided medication, care packages and a meal. We’re packing up the vehicles with the little that’s left, feeling good about the many that were served but disheartened by the many that are still left in much need. You see, Haiti has a long way to go before she is where she is supposed to be, but what Haiti has seen in her army of angels is that a promise is a promise and Haiti Cherie nou pap sa bliye’w, not today not ever!