Friday Reflection: Putting isolation into perspective

YourLifeChoices member Edwin Pope recalls a visit to an isolated village in Haiti to visit his sponsor children.

Putting isolation in perspective

This week’s Friday Reflection was contributed by YourLifeChoices member Edwin Pope. This is your chance to write on any topic that stirs you. Simply send your contribution to [email protected] and put Friday Reflection in the subject field. The editor will select one offering to run each week.

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Some years ago, in November 2011, I went to Haiti to visit my sponsor children. They lived in a village far north from Port-au-Prince, so I had to fly with my chaperone to Cap Haitien, a city on the northern coast, and then travel by four-wheel drive to a village some 50 kilometres away on a road full of deep potholes that ran across steep hills and through deep valleys.

So many times, we had to negotiate the potholes in low gear to get through, and we had to stay alert for the sounds of heavy Mann trucks suddenly appearing around a corner at suicide speeds. We would hug the hill as close as we dared while the truck, without slowing down, would race by with its wheels almost hanging over the edge of the road. Just a slight mistake would have sent it to the valley floor below. I was so glad when at last we arrived at the village of San Raphael, our destination.

I met the two children I had so long waited to see.

At their school project, I felt like royalty, meeting all the children in every class, dressed in their colourful uniforms, a sea of dark faces and I the only white face.

I was moved by their laughter and excitement as I answered their questions about Australian children and schools.

I met the principal and all the staff who showed me, with pride, their classrooms and limited teaching facilities for they received no government help, only that given by the sponsor organisation.

Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, made poorer by the earthquake of 2010 that devastated Port-au-Prince so badly. This village, although not touched by the earthquake, suffered also through the loss of financial support due to that earthquake. What little support they had received before was no more.

Geography and poor infrastructure had always isolated villages like San Raphael, but now lack of financial support increased the severity of their isolation.

After the school, I was taken to the family home – a two-roomed concrete building without light or power, windows without glass, doorways without doors, both with just curtains to cover.

I met the parents and we all had a meal, with curious neighbours ‘popping’ their heads around the curtain to view this white man – to the chagrin of the children’s mother. The time to leave came too soon, but we had a long journey back and to drive in the dark was considered lethal. I would liked to have stayed longer, not minding the poverty but to enjoy the family a little longer.

The doorway curtain pulled aside, I stepped back into the sunlight to be confronted by some 20 ragged children, with dirty, curious, wide-eyed faces. They stared up at me, so I knelt down so that my eyes were level with theirs. I could not speak Creole and they could not speak English, so handshaking and an odd French word was our communication.

I had given the school a bundle of book marks that the children grasped eagerly. As I looked at these children, these ragged, beautiful children, I felt such pain, such despair, that I had no more bookmarks to give them. Then came the urgent voice of my chaperone, “Edwin, we must leave now so we are not caught … in the dark.” I ignored him, and took time to say goodbye to those children and prayed over them.

The situation of today, with this virus leaving me helpless in a sense and living in some isolation as we do, has reminded me about that time when I had nothing to give some 20 children in an isolated village on the island of Hispaniola in Haiti in the Caribbean. My isolation is of no consequence.

Friday Reflection is your chance to write on any topic that stirs you. Simply send your contribution to [email protected] and put Friday Reflection in the subject field. The editor will select one offering to run each week.

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    COMMENTS

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    Christina
    26th Apr 2020
    1:40pm
    Thank you, Edwin, for this moving story. It makes me sad and angry. Why does humanity not band together to eliminate poverty? Where are the leaders who can make a difference?
    Christina


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