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Carwyn's reflections from Haiti

In the last few weeks I’ve had the privilege of returning to Haiti. Despite the incredible trauma Haiti has faced in the last year, it was deeply encouraging seeing morale at the hospital as good as I can remember in years; a testament to the collective hard work of so many.


A highlight of the visit was without doubt participating in the hospitals 15 year anniversary celebrations.  We reflected back on some of the many challenges we’ve faced.  Whether at a national level from traumas like the devastating 2010 earthquake marked on 12th January each year.  Samuel, our hospital chaplain who was left paralysed as a result of that terrible day acts as a reminder of those tragic events and yet also remains a formidable beacon of hope with his positive outlook as he ministers around the hospital each day.  One also shouldn’t forget the more recent earthquakes that have impacted the country, even as recently as the last few weeks.


Aside from the national traumas, we have also faced more personal challenges on this journey.  On one day some of the HHA team headed out with our community nurse and her passionate team where they identified a young, malnourished toddler with hydrocephalus who’d been left orphaned alongside her three siblings.  The child needed immediate referral to the hospital for further care.  It was a poignant moment.  On the one hand it was deeply encouraging knowing some of these little ones needs would now be met.  And yet, significantly for me this all occurred on 26th January, a day which marked the 10 year anniversary since we lost Grace, a beautiful soul who was like a daughter to us in Haiti. She tragically died from hydrocephalus and whilst the 15 year anniversary showed great progress, I was acutely aware that for this new child with hydrocephalus, the odds of survival in Haiti remain tragically stacked against her.  We have come a long way, but we have a long way to go.


This tension between celebrating the progress whilst remaining rooted in the extreme challenges many Haitians face today, was perhaps most powerfully highlighted during the hospital celebration service.  Some of the paediatric staff carefully lead a young girl, I imagine about 8 years old, into the service.  The girl is acutely unwell, incredibly thin and frail and was sadly abandoned at the hospital by her parents before Christmas.  I was touched that she’d been included within the celebrations as the Paediatric team kept a careful eye on her.  And yet, my heart broke seeing her haunted eyes, sunk within her thin and fragile frame.  This was a girl who was well aware what had happened to her, and the emotional trauma of her situation and fear for the future was as painful to see as her delicate physical condition. 


Dr Toussaint, the hospital’s Medical Director, stood up and shared some incredible statistics at the event from the hospitals 2021 impact. 30,000+ patients treated in the last year, over 2,000 deliveries (the most we’ve ever done).  And yet, whilst these figures are encouraging and rightly celebrated, the individual lives of these two children powerfully remind me that whilst we’ve come a long way, we have a long way to go.  The call to compassionately respond to their uncertain futures is as critical today as when we first responded to the injustice facing children right back in 2007.


On the last morning of my visit, the teams morning thought for the day reflects on the words of a man called Henri Nouwen,


‘Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.’


This is the challenge I return home with, both for me and for HHA, both now and in the years to come.


Carwyn Hill, CEO and Co-Founder