Written by Christina Palmieri.
Suddenly it was Friday, the week flew by, we had the last of the cold showers and were eager to head to Batey Guaymate. There was an unspoken sadness, our last clinic day was upon us. As we loaded the bus, a quick rain shower painted a full rainbow across Santa Rosa avenue, we were off! The ride was scenic; the road was lined with sugarcane stalks waxing and waning in the wind. The sky was blue, and the sun was beating down on the workers, the intermittent cloud cover allowing shade were not often enough. Believe it or not, the laborers had been in the fields harvesting since 3am, it was now 8.
Eventually there was a pop up village and we had arrived. The little engine that could, or our indestructible bus with the infamous turning radius, roared through the community. The bumpy dirt roads were quiet and the community members were sparse. A few elderly gentlemen awaited our arrival, they looked sharp.
We could see the sugarcane fields at the end of the road, which more resembled a path, it was only about 6 houses until horizon faded into infinite sugarcane again.
Overall, the surroundings were slightly different today. The community was entirely self-sufficient, the goats and chickens were corralled in yards, the papaya and coconut trees were scattered in between. A young teenage male stood and sharpened his machete, shortly later there was a loud thud on a tin roof alerting us to the same young male who had climbed up the tree.
We began set up in a rectangular cinder block community center. The concrete container was no more than 60′x30′ with a few worn wooden benches and repurposed plastic chairs scattered about. Soon, with all hands-on deck, all the clinic stations were assembled and the unsightly space was now inviting and prepared to help of all who were lining up outside.
Our education station was held outside in a family’s yard under a large weathered tree. Mom was looking on as we set up, when starting our talks, she paid close attention, with one babe on her hip, the other two holding her other free hand. Before long, the rest of the children had heard some of the commotion and began emerging by the masses. Many of them were in clothes more tattered than the next, their noses were running, yet we had no tissues to offer. This would have driven many of us crazy, would our smiles have persisted? I’m not sure we could push through this simple discomfort without visible wincing and audible complaining.
It was clear to see the children took care of each other here, they charged like a stampede for toothbrushes, but also shared with their siblings and cousins. The thing about this community was that there we’re both Spanish and Haitian Creole members, it was hard to communicate, but there were so many moments where we all connected. Hands were held, paddy cake was perfected, and young babies were scooped up, held, and cuddled.
Many of the elderly gentlemen wore new glasses with pride, many mommas were sent home with vitamins and pain medicine for the “all over body aches,” which were brought to our attention far too often. The mothers, fathers, grandparents all wore the stresses of life in their face and their musculoskeletal system. If only they could take a break and get a massage, that’s something that happens in the United States, but not here. They push on, day in, day out, and they have so much to be proud of. I greatly admire their strength, their resilience, and their dedication to most essential and basic of needs, life, love and faith in themselves, each other, and the community whether it be near or far.
Rainbow greeted us while getting on bus in the morning
A game of duck, duck, goose
kids in line for t-shirts