Boarding the plane for second relief mission
Haiti Forever Mission 2 chapter 2
We landed at an executive plane area near the airport, Air Canada had organized for us to stay in the lounge area for a couple of hours before bringing us to the hanger for the departure to Haiti.
As we all settled in the lounge I felt it important to have a round table discussion with the nurses and Dr. Morris, everyone was really happy and was anxious to get more information on where they were going and what they could expect. As we all took turns going to the washrooms a family came in and a rather shy man with glasses approached us; Dr. Jeff Saltzman works at a Toronto Hospital and had volunteered to go to Haiti and somehow found his way on this mission. He was wearing a Montreal Canadian’s T-shirt and of course I quickly said he would fit right in and he had made a very wise choice wearing it as he had endeared himself to all of us right away.
Along with the nurses from Montreal we are also taking down Lody a beautiful Haitian Nurse who has worked for Partner in Health for 20 years. She sits down starts up her computer and starts typing as we start our round circle discussion.
There are 7 nurses who are of Haitian descent and have Creole knowledge; this will be a big help. The remainder all are either French speaking or have French Speaking abilities. I am wondering how I can say what needs to be said and still be sensitive to the feelings of the Haitian nurses whose country has just been decimated.
I start by telling them how very proud I am to share this journey with them, I tell them that on this flight besides them we have over 1M dollars of medicine and medical equipment destined for PIH as well as a small hospital near the airport which was about to close but we have enough to get them back up and running, thanks to the great work of Duncan and Jude at Air Canada and the generosity of Canadian Tire Pepsi to name a few. They are amazed. I also give them all my cell number and my email address and tell them that whatever the time of day if they need something I will be there for them.
I tell them that the situation in Haiti is really devastating and I want them to be prepared, I also tell them that I am not a Doctor but I can imagine what they will see to some extent will be things they have never seen or seen very rarely. They seem ready; I tell them that they need to support each other and that they need to talk to each other so they will be able to get through this. Dr. Morris brings up the suggestion that they should all keep a journal and meet at 6pm every night to talk things out and share their experiences. I am glad he along with Dr. Saltzman and Catherine are taking leadership roles and this bodes well. The Haitian nurses begin to ask the questions I really am not sure I want to answer, they want to know what is happening on the ground. I proceed to tell them what I saw last week, there isn’t a dry eye. They are emotional and Dr. Morris and Dr. Saltzman reiterate that they will be there for everyone.
Dr. Morris takes the floor with the most pertinent and meaningful discourse. He has worked in difficult circumstances and he tells them that they will be in a situation where their historical experiences will literally not apply, they will reach out for equipment which will not be there, all the tools they are used to having will not be easily accessible if accessible at all. They will make mistakes and the consequences may be dire, they cannot let this destroy them, they need to do the best they can. Their best is enough. I am so grateful at the sensitivity and foresight of both doctors, as time goes by through this discussion I am more and more comfortable that this team is going to be fine and be able to cope together. They have already formed a bond and I can see that great things are going to be achieved. I was to realize these thoughts even before they hit a hospital.
Lody has been quietly listening and so has another man sitting in the lounge, he has tears in his eyes and he doesn’t even know who we are. I apologize for disturbing him as we are a big group he assures me in an emotional voice that he wasn’t disturbed; I can see that we have affected him profoundly. Lody asks me if she can address the group; I think it is a wonderful idea, no one can give a better perspective on what is going on, on the ground than she. She starts out by saying that she has written a poem, in French and she starts with the following words. —In this world we sometimes think there is no love, her words are delivered with so much depth and emotion everyone of us begins to cry, the message was a simple one, that there is love that in this whole tragedy we have seen nothing but love, the world has come together for strangers and in the truest sense of humanities ability to rise to the greatest challenges; all the while putting aside all preconceived notions. The people of Haiti in this moment are human beings who need every single one of us and the world is delivering with love. These nurses and doctors are going to Haiti because they want to give of themselves unconditionally; this is the greatest example of love. Lody has put the final and important touches on these moments and I feel like we are ready to move.
Air Canada’s bus picks us up at 3 pm and we are driven to the hanger where there are quite a few press members, I realize that there may be more to this flight than originally planned. There has been rumors that Air Canada may be designated to pick up pre-approved Haitian Children and bring them home to the families who are adopting them. We at ONEXONE have been getting numerous requests from families who had found out we had made a drop off last week, to help them I was being implored by the families to bring their children home. Bringing children without the proper process is potentially worst than not bringing them out at all. There are babies being stolen from orphanages already, if countries do not adhere to a process children who have parents or are destined for other parents will become part of child trafficking like we saw after the tsunami we cannot take these chances. I explain this to the parents and they are accepting; but I can feel their pain.
I am in the waiting area when Dr. Saltzman and I start a conversation; he tells me he is a diabetic, I am in awe and a little scared. He says he has brought insulin but I am concerned about diet and the stress but I don’t share it with him, I tell him that I am truly honoured to have met him and that if he needs me for anything to please call me. We discuss the potential cure for his condition and I introduce him to James Dodds. James has been instrumental in helping me and is a very valued board member of ONEXONE. He also works closely with Frank McKenna and is designated to accompany Frank on much of his travels. Frank has been instrumental in our foundation he is especially caring about Haiti, having made a trip with us and Matt Damon and Wyclef Jean 18 months ago after the floods in Haiti. Frank is past ambassador to the US from Canada during President Clinton’s terms and so Frank wants to see the work in progress and he wants to experience these missions. He takes his responsibilities to heart, he knows that his name and integrity can bring a lot of resources to this problem he also cares deeply about children and their plight. I, on past trips have dubbed him Captain Canada, because he is respected across this country; and rightfully so.
We board the plane and we board the airbus I realize this is a bigger plane than last week, there are more seats and obviously more goods in the belly. Jude tells me that we have gotten almost all the stock there is very little left and I hope we can be part of another flight, but the last thing I want to be is presumptuous. As we board Duncan is at the door and he tells all the nurses and Doctors that they are to sit in the business class section, what an amazing guy, he understands where they are headed and he wants to give them as much comfort as possible. There are army Doctors and medics, as well foreign affairs people on the plane. There are also many Air Canada employees and I am later to understand that they are volunteer care givers, they are there to take care of the children we are to bring back. There is also the official Doctor for Air Canada who was on the flight last week. Dr. Guy Riendeau is amazing and was really helpful last week with all the Canadian Haitian’s that were evacuated they are getting ready for the children and there are plenty of baby bottles and diapers and all that they will need to take care of the children. Duncan announces that we are going to be bringing children back and he organizes all the volunteers into pairs; because we do not know how many children will be waiting for us Duncan has made sure that there are many incredible volunteers.
On the seats in the back are boxes and boxes of medical equipment strapped in and water as well again Jude and Jay have made the maximum of the space allotted. I know we have some comfort food for our police officers and I hope we can easily find it when the time is right because we will land in the night and that will pose some challenges for separating and organizing but I know it went smoothly last week so I am not overly concerned.
There are a lot of reporters; their story is going to center on the children coming home and this is amazing, Father Raymond De Souza is also on our flight his parish is in Kingston and I later find out he is a columnist with the National Post. I take a liking to him instantly he has traveled all over the world and he is young spirited and truly fun. He blesses the flight and again I feel good about this. These missions are non-denominational everyone is the same and we all there on a journey of love. Our differences are actually nice; they are more meaningful because there is respect in our differences and acceptance as equals. At one point I indivertibly refer to him as Rabbi and we all laugh including Father Raymond.
The flight seems really short and when we land there is a general announcement and instructions from Duncan.