Friday, June 25, 2010

A debt of gratitude

My 'brother'. That is the name I have been given by the translators at Hopital Adventiste. They give of themselves more than anyone. Here are some of their amazing stories.

Albert came to Adventiste in January. He is stationed mainly in the operating room and helps transport patients and provide supplies for the surgeons as they are needed. He greets you with a warm smile and a willingness to go the extra mile to accomodate the medical staff and our team. The circumstances to which he arrived at Adventiste are much like several Haitians before the earthquake.

As a professor of mathematics he was teaching class at the school where he worked. Although, he had not initially realized what had happened, he stood in class and began to feel dizzy, falling on the floor from the violent shaking. After realizing what was happening, he began to direct the students to make their way out of the school while he followed, barely escaping before the entire school collapsed to the ground. Later that day he made his way home, only to find that it also had been destroyed. Fortunately, his life was spared but his way of life was not.

Tony is also an OR translator. Along with Albert, he is a warm and outstanding individual who is always there for you. His vibrant personality captures the beauty and flamboyant nature of the Haitian people. Before January, he was finishing his engineering degree at the university in Port Au Prince. With just a few months to go, he was well on his way to establishing his career and earning the living he hoped to achieve to support his family. As he sat in class the earth began to shake. The walls buckled as dust and debris fell on the floor. Tony raced to the closest exit while the walls crumbled around him, destroying the classrooms and pinning those who did not escape in time. He managed to escape the building and get on a tap tap to make his way home to safety. He describes the ride like a rollercoaster, weaving and swaying across the road from the force of the vibration. Although he made it back home, his concrete apartment did not withstand the force of the powerful earthquake. In less than a minute he was homeless and all records of his achievements buried in the rubble.

Jeanty is a man of so many talents. In addition to his ability to speak almost perfect English, he is also a skilled musician and singer. At the university prior to the earthquake he was a student of economics, finishing his last year to earn a degree and become an accountant. Like Tony, they were both in class at the time of the earthquake. Narrowly escaping the destruction and collapsing floors, Jeanty stood outside in a daze and tried to make sense of what had just happened. His shock turned to sadness when he realized his home had collapsed and all of his belongings were destroyed. He now finds himself at Adventiste, sleeping each night in a small tent with a mattress, a few items of clothing and a small box containing what's left of what he had earned before January. As he awakes every morning at 6am, he closes the zipper to the entrance of his tent, which he calls his house, and ventures out into the hospital to provide beyond himself for the benefit of others in need.

Max is a man in his late forties. Spending four years in the US he earned a master's degree in education from Brooklyn University. He returned to Haiti shortly after to start his career and build the life he had dreamed of earning. In a short time he had established himself as an educator and school principal responsible for 25 students. He had the life. He was not a rich man, but he could provide for his four children and his wife. He had a business, and a house. A house that he built with his own hands over a period of three years. It was three floors high.

In less than two minutes, it was all destroyed. The 7.0 earthquake shook his school and his house so violently that they both completely collapsed, killing his wife and two of his children. In ten years Max had become the man he had dreamed of becoming and just two minutes is all it took to take that away from him. He tells his story with sadness. But he says there is a plan for him, only God knows. With his identity stripped from him, it is all that he has left.

Although they are not paid, the volunteer translators show up everyday willing to provide a service to the best of their abilities. It is only those that understand this enormous act of selflessness, that can understand the struggle that will continue if the situation in Haiti does not change.

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