Monday, March 1, 2010

Food Drop: Part Two

 While everyone else in our group rode in an SUV, I rode with the rice in the school bus. It was a school bus in name and body only. The battery was on the floorboard next to the driver. It slid around if he made a sharp turn; I made a mental note not to stretch my legs out. He started the “bus” by rubbing the ignition wire against a battery terminal. The doors were tied shut. With rope.

As we are lumbering, slamming, jolting down the unpaved road in this bus I also noticed that there is a six inch hole around the gearshift and I can clearly see the transmission spinning and the road whizzing below. I thought about what type of metal would come flying up into the bus if Oliver, our driver, didn’t navigate around a deep pot hole.

Out on Highway 1 towards Titiyen, we pulled off on the side of the road when we saw this tent city. I sat in the bus with the rice and our Haitian friends, Oliver and Maxim, while the rest of our team went to talk to the leaders of the tent city.

From my view on the road above the city I could see all sticks and bed sheets that make up this community. Like so many forts little kids make out of blankets and couch cushions. But these didn’t hold kids playing, they held families. It was picturesque in a perverse sort of way, these rudimentary homes against low brown hills of Haiti.
I could immediately tell when word got out that blans were there with food, because so many little black dots started running out of their multicolored tents toward the center of their community. I tried to count where all our people were, but I soon started losing people in the mass of humanity. I decided to leave the bus and the rice in the care of Maxim and Oliver and walk into the tent city.

What looked like chaos from the road was actually semi-organized on the ground. This tent city had an informal leadership that quickly formed up 3 lines just next to their church that was made of blue tarps and crude benches.

We blans stood to the side and let the Haitian community leaders and our drivers pass out the food. A note for any aid workers- it is better if you do not play “White Santa” and hand out goodies. I climbed up on top of the bus and took pictures.
 One young man wanted to show me his tent. He asked me rapid questions in Creole and I did my best to just say, “M’ pa komprann” or “I don’t understand.” The rooms were basic and had very little in them. The thing that stuck out to me was that they were so dark. I could not see what was in them until I looked at my camera.
As the food drop was wrapping up, people started telling us their other ills. A community leader who spoke Spanish told Ryan and I that they have not had any doctors come by. They wanted generators, they wanted us to bring food and water again… I was overwhelmed by the time I climbed back into the car.  How can such a small group of people war against so much poverty?  When will it get better?
I know the answers are "one person at a time" and "when Jesus comes back". But sometimes they provide little solace when you are in the middle of the fight.

I had mixed emotions about the rain. I know it makes everyone’s life difficult in the tent cities but it also makes the crops grow and replenishes the cisterns. And, selfishly, it feels good. I walked around in the rain with my face to the sky letting the rain soak me. It felt beautiful. I then felt like a selfish jerk because I was taking small joy in something that was soaking people who have already lost everything.

The images of this tent city are burned into my head. They have been some of the most powerful in the last 6 weeks.


1 comment:

  1. Ben,
    Thanks. This is what you all wrote - I think before you ever stepped foot in Haiti - " Why -
    He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? - Micah 6:6-8"
    It's somehow in the humbly & walking; Oh yes - "with your God".
    Thanks again for reminding us all again & again.
    Still praying,



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