Nothing could prepare me for the impact of delivering water into the worst slum in the western hemisphere. Cite Soleil is only 8 square miles but is packed with 300,000 people. The density is shocking.
The children hear the water truck honking and come running to greet us. They run along side the truck yelling “Hey you! Hey you!” As we get out of the truck, we are greeted with what can only be described as pure love and joy. For a moment I am no longer aware of the extreme poverty as these little angels jump into our arms and wrap themselves around us as if we are beloved family, but we are not, we are total strangers. We hug them back with the same abandon, as if they are our own loved ones. To have only two arms suddenly feels inadequate as we scoop up these beautiful smiling faces holding 2 children at a time with several more clinging to our legs and waists. It is then that we gaze around. We are not in a sea of love. We are in unimaginable poverty. Garbage was everywhere growing unchecked as if it was a malignant cancer. Piling up higher and higher and reaching further and further into the small community infecting the water and dwarfing the already small huts. I can’t fathom surviving in conditions like these. Suddenly, I stagger a bit and my world cracks.
I focused that day on being the person who held the water hose. I took my job seriously. Wasting as little water as possible. The Haitians lined up with their buckets, often fighting as everyone is desperate to get water first. We fill and fill and fill small water buckets. I focused on my job, aware of the smells and continuous loud noise and commotion in the streets. I was also aware of my own sweat, which would have to be replaced with clean water. When we finished the first stop I thought we had worked through lunch and into mid-afternoon. It was 11am. The rest of the day was a blur.
A few days later we returned to distribute water again. For this I am very grateful. I felt more acclimated to this new environment and experience. This time I knew I had an opportunity to open my lens wider and to see and do more. I focused more on the people and surroundings. I spend most of that day holding children and helping them bring their water buckets to their huts. For the moment, I felt a part of this community. The streets were filled with people bringing their small buckets back to their huts and returning back to the truck quickly to get as much clean water as possible. I have never felt a greater sense of accomplishment. And I have never felt so fulfilled. The Haitians got clean water and were seen and loved that day. I also received clean water, was seen and loved that day… and a lot more.
Healing Haiti is the only organization that delivers clean water to the people of Cite Soleil free.