Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sincere Gesture of Kindness and Caring

The lines form early and snake through the muddy paths of the northern city Gonaives. Women stand patiently, waiting for food. They stand in the line among hundreds of others after walking miles under the sweltering sun. They do not complain, they do not push or shove. These Haitian women wait patiently because they know, with absolute certainty, that at the end of the line there is food waiting for them. At the end of the line sits the bags of rice and beans, and jugs of cooking oil, that our crewmembers delivered to this devastated area.
This line of women ends at one of the distribution points for food. During his visit, Rear Admiral Kernan wanted to see for himself what happens to the food once our helicopters drop it off, and once our volunteer working parties heave it out of the helicopters and lug it to the beach. Rear Admiral Kernan recounted later of the women’s fortitude, of seeing the thankful looks in their eyes as they received their food and placed it on their heads to begin trekking the miles back to their homes.
Today we delivered 142 metric tons of food, and 3,600 2.5 gallon bags of water to many cities in Haiti.
Our crewmembers labored long into the day again. Meetings at the U.S. Embassy illuminated more support for us to provide to Haiti. Our Doctors attended a meeting chaired by the Assistant to the Minister of Health. Present at this meeting were different NGOs, including Doctors Without Borders. A representative from Doctors Without Borders described the invaluable impact of Team Continuing Promise’s support and assistance. Before we arrived, he said, they only distributed 20 tons of food in five days. With our heavy lift capabilities we are now moving 120 tons every day. Our Doctors are coordinating with our NGO partners and the Ministry of Health of Haiti to assess outlying areas.
The U.S. Ambassador to Haiti received a brief from Team Continuing Promise Engineers after days of assessing the bridges and infrastructure. Our expertise and assessments provide invaluable information to rebuild this country.
There are so many components and players involved in this mission to alleviate the suffering of the Haitians – heaving and stacking bags of food and water, communicating and coordinating with the Haitian Government and NGOs, sharing expertise and experience within the medical and engineering fields. Yet in the midst of heavy air lifts and plans, our aircrew responded to a special request. We had received a report of an American citizen who desperately needed our help. This American citizen was a 73 year old woman. She has Type II diabetes and was having complications; she had no medication and needed to travel to Port-au-Prince, an impossible task right now except by aircraft.
When our helicopter landed at Gonaives, this woman slowly emerged from the back of an ambulance. I met her and helped her hobble toward the waiting helicopter. One of our aircrew watched her slow approach to the helicopter, and when she arrived he immediately dropped to one knee, as if to ask for her hand in marriage, and used his other knee for her to step into the waiting helicopter. I was moved passionately, but NOT surprised, by this sincere gesture of kindness. It is the kind of human spirit that the men and women display everyday and one that no matter how many times witnessed, always bring a sense of pride to be in command of such a fine and honorable bunch.
During the flight to Port-au-Prince this elderly woman motioned that she was hungry; I gave her a Kashi granola bar filled with nutritious little peanuts. When we landed at the airfield, she looked at us, said “God Bless you,” and disappeared into the heat of the day in search of medication.
Every crewmember sees the role they each play in the aftermath of the storms, and tonight as the sun sinks behind a layer of squally clouds sure to bring more rain in the days to come, we can rest for a few hours, knowing our tremendous efforts helped hundreds of Haitians to sleep tonight with full bellies and peaceful knowledge that we care. There is much to be done so I must get back to the business at hand…Helping and giving.. It is what we are here to do.