I’m flying back home from Haiti after a more relaxing night in Miami. The flight is longer and this is actually a good thing as it gives great time to reflect on the trip before the busyness of everyday life takes over again.
This trip for me was about the people, the chance to get to know them and hear their stories. I could really go on and on about the children that I met. The smiles of these kids are contagious, even in a place like Petite Anse, which is one of the poorest areas of the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
The kids in this area still have a smile that comes from the heart and goes ear to ear, they are filled with excitement and joy for games and play. This excitement just spills over into your heart as well, as the kids finish eating the food we served them, that energy grew to another level. When I would bend down for a photo I would get mobbed by a group of beautiful children with gorgeous smiles that all want to be in the picture.
There is no denying this neighbourhood struggles to meet what we would consider basic needs. The question for me is what do they have that I am missing?
From the kids right up to the adults I was struck by the golden hearts of each generation. On a walk we went we met a young man named James, he was 19 years old and in his last year of high school. There are a few things about James that stood out to me. First, his English was terrific and this allowed me to really learn more about him and hear a bit of his story.
James had tremendous amount of faith and he thanks God for his ability to speak English. He gave all the credit to God, his mentor for giving him the ability to learn, but I am sure he put in ton of work into learning it himself. James shared with me that he wants to go to university to be a medical doctor. He wants to do this so he can serve his community, to help others and care for everyone around him that needs it. This commitment to his home town was something I was starting to see all over Haiti during our stay.
When I start talking about doctors and a commitment to community, a dedication to serving others, I cannot even help but to bring up Dr. Manno. Dr. Manno is so much more than just a host for us in Haiti. He does so much to help all the projects happen and is a wealth of information as well as a very entertaining story teller.
Dr. Manno is an absolutely amazing human being with a massive heart that cares for everyone. He loves kids, cares for the sick and really wants to improve his country. There is so much one could say about him it is hard to know where to start.
Dr. Manno’s own journey of becoming a doctor is in itself a demonstration of his character and courage to pursue his dreams. Imagine leaving your home country, learning a new language and needing to learn it so well you get rid of you accent so you can be accepted by the community. All while living on a church pew for a couple years. Then going to school so you could study medicine and become doctor. Once this is done go back to your home country and serve in your community to the best of your abilities. This is what Dr. Manno has done.
He has been providing this care for his community. For many who can’t afford to pay for medicine and travel a long way to see him. He cares for them at no charge to them. He is the peoples last resort and constantly takes on that burden. Just imagine that position - knowing that if you don’t do something for the patient, they have no other option and will likely not survive. He deeply cares for his patients and they know it. Some saying he is a blessing from God, while others call him the father of diabetic people in the area.
I mentioned Dr. Manno’s love for kids because this was made clear to mr when we were at Petite Anse. Dr Manno showed up at the feeding program after us, and even with the already heightened level of excitement from just eating and us being there, everything was raised up another notch upon his arrival. It seemed every kid in the room yelled “Manno, Manno, Manno” as the rushed to great him. He has a big warm welcoming smile to every one of those kids. It was a memorable image I won’t forget.
There are a lot of things that I know will stick with me from this trip. The experience was something I am thankful for and would do again without hesitation. I do still need to take time to continue to reflect on everything that occurred and what to make of some of the lingering questions I have. Seeing a place like Haiti takes time to really process, and I am sure once I have, if I end up back there I will have all new things that I would witness and have to work through, it is just that kind of place.