Reprinted from the blog Barefoot RN in Haiti. This piece was posted on June 1, 2012
By Sharon Barefoot
I've been back from Ayiti aka Haïti, for nine weeks and two days. I was SO excited to come home and to eat New Mexican food and not be seen as the blan or white person. I can't imagine people who are stigmatized all their lives with a title that limits them, for I was tired of a title that wasn't limiting.
Almost everywhere I went in Haiti I would hear people calling me "blan", trying to get my attention, my resources, my English skills and who was I to say no. Everyday I would hear, M'grangou (I'm hungry), "Give me one dollar", or Bum mwen (Give me).
At times when I heard blan, I felt they were really saying,"I see a dollar symbol, not a person", but deep down I know people saw opportunity for connection. It took time to accept that I wasn't each person's savior. I was a friend, and sometimes that meant giving through a kind word, a joke, my nursing skills, and yes, sometimes it meant being a financial resource. It took time to build the relationships I now cherish.
I never thought it would be such a challenge to give. I have SO much and yet as a volunteer I didn't have the same resources I would have as a working American... and I wanted to give so much more. More to the child begging on the street, the woman with nine children, the man who needed surgery. It seems there was always one more hand outstretched to receive and I knew being at the hospital, I would need to use resources for emergencies.
'An amazing receiver'
People mostly would say thank you, but the woman pictured here was an amazing receiver. She would glow and start saying things like, God bless you and wave her arms in the air with joy! She would come to get her blood pressure checked regularly at the clinic, but had no income to pay for medications.
Thankfully I had the connections to the right people to place meds in her hand and they worked, her blood pressure was consistently improved. Not that I expected or even wanted that response from every patient. I must say it wasn't that she thanked me, it was that she was present with me and real with me. If she never said thank you, I wouldn't have cared. She's one of those people who you couldn't ruin their day even if you tried. She is a dynamic woman of faith, and an example to me of strength and joy.
I thank God for people like her and all Haïtians, for smiling and laughing with me.
I thank people like you who care through their presence in this world. Family and friends gave during my time in Haïti and through them, I was able to pass on lifesaving resources during emergencies. Catholic Medical Mission Board supported me financially, Fr. Geordani sheltered me and fed me. For a few months of my time, MamaBaby Haiti provided room and board while I assisted with births and in both their clinics and at Hospital St. François de Sales. To everyone who gave, I want to say Mesi Anpil, Anpil, Anpil! Thank you very, very, very much! Joy beyond joy be yours!
(The author served for a year as a Catholic Medical Mission Board volunteer nurse in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She has several touching entries similar to this one in her blog Barefoot RN in Haiti).