Letter From Haiti: The Courage to Go Inside

Madeleine Philbin is regional director for CRS-Midwest. She is based in Chicago. You can read previously published sections of this series here.

I was starting to tell you about Hospice St Joseph. That was Monday, a beautiful day, but they are all beautiful days – still, the sky was exceptionally blue, and clouds exceptionally white and crisp in contrast. We began on Rue Martin Luther King, a paved main road, but turned off and up winding, hilly streets onto more of a rocky rubble-filled road. Here all was rubble, much rubble. Here was the fallen power line I’ve been warned against. (I came across another today just near our office—they’re still falling.)

Madeleine Philbin

Madeleine Philbin. Photo by Richard Anderson for CRS

A short way up we stopped at what we thought was our destination. Then we said, have they moved? The placed looked abandoned and destroyed, but it wasn’t abandoned, only destroyed. We saw cars and we went past the fallen building to find plywood shelters behind, and had there our meeting with a few incredibly smart, hard-working, committed Haitians who are working with the local community in this neighborhood (Christ Roi) and doing amazing things.

This group runs a clinic with a pharmacy, among other things (a pharmacy now operating out of another plywood shelter). They told us about how there were medicines in the collapsed building, but no one could bring themselves to go back in and retrieve them. Finally the man in charge, whom we were meeting with, said he would go in if anyone else would too.

Trust me, he’s an impressive, dedicated, articulate guy, so it says something that he had to muster all his courage to say “yes I’ll go in.” But he had no takers to accompany him! Finally, two American volunteers (who weren’t here for the earthquake) went in the building and retrieved the meds. That’s a long way of saying how people here are still living with the moment of the earthquake.

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