Bon jou friends– After being in New York for a few weeks, I was eager to return to the work here in Haiti. For Bwa Chandel, this past week was a busy one.  On Tuesday we held a Community health clinic at the church, and for many people there it was the first doctor they had ever seen in their lives. The entire day was made possible by the generosity and inexhaustible patience of Dr. Anna and Nurse Gail (of Cornwall, CT and Stanfordville, NY) and my good friend Daniel and his South Carolina team. While our goal was to leave the hospital compound at 7 a.m., I felt that rolling out of here at 7:30 was not bad for a country where no clocks work. Twelve of us piled into a truck along with the medical supplies and we began the nearly two hour ride up the mountain to where the road, such as it is, ends. Then the mile hike into Bwa Chandel. Met Benito, the school principal, met us with a couple of teens who helped carry the supplies. I think everyone was struck by the simple beauty of the view: the steep hillsides, the sea far below and the tiny church in a clearing. 

Once there the mob of people waiting to see a doctor was at first overwhelming. Form a line? Out of the question. However, Mikenson and Met Yves, our translators and community health professionals, were able to organize the crowd with numbered charts. Little by little over the course of the next five hours about 30 people/families were seen by the doctor. As is always the case in these clinics, people at the end of the day are turned away. But the good doctor left  medicine for specific people who needed things she did not have that day and extra vitamins, iron and pain meds for those in need. Which leads me to Sunday. 

I thought that Sunday would be a good day to distribute the medicine Dr. Anna left since people would be at church. And that was true for the most part. I had gone to mass at 8:30 and left for Bwa Chandel at about 9. I thought that by the time I got there church would be just about over. Not exactly. In fact church was just getting going. A beautiful young mother was leading the group in prayer. I stood in the back. The pastor insisted I sit right up front.  

Perhaps we should take a moment to look at the contrast. Bwa Chandel is a poor community. Children have very few clothes and they are well worn; they are often barefoot or only partly clothed. But in church it is a different story. Everyone was well dressed: men in suits, women in outfits with hats. And the children, who far outnumbered the adults, were gorgeous in party dresses and frilly socks, the boys with their shirts tucked neatly into their pants and sporting little dress shoes.  I, on the other hand, had ridden up on a quad and was in dust covered khaki pants, a frayed orange t-shirt and boots. No hat. 

 The beautiful woman ended her prayer, picked up her tambourine and led the church in a rhythmic and energetic hymn. She was accompanied by a man playing a long metal cylinder with holes in it like a cheese grater, washboard style. Those simple instruments along with the voices and clapping ( and not plain clapping; I mean syncopated rhythm clapping) filled the mountainside with a joyful noise. The song had a million verses which everyone knew, but I am getting to where I can at least join in on the refrain. But when whitey stood and clapped with the congregation the dust wafted off her like the dirt aura around Pig Pen from the Peanuts cartoon. Of course the kids around me got a kick out of the whole thing and just when I felt my stupidest I saw my little friend Wubens, the bad boy of Bwa Chandel. He gave me a shy smile and later sat with me on my lap making me feel more  at home and less conspicuous.  After the song they asked me to say a few words. I did my best to say good morning, I was happy to be with my friends in Bwa Chandel, I had medicine for some of them after church and I hoped God would bless them with a good Sunday. And then, and not for the first time since I’ve been coming to Haiti, the whole crowd shouted Amen.

                  And the work on the little school continues.

Enough money was donated for water so that the wall footings can be built. This is done by mixing sand, dug from the ground, and cement to make mortar which is used between big field stones. The outer foundation is finished, flush, even and solid. The field stone pattern is like a mosaic. So a big Mesi Anpil to everyone who has helped to get the school this far. And, si Bondye vle, we’ll be able to continue. As haitians often say “ti pa, ti pa, ti pa, nou rive.” Little step, by little step, by little step, we arrive. Ain’t it the truth.   Lots of love to all–Nancy