Reflections on Volunteering

When I travel with Dr. Stryker, one of my duties before the trip is to prepare daily quotations that will motivate, unite, inspire, heal, and comfort the rest of the team. I include words that have sparked a certain note in my heart, and I have spread them throughout this testimony. They speak more to my experiences than anything I could ever write on my own.

 

“If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” – Lilla Watson

 

To fully process the experience of exploring a developing nation is nearly impossible. I have witnessed the tragedy and beauty of underdevelopment and the disastrous affect the ideological West has had on the rest of the world. I have worked in orphanages and women’s initiatives and clinics and slums and tent cities and distribution centers and hospitals.

 

“We have to look at the things the way they are, painful and overwhelmingly as that may be, for no healing can begin until we are fully present to our world, until we learn to sustain the gaze.”

– Joanna Macy, World as Lover, World as Self

 

When we venture out to the corners of the world, we come face to face with the innocent victims of poverty. Of children starving in their own homes or in the arms or orphanage workers who promised to save them. Of the abandoned elderly no longer able to care for themselves. Of burn victims with no hope for pain relief. Of teenage mothers, the result of unjustified rape.

 

“If we don’t offer ourselves to the unknown, our senses dull. Our world becomes small and we lose our sense of wonder. Our eyes don’t lift to the horizon; our ears don’t hear the sounds around us. The edge is off our experience, and we pass our days in a routine that is both comfortable and limiting. We wake up one day and find that we have lost our dreams in order to protect our days. This is why we travel.” S. Ward Harrison

 

This last trip to Haiti was different from all of the rest. It was the brightest and most inspiring time I’ve spent in Haiti. Niki, Heidi and I were able to travel to orphanages throughout the communities. We provided health care, snacks, hugs, and, thanks to the generous donations from our friends and family, we were able to buy quality food for months to come. Throughout these day trips, I feel as though I’ve found an insight into my future. As many little bodies climbed all over my friends and I, we saw hope in their eyes and our potential future changing the world. In following with the mission of IWISH, I believe we will be able to find a way to build up orphanages into becoming self-sustaining.

 

“And we stood next to each other because that is what friends do in the presence of evil or love” – Jonathan Safran Foer

 

During these trips to Haiti, I am always thankful for the inspiration from my friends: Dr. Dree, who refuses to work as a volun-tourist and instead focus on sustainability, has taken on a giant in training Haitian doctors on new equipment and procedures in order for them to care for their own people, and is always on the relentless pursuit of the silver lining. Tom, who fixed vital hospital equipment to allow doctors to do their job more efficiently and ensure patients would receive proper care and brought joy to young boys on the Saline. Dr. Fettinger, who taught numerous Haitian professionals patiently through language barriers and endless third-world nation hiccups. Natalie, who tirelessly assisted the doctors, fearlessly explored everywhere we went, and impressed everyone with her soccer skills. Dr. Rebe, who massaged and adjusted weary patients, comforted laboring mothers in their most desperate moments, and allowed me to see Haiti for the first time again. Heidi, who spent the night in the OR delivering a healthy baby girl, planted smiles on countless faces (including her beautiful god-twins), and humbly took care of our team’s own welfare. Niki, who led us with relentless strength and perseverance, who never faltered on her convictions, and who gracefully documented it all as recognition of our memories and Haiti’s cry for help.

Thank you for standing next to me.

 

It’s easy to look at Haiti and see endless issues, but I’ve seen so much hope and inspiration that transcend all of the struggles. I know the work is difficult, but I also that we can love each other. We can stand next to each other in the face of love and evil. We can love each other, we must love each other.

Haiti Heidi 4

Hoping for enough light and love that it may cover the ends of the earth,

Jackie Horning

(more photos of Jackie are in the Non-Medical Mission Photo Gallery)