What an incredible journey! Last week, Clean the World’s leadership team traveled on a Missionary Flights Inernational (MFI) DC-3 cargo plane to Cap Haitien, Haiti. It was our second major soap distribution to the impoverished island.
The non-pressurized, non-air conditioned flight path took us directly over the Bermuda triangle. Nothing to fear though as the MFI crew took good care of us. One quick re-fueling descent in the Bahamas and we are back in the thin air, on our way again to the northern region of Haiti.
Upon landing, the fun really began. After an hour of negotiating with customs, we finally struck a deal. Half the originally requested customs fee and a Disney World vacation turned our favorite customs gal, affectionately called “The Big Man” by her Haitien peers, into a Clean the World supporter.
While I attempt to describe the actual conditions on teh ground in Cap Haitien, please realize that even though the conditions were described to me time and time again, it is extremely hard to comprehend unless you actually experience it. there is chaos, depression, and desperation. Sewage and filth abound within eyes view during almost every moment. We witnessed an elderly woman defecating in a sewage troth in front of her home and countless individuals urinating. This very same troth overfllowed on our last evening as a flash flood rain came down and flooded the streets of Cap Haitien.
Yet, within this chaos, they are a beautiful and proud people. A culture that has learned to not only exist, but live life to their fullest given the conditions they have been born into. I witnessed the newest born babies and two funerals. They are born like we are, and they honor death in a similar fasion. It just so happens that in between those two extremely similar events, they have learned to function in a society that is much different than ours in the United States. And one that demands the basic necessity of soap and hygiene even more!
While the conditions were overwhelming at times, the smiles that we continued to receive from the people, young and old, as we drove through the streets of Cap Haitien, were absolutely priceless. Smiles represent hope and joy. Take time today to give somebody you know a smile from a Haitian as we recieved a ton to pass along. 🙂
We visited two orphanages, two schools and another large church service where approximately 8,000 gathered in the middle of the day’s heat to worship. Our soap, YOUR SOAP, was incredibly well received. In total, 45,000 bars were distributed on this trip.
We also visited with a group, the Cap Haitien Health Network, organized by Dr. Ted Caplen and his wife Elisabeth, based out of Altamonte Springs, FL. Ted and Elisabeth were in Haiti for the week doing clincals and organizing a group of approximately 30 clinics. One item on their agenda: the new supplies of soap that are arriving from Clean the World. Another arm of our distribution network was established.
One specific moment mush be shared: One the last day as we were leaving the last school we visited, I handed a young Haitian boy, maybe 4 years old, a bundle of soap. He looked at the bundle with a quizzical look. So I smelled another bundle that was in my hands and motioned for him to do the same. He then smelled his bundle and gave a half smile, beginning to understand. Then he took his bundle and began rubbing it on his arm in a cleaning motion, looking at me for a confirmation. I said “YES” with a big smile. He then grinned from ear to ear, one of the biggest smiles of the trip, turned around, and walked back to his desk, holding his bundle of soap with pride. He understood what he recieved and he was incredibly happy and proud! In that very moment, any lingering feelings that our mission may be too much for us to handle completely swept away. Clean the World is not only bringing hygiene but we are bringing hope!
The very last clinic we visited, operated by a Cap Haitien Health Network partner, S.O.I.L., had roughtly 30 sick children waiting to see the doctor. The clinic sees patients only once a week as supplies are low. I asked the doctor why the sick were there. A one word answer said it all- “Hygiene”. Incredible!
Our cargo boat finally left Miami this past weekend with another 175,000 bars. (remember the one we loaded several weeks ago. Well, it only just now left, displaying the shipping difficulties into Haiti.) This boat will arrive this weekend to begin another flow of soap that we are committed to sustaining for many years to come. These clinics, schools, and orphanages will all receive another distribution in the coming days and weeks.
One last note, CBS traveled with Clean the World on this distribution. Stay tuned for an alert from us as we expect the story to air during Katie Couric’s evening news sometime very soon.
Thank you all for your support. And remember to pass a smile to someone today.