Getting ready for second relief mission
Chapter 6 “Haiti Forever”
It’s Saturday morning and I’m already in a sweat as I try to get organized to leave for the airport in Montreal.
I woke up and opened the paper to the obituary that we have placed as we do every year – a notice of My Husband and Best friend Lou’s passing. Tuesday will be 7 years and I always put it in the Saturday closest to the anniversary. Everything I have done to make a difference was done in his memory. His passing affected me so profoundly that I knew from the start that if I didn’t turn that terrible and tragic experience into something positive, I couldn’t imagine where I would be. I re-read the notice and I smile, because I believe and know with all my heart that he is proud of all we have done as a family and a foundation.
The last week has been nuts trying to coordinate nurses going down. This is now a mission which keeps taking on more and more dimensions. Many people never see miracles. I look for them all the time, or at least signs.
The morning has been hectic – want to make sure my best Pal Rocky is being taken care of while I leave and my Mom isn’t feeling well, so I run over for 5 minutes to kiss her and tell her I love her. My family is concerned – much of what I do, I wait to tell them after it’s done – except for my sister and my stepsons – no sense stressing them. My nephew Sam was not happy with me last week – he was worried, but he tells his Mom not to pressure me but to support these missions instead and that made me happy.
My Dad is in Florida at an “over 55 community” and when I spoke to him, I was happy to know that he’s met a nice lady and is happy. He’s worried as well, but my sense of adventure and the way I look at life, comes from him.
I am rambling …but I have also lived the last 10 days of complete cooperation and selflessness by our team. and Air Canada. and all the partners. I know what can be done when people put the cause first.
Dr. Morris of the Royal Victoria Hospital is coming down and he has a wealth of knowledge and experience in medicine in difficult circumstances – we’ve had 3 phone conversations and I already have loads of respect for him.
I ask him for directions to the private airport where the plane is to take us to the Air Canada flight. The Bronfman Foundation has leased a plane from Air Canada so it’s ‘all in the family’ – I love it. Dr. Morris gives me directions and I memorize them as I was going to drive there from my Mom’s – but because I decided not to, I’m glad because I just made another Haitian friend.
When I get to the terminal I meet Myer Bick, head of the JGH foundation and the man who put the nurses together. Nancy Rosenfeld is there as well, who runs the Bronfman Foundation – they are ready and willing to do more, and this makes me happy.
Dr. Morris isn’t there and I now know why, his directions (thanks to Google) have not worked out – but luckily I had spoken to Nancy subsequent to Dr. Morris, and my new Haitian friend knew where he was going.
There is a rainbow of people in the waiting area, young (really young nurses) and quite a few of Haitian descent who are going back. They are apprehensive. I speak to the adhoc leader and she tells me that she is ready but I can tell that this is the unknown. I will speak to them when we land in Toronto. She is worried about the smell. I don’t comment … I remember … no sense saying anything to create more stress. I ask if there is any product which they can put up their noses and she says she has some.
Dr Morris has arrived and we are ready to go. I go over and shake his hand and meet his wife, I see already a power couple – love it.
It is time for the group picture and the hugs because some family members are here to say goodbye
Nancy and I are speaking on the tarmac when I realize I have my rings on. I don’t believe in traveling with jewelry when I am on missions – it is disrespectful and right now, this is an even worse situation. I take the last anniversary gift my husband gave me and I entrust it to Nancy. I explain the significance and what it means to me. There is no doubt in my mind as I look in her eyes that she fully understands it. She tells me that she read the notice in the Gazette. So I leave, comforted that one of my most cherished memories of Lou’s last summer is in responsible and caring hands.
We board and Dr. Morris tells me his vision for his trip. He has also started the process for mobilizing teams of doctors. This is what PIH really needs and I am thrilled that he has such vision. He tells me he has experience in displaced and refugee camp medicine. Again, I feel like he is another important “dot” in our ‘connect-the-dots’ tapestry. He must meet Paul Farmer – he knows of Dr. Paul (or Superman), and I feel like Dr. Morris can help on both a medium and long term basis, and that is what he wants to do.
He also wants to lobby the Quebec government of Jean Charest, to make sure that all the nurses and doctors who are heading down will be paid. I tell him about the Quebec Government matching funds, retroactive to 2009, if people want to give. So maybe they should amend some of this and keep money to pay our volunteers. Dr. Morris tells me that his wife is on it. I was right – Power Couple – love it.
Next to me on the plane is Pat and she is a nurse at the JGH. She has read the blog from last week and she is ready to go. We are not sure of the future. She is asking about return flights and frankly we have some ideas but haven’t nailed the details down. I’m not worried, we will get it done.
We have been contacted this week by families who heard of our mission and have children who were already pre-approved for adoption, but are still stranded in Haiti.
OneXOne’s friend Mark Ledwell is a lawyer and has in the process for awhile, starting a children’s advocacy group. I get Mrs. Judith Irving, who was contacted by the families, and we decide that this issue is the best one to start the advocacy work. I understand fully the concerns voiced by PM Harper’s government after the tsunami – the child trafficking was horrendous. And although we want to take as many kids out, we also want there to be control about who they are and where they are going. Making the situation worst is not an answer. Mark knows we work in a completely non-political way and we want to respect all the process and our government. So we start.
The emails from the families are heart wrenching. I speak to Duncan and he gives me the best advice about who to contact, and the ministry in charge, and Mark goes to work. As I board the plane in Montreal the news was still the same. I pray that somehow Mark and Judith will make a miracle happen and we can bring children home to new families. Miracles are around for those who believe and I believe with every ounce of my soul.
We are about to land the Dash 8 of Air Canada Jazz.
Another journey has just begun, full of hope and love. The logistics of this one will make last week’s journey look like a picnic. We have human beings who are giving of themselves in the ultimate way, to do good. They are our responsibility. Besides the millions of dollars of medicine, medical equipment, water and food, we also have 15 nurses and one doctor. We have a mission to help a hospital (now called the Air Canada Hospital, just between us, in order to differentiate our recipients). The hospital is very near the airport and was on CBC. The report was awful, and so we must help them also. One flight…many dimensions…and thousands about to be helped. And hopefully, children coming back with us.
Haiti Forever Part 2 is full of HOPE.