By Mavis Jaworski, MD
If you come to Haiti, bring food and your own eating utensils and can opener/bottle opener/knife/scissors. I did not have any of these.
As a team leaves, they pass down to the newcomers, their prized Glad plastic containers, Sharpies permanent makers, ink pens, batteries, snacks, and extra DEET. They are mindful of also leaving food for their translator who worked without pay.
Your heat source may be a microwave, a hotplate, or a campfire so bring items you can heat with various sources. One of my tent mates brought an electric tea pot. It proved to be a necessity in many ways. It was used for tea, coffee, MRE’s, dehydrated food, instant oatmeal, etc…
Just after the earthquake, the only food available for medical personnel was Strawberry Pop Tarts. It was breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As more food was donated, the plentiful Strawberry Pop Tarts were still a staple in the diet, though maybe a dessert after a can of tuna.
I will always think of Haiti when I see Pop Tarts. They proved to be easy to eat and no preparation. As a child I loved the cinnamon or chocolate ones and would have loved having these flavors as well. A nurse who was covering so many locations, lamented, “Here I am running around thinking I am going to lose weight here, but I think I am taking in more calories than at home, because I keep eating those Pop Tarts. You know those are addicting.”
Take protein bars that do not have chocolate coatings which will melt and make a mess when you open them. Bring nuts, trail mix, and electrolyte items (Jelly Beans were yummy). As I saw a patient I would give him some miniature marshmallows, chocolate chips, or nuts.
Haitians are beautiful people and so loving to their children and family. They are courteous and patient and ever so quick to say “Merci.” Children would see that I was giving out things to eat and put their hands out as I approached them, their parents who were very thin and hungry too would keep their hands down. I would have to say “MaMa?” or “PaPa?” and then they would offer their hand to receive some food.
Would a line of Americans behave in the same polite manner?
Mavis Jaworski, MD, is a family physician from Beverly, Mass.