Submitted by Will Van Wyngarden who is currently in Haiti with the PFH/HELP team in Pignon. This is Will’s first time to Haiti.

The River in Pignon

Today we went down to the river and witnessed the place where the people go to wash their clothes, trucks, motorcycles, and themselves.  There were also men drawing sand from the river to sell to the contractors working in town.  The river is the lifeblood of the community.  It is a source for drinking as well as cleansing.  However, if you are downstream, the odds are you are drinking and cleaning yourself in someone else’s filth.

The Market in Pignon.

From the river we went down to the market.  The best way I can describe it is that it was a mass of humanity.  The streets were teeming with literally thousands of Haitians.  There were vendors selling everything from homemade soap, to articles of clothing, to fruits and vegetables they had produced, to nearly any edible animal, dead or alive.  There were scenes that would make many Americans’ stomachs turn-bowls and bowls of raw meat, often buzzing with flies.

Along the way we were accompanied by many of Haiti’s helpless innocents.  Whenever we venture out we are followed by a gaggle of young boys and girls.  Many of them held our hands as we wandered the streets of Pignon.  Their English consists of being able to ask us for a dollar, but I suspect all they really want from us is a loving hand to hold.

Patient praying at the hospital in Pignon.

This is the third day in Haiti for me.  The first evening we were here the group sat down and we discussed our feelings.  I could sum up my feelings with one word: overwhelmed.  To see this extreme poverty simply makes oneself feel helpless.  To look into the eyes of someone sick and suffering in a hospital bed is heart-wrenching.  In Haiti, most people only go to the doctor if their situation is dire; they simply can’t afford it.  Thus, many of them don’t make it out alive.

Many of them live in conditions that are worse than those we afford our pets.  Yet they seem to find happiness.  Perhaps we Americans are too dependent on stuff.  That fact struck me as I gazed on the town from the balcony of our dorm.  What do these people do without stuff?  All they have to do is exist.  They have very few possessions.  I can get bored with TV, so I go read a book.  Then that gets boring, so I go surf the Web.  Then I sit on the couch and wonder what to do.  But it is all just stuff.  It certainly isn’t the key to happiness.