On the Border
Trip Start Aug 19, 2008
41Trip End Oct 29, 2010
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In a town called Jimani (hee-man-ee) in the Dominican Republic, only minutes away from the Dominican/Haitian border, there was an influx of traffic. Not only were there many injured Haitians coming from Port-au-Prince, but there were people from all over the world - aid organizations from Costa Rica, Canada, and Hungry, the Tawainese Search & Rescue Team, the Red Cross, and many Dominican volunteers from their Defensa Civil and military.
Peace Corps sent another volunteer, Jonathan, and I to investigate how things were at the border and to fulfill any needs at the moment from USAID (and in general). We arrived to Jimani in the late afternoon on Friday. The first thing I remember seeing was the amount of people standing in front of the main hospital in town, a hospital as we later found out was definitely not equiped to handle this much work
The setting was an interesting one since at points it seemed so chaotic and others not at all. Parts of the town were functioning as normal whereas the military fortress that lay on top of a hill was constantly receiving military personnel, helicopters taking patients to Santo Domingo, and the many incoming aid organizations and news journalists. There were tents everywhere by the fortress that were mainly for the soldiers, although in some they were offering tetnus vaccinations and had developed a very low functioning "Centro de Informacion" (Information Center). Another fascinating point is that the Dominican Republic is itself a developing country so it was not ready to reveive the kind of patients that have been arriving. Nor does it structurally make the grade to house patients, their family members, and even international aid workers who had to drive as far as 80 miles away to find a place to stay (even we stayed about 30 miles away in a town called Duverge).
On the second day, Jonathan and I worked with World Vision, an international NGO that has an office in Jimani, to unload the water from the trucks that arrived the night before into their giant werehouse that they had rented out
The following day was more exciting because our friend from USAID, Josue, had to go into Haiti to check out a werehouse to store more water that arrived. He told us that one of us would be able to go with him but upon speaking with his boss (and then ours) we found out that we were still not able to cross the border
Being in the hospital was hard at times, seeing people with severed arms and legs because of the destruction of the earthquake. There were family members starring off into the distance with a clouded mind of thoughts and emotions. Others that shouted for doctors or rather anyone that could help their loved one. I saw a Haitian man step outside when I was taking a rest to hold onto the door to breakdown and cry. The hospital was so full that patients had to be treated on matresses that were placed on the floor in the hallways because all of the beds were full, sometimes even on cardboard. Their was such a complete lack of organization that at one point, Jonathan and I went around changing salene solutions to IV drips for certain patients because no one else was doing it.
It was exciting being in the mix of what was happening at the border and also hearing about plans from huge NGOs, like World Vision, and governmental organizations like USAID. In addition, we had the opportunity to speak with many aid workers that returned from Haiti. One eye-opening point was that the reported road conditions and violence that is apparently occuring in Haiti is being exaggerated and exploited, which in a time of tragedy could be justified (receiving more donations, etc.), but it does show hope. The country of Haiti has been in a state of peril for centuries and this seems to be the tipping point. What's to come from this event? Who knows? Yet on a positive note, now the world knows of Haiti and the Island of Hispanola, and that's a start.