Rich Pickett is SDSU’s CIO and a licensed pilot for 32 years. This chronicles his second volunteer trip to Haiti, flying relief flights to earthquake ravaged Haiti.
Brandon Campbell, who joined me for a portion of the last airlift, flew commercially to Florida and joined me again for a few days. On Saturday, at Banyan Air Service, we loaded the airplane with Andy’s help. The goal on our first trip was to visit Jacmel and help the friends we had made on our last mission. I had purchased electrical wiring, and accessories for one of the orphanages in the area, and along with a large amount of supplies we were ready to go. The Canadians were leaving Jacmel later that day and it would be impossible to fly direct to Jacmel after that time. All later flights would be required to clear customs at Port-au-Prince, which added additional flight time and delays.
We landed at Jacmel just as the Canadians were preparing for the departure of the last remaining soldiers and equipment. We were the last international flight to Jacmel. It was like a family reunion. We opened the cabin door and were met with greetings from friends we had left just a few weeks ago. We unloaded N113FT and Jeanna, and Sarah who is a midwife, offered to take us to visit the orphanage we were helping to supply.
While some of the street markets and vendors were active, we saw no signs of rubble removal or building construction on the drive to the orphanage. As we drove to the orphanage, I looked up from the back of Sarah’s truck to see our friend Pierre riding on the back of a motorcycle behind us. Pierre always finds a way to locate us!
At the orphanage Jeanna and I visited the nursery. Outside I found this lady using a mechanical sewing machine, making clothes for the children. With such talent, it would be great to utilize her expertise in a sewing business, perhaps one that would help generate income for the orphanage.
Inside the nursery were over 20 children in the small nursery, many of them seriously malnourished with some close to death. A number of the children in the cribs were 7-9 years old, yet their bodies were the size of a normal 3-year old. I picked up several, some two at a time, to hold them. We had brought a number of toys donated by my SDSU staff, and others, and it was wonderful to see their faces when we distributed them. For virtually all of them, it was their first toy. One boy was grabbing at my bag, and I didn’t understand why until I noticed he was blind. I gently moved his hands from the bag and placed a small toy in his hand.
On our way back to the airport, we stopped by a local wood carver and purchased more sculptures, some depicting Haitian women carrying the 5 gallon water bucket on their head , the only method of transporting water to their homes for many families.
We were flying to Santiago in the Dominican Republic and at the Jacmel airport we learned that two people needed a lift. With Jarrod and John on board, we took off for Santiago where we would be based for some of the supply runs this trip. Jerrod was returning to Alberta after helping Sarah with her midwifery practice, and John is the director of G.O Ministries who was helping with providing some of the supplies.
While the Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, it is a different world. One of development, prosperity, and vegetation compared to the stripped lands of Haiti.