Posted By: John P. Howe, III, M.D. on July 30, 2010

Labels: Haiti , Humanitarian Aid, Volunteers

Port au Prince, Haiti

Here in Haiti, at the frontline of a quiet crisis, we continue to meet leaders, young and old, who bring creativity and influence to the common good -- at the least, providing inspiration and at the most, inspiring action to move the country forward.

Inspiration. I suppose this could be one of the most cliché concepts to be covered in this kind of blog. Yet, for sure, it was the recurring theme of our day today.

It was seen in Carlene Dei, USAID country director for Haiti: a leader of noted academic and professional stature, who kept her appointment with Project HOPE -- in a most memorable way. She held the meeting with us in our sweltering SUV, when a security issue left us unable to enter the U.S. Embassy building. After a distinguished career with USAID, Dei was eligible to retire. Yet, she chose to continue to lend her expertise, gained in her native country of Jamaica and in Ghana, to her role as country director for Haiti. She is now leads a severely understaffed staff, with the wisdom of an experienced leader.

Additional inspiration came in the form of a chance encounter, as I picked my way through the graffiti-covered rubble of the nation’s only public medical school, with two young men on their way to class. The pair, fourth and fifth year students from Cap Haitian, are among 600 students at the school, one which regularly receives over 5,000 applications each year. While taking a break from a community health exam, they talked about their hopes and aspirations. I couldn’t help but marvel at them. Even in the most supportive of settings, medical education is nothing if not a daunting pursuit. But, here in a setting of utter destruction?

Finally, no sooner had our team been told that volunteerism is not often seen among the poor of Haiti (their days understandably involved in the very pursuit of survival), we witnessed an unforgettable sight. As we approached the Adventist Hospital of Haiti, we saw a line of young men and women bearing shovels, wearing familiar bright blue Project HOPE t-shirts. They were removing trash and rubble from the Hospital grounds -- as volunteers. This was yet another example of how HOPE inspires volunteerism -- and provides the setting to make it possible.

I continue to be reminded, here in Haiti, that the immensity of its tragedy does not lend itself to single heroes. Instead, it calls upon many individuals, many heroes humbly going about making a difference in the lives of those in need. I hope that you will be equally inspired.

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