Today, I heard one of the most beautiful and most heartbreaking things of my life. It’s something I’ll always carry with me — and perhaps the one phrase I’ll attach to my time in Haiti.
I was at Port-au-Prince’s main hospital again, checking on how the food we’d delivered was being cooked and taken to patients. Even before I entered the kitchen, I knew what was on the stove: chicken and sauce. When I went in and talked to the kitchen crew, I also found out that they were making rice and beans — and were just about to do another round of deliveries to the various tents around the hospital grounds. So I followed along.
We wound down the pathways of the sprawling hospital complex, past one fallen building and a couple that have been closed off because of earthquake damage, to a set of tents that are temporary home to injured and recovering children. As volunteers passed out the meals to grateful families, I took time to talk to a few parents.
One of them was 36-year-old Claricia Basaent, mother of two injured children, including 11-year-old Nadine. Nadine sustained internal injuries as their house collapsed around them in the midst of the earthquake, which led to an emergency appendectomy here at the hospital. She’s doing better now, besides some soreness and a big bandage on her stomach, and taking a few small steps each day to gain her footing again.
Today was only the second time since the earthquake that Nadine has had a hot lunch — the first was yesterday, when the hospital kitchen started making meals from Mercy Corps-donated supplies. Before this, she subsisted on whatever was brought in by small organizations and volunteer doctors: mostly crackers and other small sustenance.
When she leaves the hospital after visiting hours are over, Claricia is still subsisting on whatever she can find, mostly sporadic food distributions from international organizations. She can’t afford to buy food since losing everything when the earthquake took her house.
I asked Claricia where she slept at night. And her smile stunned me almost as much as her answer did.
“Sous les belles étoiles," she said. Under the beautiful stars.
I smiled back, shook her hand and told her we’d keep doing everything we could to help. As I walked away to talk with more families, I kept imagining the place where Claricia drifts off to sleep. Perhaps I’d even been through her neighborhood.
But, mostly, I thought about those beautiful stars and how all of us are beneath them. I don’t think I’ll ever look at the night sky in quite the same way.