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Photoessay: Ft. Liberté, Haiti Part 2

Through the charitable organization Hernia Repair for the Underserved (HRFU, or http://herniahelp.org/), we established a daily plan. Over two days, previously screened adult and pediatric patients arrived at the hospital, where we set up a pre-operative assessment area. Candidates underwent a physical exam and any laboratory or radiographic records were reviewed.  Dozens of people waited patiently to be seen, hoping we could help them.  Massive inguinoscrotal hernias were common, as were hydroceles. We tried to accommodate as many patients as possible, but the burden of disease is great here.  After the 2010 earthquake, Haiti was devastated by the loss of capable physicians – many died, many left.


Nonetheless, the remaining physicians and surgeons are dedicated to Haiti and it’s people.  People like Dr. Decome, who previously trained with us last year and organized the Ft. Liberté session are an inspiration.  We didn’t know who the warm lady with a huge smile and gentle hands was, as she came up to each of us and hugged us.  “Thank you for coming”, she offered.  Later, Dr. Chen told us she was the Chief of Surgery at the hospital, and had trained with Dr. Télémaque, Haiti’s unofficial Surgeon General.  People such as these, doing the best they can with the meager facilities and supplies they have, are Haiti’s hope.

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Photoessay: Ft. Liberté, Haiti Part 1

We traveled from Santiago to CODEVI by bus the next day.  As a UN-supported “neutral zone”, it functions as an industrial park within the borders of the Dominican Republic.  Workers from Haiti line up daily to travel into the park to operate the textile and manufacturing plants in the park, returning to their country at the end of each day.  It’s a remarkable sight, seeing the rows of bicycles and 50-cc motorbikes that neatly line the compound.  What is more remarkable is the stark contrast between the beautiful confines of CODEVI and the undeveloped open land across the border.  Our daily bus ride across the border to the Ft. Liberté was like traveling through a timewarp; on one side, perfectly manicured lawns and tidy roadways while on the other side, mud and miles of beautiful but undeveloped countryside.

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A good friend of mine told me that Haiti was the poorest place he had ever seen, and that I could expect to see poverty of the deepest degree.  He was right, but sadly it is not the only place I have seen like this.  The slums in India are perhaps more breathtaking in their destitution and squalor, but how do you compare degrees of poverty? When you have nothing, how do you grade levels of nothingness? So whether this was the poorest place I’ve seen or not is irrelevant.  The look in the people’s eyes is the same – hopeful at times, but wary and forlorn.  These are the same people I’ve seen in many places around the world, and their suffering is the same.  It is heartbreaking.


Santiago, DR

After squeaking through a massive traffic jam at LAX and a hurried check-in, I finally made it to the gate as they were boarding the flight to Miami.  The trip with Hernia Repair for the Underserved was something I had been looking forward to for months and would have been crushed if the LAX “improvements” had thwarted my travel plans.


We introduced ourselves over burgers and fries at MIA and landed in Santiago a few hours later. Navigating immigration at STI was smooth with the help of Juan’s fluent Spanish, but mostly his charm.  Then our bus arrived.  It looked woefully inadequate to seat 13 of us with our gear and luggage, but we worked it out and once the AC was on and candy passed around, all was well.


We arrived at the ILAC Mission in time for a late dinner.  Kristina and I played a game of ping pong in the commons and discovered how quickly you can become drenched in sweat in the heat.  Totally worth it, though.


These are our colorful, comfortable accommodations.  Five of us girls bunked in S. Mateo.

Our accommodations at the ILAC Mission in Santiago, DR

A mural at the Mission – I believe it says “Let the Good Samaritan be remembered forever”.  Fitting, but I’d argue the Samaritan’s actions should be remembered, not just a person.  To leave a legacy of service, that’s what we should remember.

ILAC Mission mural


It’s neat to see what people come up with when resources are scarce.  I wonder how much power he actually generates with those panels.  We certainly take our education for granted here…


[edit: the link is now gone from msnbc.com, but originally was a photo of the week and described how this schoolteacher would travel 38km a day on his solar-powered bike to school]

Ajanta & Ellora

World heritage sites Ajanta and Ellora. Flash photography and tripods are prohibited, so all photos were handheld in near-pitch dark caves, quite a fun challenge.  It was neat to see how the images turned out post-processing; this is why I love photography, the camera collects light in a way the retina can’t, with captivating results.










World Press Photo 2012

The winner of the 2012 contest,  Samuel Aranda, was selected from just over five thousand photographers for his image taken in a field hospital in Yemen.  Perusing the website, there are many images that are provocative and intriguing.  My favorite picks include this one for its use of light, and this portrait because the tilt of her head, the expression of her eyebrows and the lines on her face are so compelling.  This is just incredible!

Which one would you pick?

(as an aside, I want to go here! some gorgeous shots, too)