Over the past few days, I have had the fortune of interviewing Haitian doctors and nurses to work in Relief International’s fixed and mobile clinics. I have been surprised to see applicants with their papers in order, their clothes pressed and much cleaner than my own, and enthusiastic to provide care to their people in such a time of need. After all that they have gone through and all that they have lost in the last month and a half, they are back on their feet and ready to work. As I get ready to return home, I can see that, clearly, these are the true heroes in the Haiti relief effort.
International relief workers often get credited for being the heroes in the wake of disaster. However, there are many unrecognized heroes in the Haiti relief effort. These heroes are the survivors of the earthquake. They are the Haitians who physically brought their neighbors to safety when they otherwise would have stood frozen with fear during the earthquake. They are the ones who saved lives by digging out friends and family who were trapped immediately after the earthquake, and the ones who provided medical aid in the first few days after the earthquake, when international aid had not yet arrived. The heroes are those who took in children orphaned by the quake, and those who brought food to victims that were too injured to get food themselves. They are the ones who comfort their neighbors during each aftershock that unnerves the nation. The heroes are members of Relief International’s Haitian staff, who have worked every day without a break since the earthquake because their people need them. I meet each of these heroes every day here. After weeks, months, or years, relief workers will leave Haiti and return to their intact homes. But the Haitian survivors will continue, working hard to rebuild their country for generations to come.
Other unrecognized heroes of the disaster relief efforts are the people at home, who fill the gaps while relief workers flee to the field. They are our co-workers who fill in for our shifts and work duties in a moment’s notice. They are our families who give us the support and courage to do this kind of work. The heroes are also the millions of people who donate supplies and money so that such relief efforts are possible.
These are the true heroes, and I am grateful for them. So, as I get ready to leave I want to recognize them and give them the credit they are due. The Relief International team thanks you.
Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center