Hello, my name is Karen Thomas. Sam has asked to write a guest blog entry on my experiences here in Dariol and the surrounding
areas, and it is my pleasure to do so. I suppose I should start by introducing myself. I will be starting my senior year of
college at the University of Delaware in the fall where I am studying applied nutrition and anthropology. My intention is
to get my Master's Degree in International Public Health once I graduate which is one of my reasons for deciding to visit
Dariol in the first place. I needed to find an internship type opportunity abroad that would allow me to witness first hand
the health systems in third world countries as well as the lives and poverty lived on a daily basis. I applied and searched
for months to find a program that would allow me to witness these things. One evening back in the winter,
while spending time with my best friend, we were talking about opportunities for me to travel abroad and the
discussion of Haiti came up. My church in Vincentown, NJ supports Sam as a missionary and takes part in his program to sponsor
children in Haiti to go to school. I have been co sponsoring a Haitian child since I was in 4th grade with another lady in
my church named Colette, and teams from my church have come here on mission trips in the past. I had a little knowledge of
Haiti but did not know too much about it. I knew that Sam had come down here and started health clinics throughout the country
but that was about it. That evening I went home and looked Sam and his mission up on the internet and got excited about a
possible opportunity ahead of me. At this point however, I was very discouraged because of my failure to find anything else
so i decided to take another approach and left it in God's hands. I prayed that if it was His will for me come to Dariol during
my summer break from school, please make it happen. And after that long winded introduction here I am (some extra details:
my church, family and friends sponsored me entirely to come, thank God again :])
Now onto the experience. I have
been here in Dariol since June 17th. Sam and I flew into Port au Prince where his driver Pradel came to pick us
up. Port au Prince was absolutely disgusting. I don't exactly know what I was expecting but what I saw was far from
what I had anticipated. There were piles of trash that lined the streets due to the fact there is no real government
program to get rid of trash. (In fact, as I later learned the government hardly does anything for its citizens; it's
a very sad situation!) As I told my family and friends in email, the city slums we drove through were not what you
would picture a city to be at all. The streets were crowded with people sitting along the curb selling whatever they could
to make some money. There was very little development in the way of buildings, and the roads were terrible.
Sam told me at a later time, there are much nicer places in Port au Prince and on my way out I will be staying at a guest
house, so I will get the opportunity to see these parts. Hopefully I will have better thoughts of Port au Prince once
I leave. Anyway, after about a four hour drive on the terrible rocky roads of Haiti, we made it to this little town of
Dariol on the Southern Coast.
The culture shock hit me hard, as I saw where I would be sleeping, using the bathroom
and bathing for the next 3 1/2 weeks. I prayed that God help me through this experience and allow me to get whatever out of
it He wanted me to. Eventually I got settled in and since those first couple days I have been nothing but happy.
My weeks here in Haiti have been spent visiting and observing the clinic (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday), hiking
all around Dariol and the surrounding towns with my new adventurous friend Biad(and as many children that choose to follow) to
visit rivers and beaches, spending the day in Les Cayes to exchange money and get medicine for the clinic, playing cards and
simple games such as tic tac toe with the children, endless talks with Sam about the situations and lives of people here in
Dariol as well as Haiti in general, visiting the Christian radio station Sam started up in the mountains, attending 2 of the
churches Sam started in the area, speaking with Haitian's around my own age who have dreams to improve their country through
development programs in regards to health care, agriculture, environmental concerns(such as the trash issue), hunger and
many other pressing issues the country faces and the struggles they face because of lack of government support and little
money. Also, I have visited two different markets in Cotes de Fer, listened to endless amounts of Haitian music called compas
while visiting in Sam's house and generally just tried to absorb as much of the culture and life as I could while spending
my time here in Haiti.
Being here has honestly been a life changing experience. I am not home yet, so I do not
know exactly how I will be affected once I'm back to my regular life, but it has definitely given me perspective on what I
have and a sense peace and appreciation for all that I do have back at home. Life here is extremely difficult for both men
and women. As far as I've observed, women are given the task of child care(and usually they have 4-5 children to take care
of), cooking, and general house tasks such as washing of clothes etc. This may not seem too different from some of the tradional
roles women in the states or other developed countries face but I can tell you first hand it is far more strenous work. Washing
clothes alone as just one examples, takes 2-3 hours of scrubbing and washing. There is no running water in the houses so before
even completely the task, the women have to get water from the local water distribution center the town uses. The water comes
down from the spring and is available for the entire town to use. I felt bad having someone else wash my clothes, so after
my first week I tried to wash my own clothes. I can tell you however, my attempt failed and I had to end of allowing the pastor's
wife to wash my clothes for me. It was extremely tiring and physically hard work. This is just one example of the day to day
jobs women here in Haiti have to do. The men are in charge of agriculture usually, unless employed elsewhere in the town(usually
by Sam-such as his driver etc). This is also excruiating manual labor, preparing the land my hand day in and day out, planting
the crop and then praying for rain that doesn't always come. Men as also sometimes fishermen, but once again this is a tough
job because the boats the fishermen use are essentially just little canoes without motors making it difficult and dangerous to
even get out to an area of the ocean where there are fish. When there hasn't been rain, the catch is slim because the fish
tend to stay out farther in the ocean. It's a tough life. This doesn't even begin to take into account the other struggles
and stressed people may face such as lack of food, no shoes, the list goes on and on. It is truly amazing, and admirable the
lives these people lead with so little. Not to mention what comes off as a positive attitude towards their living situations.
It has truly been a pleasure spending my days here in Dariol.
Being here has really given me the sense to help!
When I go back I will be writing a report on observations I have made in the clinic in regards to malnutrition in the
children. I am going to compare weights and ages of children here in Dariol to children of similar age in the US and then
write a research paper on how education and medication is affected with malnutrition. Through this report I hope to educate
people on what I've seen and somehow develop a feeding program for both the school and health clinic here in Dariol. Education
and medications are hardly effective when children hardly have one meal to eat each day. I ask that you pray for me to be
able to touch people at my university and throughout my life in the United States to get a program started here in Dariol!
This is just a small recap on how I have been touched while spending my time here in Dariol. I will be returning to
the states on Friday the 10th of July at which time I will be starting a BioChemistry class at the university and working
full time to make some money. It seems hardly fair that I can jump right back into a life of such prosperity when people
are living here with close to nothing, but I hope to take what I do have and as I said use it for the best. I don't know what
God has planned for me in the next couple years, but maybe I will be back to Haiti sometime in the near future. Sam truly
lives an admirable life, dedicating his life to help as much as he can. His churches, clinic and radio station are all of
great success and bring much to a place that has so little.
If you got through all of this, good job :] and thank
you for taking the time to read about my experiences here in Haiti. God Bless.