The streets -- normally teaming with people, roadside vendors, and colorful vehicles overloaded with passengers, bags of rice and charcoal and sugarcane -- were devoid of life.
Three of us, my two mission colleagues and I, moved quickly from the airport to a secure hotel across the main airport road in the Mais Gate zone of Haiti's capitol city. We carried six heavy bags of hospital supplies, food, and payroll cash for our hospital, school, and mission employees. That road is the only heavily policed area of Port au Prince. Outside of Mais Gate and the area immediately surrounding Guy Mallory and Toussaint L'Ouverture airports, increasingly powerful gangs control the roads, the neighborhoods, the fuel trucks, the supply chain, and every other aspect of life in Haiti. Children stay home from school. Essential workers go in on foot and pray to get home before dark.
Haiti should be a shining example of modern democracy. It was the first truly free nation in the Americas. The slaves of Haiti defeated Napolean's army with sticks and cunning to become the first slave free republic in the western world. In fact, Haiti is the only country in history to have a successful slave revolt and establish an independent nation. What should be a beacon of freedom is now a grim reminder of what greed, corruption, and the failure to accept the rule of law can do.
Our mission driver, Fre Judain, met us at the hotel. He walked. Though he is our driver and has access to several vehicles, he walked. "Pa gen gaz," he said. There is no gas. He walked through empty streets where daily people are kidnapped for whatever meager ransom their families can cobble together or shot outright. He walked to meet us so that he could accompany all the supplies and money to La Gonave the next morning on an MAF flight—our only chance of getting any immediate relief to the hospital, the nursing school, and the little school in Bwa Chandel.
In Bwa Chandel and in many other remote areas of Haiti, food is hard to come by. The usual depots of rice, wheat, and beans are depleted because boats and other vehicles that transport bulk food are not moving. What gas and diesel there is costs over $20 a liter; that's nearly $100 a gallon. And the food that is locally grown sells for 30 percent more than it did even four months ago. Our school lunch program has not been able to buy enough rice for more than a few days of the month. That lunch is the only actual meal most of our students have each day. The food and money to purchase more food was successfully delivered to Met Benito, the principal. He and some community volunteers will see that food is distributed to all of the school families. And we would like to do this kind of emergency relief every other month for as long as the area around the airports remains a safe corridor.
A heartfelt thank you to all of you who gave money for food for our families and pay for our teachers. In spite of the very difficult living conditions right now, the teachers at the little school in Bwa Chandel are showing up every day.
This little community is thriving against all odds because of your love and support.
Mesi anpil — thank you very much.