Mar 16, 2014
Run Haiti 2014
What relief to know we have completed another successful adventure across Haiti. It is sometimes hard when asked the purpose of this run since there are so many aspects to an event like this. One, we do it to raise funds for the clinic here. Two, we do it to continue to help support the therapy program, the stroke prevention programs and the ongoing promotion of health and fitness in the communities we serve. Third, we do it to share the people, beauty and culture of Haiti with others that can't help but leave an impact on you.
Raymond, a Haitian that was working in our clinic, now has the opportunity to go to the best Rehab Technician program in country thanks to the funds raised from last year’s race. Raymond is a year into the three-year program and is top in his class. He stated he feels so thankful for this opportunity to continue to learn so that he can better serve people through therapy. Raymond has a love for therapy and especially children. It brings joy to watch him work with such passion and love for people with disabilities. It also has been amazing to see the impact the stroke prevention program has had on individuals in our community. People are starting to understand how to change their diet and are starting to realize the benefits of exercise. We have 2weight- loss and 2 exercise classes a week at the clinic and each class averages between 20-40 people a day. People are starting to understand the importance of taking medications when they have high blood pressure and they realize they just feel better when they do exercise. They now are bringing their friends to have their blood pressure checked and to join the classes. Three years ago this was not happening. We were seeing people 6-7 years post stroke and they did not even understand why strokes occur. Our ultimate goal is prevention, but in therapy now we are also seeing people a few weeks post stroke which is also allowing us to make a bigger impact on their recovery. People are realizing they can learn to walk, talk and do things for themselves after a stroke. This too is a different mentality then what we initially experienced several years ago. These programs are slowly making a difference in these communities. Last year we had 230 Haitians of all ages come to our community 2k. They actually paid to run, a concept that was foreign to many of them. Why would you run or do sport they would ask as we ran through the streets. Now they know running can help “give life”.
Another aspect of the race is it helps to support the tourism and Haitian economy. We are able to support local hotels, restaurants, and businesses. We have met some amazing people working to create places of interest for tourist to come and experience the beauty and culture Haiti has to offer. Reggie, our friend in Furcy, has a cool place Rustik- built entirely of recycled products. The rural mountain community came together to build this incredible tree house- like structure using bottles as lights, barrels as tables, tires as plant holders and an all wood structure. They are an example to the community of how you can recycle products to make sustainable structures. Winnie, our friend in the mountains, has a cabin people can stay in to experience the beautiful remaining cloud forest in Haiti. There are caves, waterfalls, and horse back riding available. Winnie and another dear friend, Jim, are working to preserve what is left of the forest and birds in the rural mountains of Seguin. They are working to educate and start programs to help teach people the importance of trees and caring for not abusing our environment. It is a hard concept to grasp when people are trying to live day to day and they need trees to cook and stay warm. We also have another friend named Rolf in Kabic Jacmel. He has a beautiful hotel where we can experience traditional Haitian food, take a dip in the blue Carribean waters, rest on the sandy beaches or take a trip into town and experience the unique art that makes Jacmel known.
The final aspect that probably touches me the most is to see the impact Haiti has on the individuals that come for this experience. For everyone, this experience is different but I have yet to find anyone who has not been impacted in some way. There is something about leaving your comfort zone and familiarity that makes you grow. Your concept of what really matters is challenged and you begin to see things differently. The last big pitch that we climb on day two is called “sole collector”. Originally it probably got that name for the shoe soles that you see along the rocky, windy, treacherous path. But that mountain pass has also been a place where I have felt people can lose or find themselves. It is a place surrounded by incredible beauty but also incredible poverty. It is a place where you can be physically/emotionally challenged as you are forced to precede on foot up a rocky, steep mountain pass where you are often asked by others to give them something -food, water or gifts. It is hard to know how best to show love in that moment. Where you are not just giving a hand out creating an all too familiar dependency that does not change the situation but you also don’t want to cling to the blessings/things we have been given as if they are truly ours. We are all called to serve the poor and what that looks like becomes confusing in those mountains. What is a hand out enabling verse a hand up coming alongside and helping empower look like? These are questions you are forced to ponder. It is also a place where you can be inspired by the resilience of the people that walk briskly by you carrying large bundles on their heads singing and enjoying conversation and laughter as they go about their daily routines. Where you see children innocently running barefoot with their sticks and wheel toys along the dirt trails full of life. In those moments it is hard to not be humbled and appreciate the simple things in life. What we truly need God supplies, but we often make things more complicated chasing after what we think we need to be happy.
I am so thankful that God is in control as He continues to show me what is possible when we put our trust and faith in Him. So many things did not go as we planned in preparing for this run but by God’s love, grace and protection we were all able to make the journey safely together and leave different then we came. To God alone I give the glory and praise as He continues to show us the way!