Saturday, July 3, 2010

May 28, 2010

Bonjour from Haiti!
We arrived safely, to an airport that has recovered in spirit and has become quite functional. A Haitian rendition of a calypso band was a welcoming first sight and sound, after walking down a long, newly built reception hallway, built pre-earthquake to keep travelers off the tarmac. In January, prior to the earthquake, this addition to the airport was all of our first comment, recognizing the growth and forward movement of Haiti, yet missing the celebrity feeling of exiting directly onto the tarmac...but Brian and I knew that now on the other side of that wall was a cracked and damaged building, still not useable, previously filled with water from broken pipes, rubble from broken walls and the chaos of a broken country. To everyone else it was just a walkway to the bus, which then took us to a "remodeled" hanger, being used as the country's customs center. The friendly and happy music and vision of the Haitian musicians was an effective anxiolytic coaxing us into a relaxed frame of mind that Haiti is as resilienient as we are all trying to believe. In the customs hanger the old wood cabinet/desks were salvaged from the damages of falling walls and exploding pipes, set in the middle of a 3 story high echo chamber of a hanger, being reused, providing us with a familiar feel as we stepped forward with our passports to be stamped. Once again, we eagerly claimed on our entrance forms that our reason for entering their country was "Pleasure", and that we had no pharmaceuticals. A blunt blur of truth. All but one bag found their way to the repaired turnstile, the only missing suitcase was filled with diaper packs and peanut butter...nice but not essential. I’m hopeful that whoever establishes custody of that bag will disperse the goods for good use.
The truck ride out of the airport and through Port-Au-Prince was a dusty kaleidoscope of visions and emotions, darting from one sight to another. The familiar movement of Haitians busying themselves up and down each street was reassuring. However, the disconnect of the vision came watching them side step and seemingly ignore the massive mounds of rubble in their paths, in their houses, in their lives. Street vendors were everywhere as usual, setting their goods to the side of a mound of crumbled concrete, or arranging the rubble to suit the presentation of what they are selling or where they wanted to sit. Behind the vendors and the distorted walls of previous dwellings and stores were tents, sheets, tarps, kids, people, dogs, rubble, all blending together in a dusty, diesel filled blur. Being in the open bed trucks with 40 suitcases and 20 white people, we are a sight. Everyone on the street looks intently at us, with seeking a gaze. The traffic was slow so it was easy to make eye contact with the stares. Each Haitian, young and old smiled at my searching looks. I was momentarily reassured but permanently humbled. If I allow myself to recognize the reality of what resiliency means to a Haitian...

Our first day of clinic we were greeted with 250 people waiting patiently for us and our offerings. We were careful to not be overwhelmed by the numbers in line, taking time to listen, touch and connect with each person. The amazing consistency of maladies, concerns, way of life, from pre to post earthquake almost has me lulled into thinking that all effects of Jan 12th are forgotten.

June 2, 2010Hi from Haiti -
It's 5 am Weds morning, I LOVE waking to roosters and dogs, to sunrise and green mountains!!! With sky breaking into peeks of blue, and puffs of cotton clouds rolling down off the tops and dips of the hills, there is no rain, and there is no line at the clinic, we are happy!!! I have a peaceful heart from these visions. We've had an incredibly full week, with a team that has been able to anticipate the needs of the Haitians and has been intuitive of each other’s needs as well, both physically and emotionally. As is typical of our trips, we seemed to have everything we needed. The missioners have a skill set that has been unbelievably diversified, compassionately and carefully treating patients with infections, infestations, injuries, worms, high blood pressure, and trying to provide some comfort for the headaches of anemia and arthritis of such a hard life, that is literally always up hill. It's been so amazing to see people again and again over the years, to have a familiar Haitian hug, to see health improving in this small oasis at Mountain Top. We've had just enough health packs, just enough medications, just enough blankets, crocs, peanut butter, laughter, energy...It is more and more evident with each passing trip that we are bringing all of you with us, as you support us, help us pack and pray for our work. The only thing we seemed to be missing is more time to spend here!
We have not been able to get through a day here without a little miracle, reasons for joy but also the unstoppable tears of sadness. A 12-year-old boy blinded by cataracts likely from measles, a man without a hand and without a daughter he lost in the earthquake, a 7 lb 7 month old... I will never, ever have a completely settled mind as long as it is filled with the remembrance of sick children and the blank stares of a child with malnutrition. I will, however, discipline myself to remember that God is in control, and that He reminds us of His love and hope, and that we can be His hands and feet to do something about the happenings of this world.

I want to share a quote with you from Jimmy Valvano, who was the basketball coach for N. Carolina State. He gave a speech at the ESPT awards 1 month before he died of cancer at age 47. His words are moving..."We should do this every day. Number one is laugh, you should laugh every day. Number 2 is think, you should spend some time in thought. Number 3 is you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that 7 days a week, you're going to have something special".
Our trip has been special - thank you for being a part of it!
With much love – sue and Brian and the rest of the Little by Little Team

Friday, February 12, 2010

Feb 12, 2010

Good morning!
One month ago today, 23 of us were physically together in a village we have grown to love, in a country that will never be the same. The rest of you were together with us and Haiti via every form of media/communication possible. We have all become part of an event that literally rocked the world. The reality of this earthquake and all the images we have seen are strong for all of us, and they have moved each and every one of us into some form of action. Thank you!
For our team, our 23, the experience is more than our actions. It is multidimensional. Yes, we have images that are traumatic, even haunting, same as everyone else, but we have the blessing of remembering each person we met. We can still see into their eyes – young and old, despair, hope, laughter, love, loss, God. With these images we experience the activation of all our senses. We still feel the Haitian breeze, warm sun, cool night air; the hands we were holding, broken bones we were setting, wounds we were washing, veins we were missing, the pit in our stomach and the acid in our mouth, the warmth of the blood that was flowing…the warmth of the breath that was still pressing on and the warmth of the hearts that were breaking. We hear the sounds of Haiti – words we don’t understand, but intonation we do. Crowing, barking, drumming, singing, giggling, crying, praising, rumbling, moaning, yelling, mourning, roaring, hugging, holding. Smells of delicious food, fresh air, diesel, betadine, antibiotics, dust, death, jet fuel, soap, and clean linen wave in and out. And with each wave, the taste comes back too, some extremely pleasant, others as offensive as it can get - but all a reminder of our humanity intertwined. Simply put, we are people, together, and God is here too.
One month later Haiti is still as real as ever. Thank you for continuing to be part of this reality, for joining us in this deeply sense filled journey ~ sue

Sunday, January 31, 2010

This is what I wrote to the producer of WGN's People to People with Allison Payne in response to their request for a team interview. The show aired 1/30 and 1/31/2010.

First, thank you for your interest in our group but more importantly, for doing a story that is of a deeply humanitarian nature, rather than sensational or dramatic! Little by Little is a group of people with varied back rounds (not all medical), varied ages from 17 to 70 years, from all different emotional and faith driven places in their lives coming together to do what small amount they can to make life better for a few. By combining all of their unique personal talents, efforts and small change, our group has been able to care for over 1000 sick and vulnerable people each trip we take, and leave enough vitamins, medications and supplies for other teams that serve in the same clinic throughout the year. With these amazing (but ordinary) people who have traveled with me to Haiti, a world away - with extreme physical poverty from our American point of view - but a country of abundant stamina and strength, resilience, patience, unconditional love and compassion, hope... (remind me and I can give you examples of all) -
our whole team will tell you that we have seen the face of God in every pair of eyes we connected with, in every touch we received, in every prayer we prayed. As difficult as this earthquake has been for the Haitians and the world to experience - the beauty has been that we have experienced this together, human to human with all of our senses. My greatest hope is that this deeply empathetic response by all will continue to resound not only for the Haitians but for all in the world who are vulnerable and in need for a long time. Little by Little we can make a difference, even if it's a small difference, it matters.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Jan. 23, 2010

Dear ones who continue to read my emails…
It has been one week since our team has returned from Haiti!
I don’t know how time is able to play such mind games, making my head spin and feel as if I was still in the mist of the Haitian mountains, the warm sun and warm people, the clinic, the earthquake, the hospital chaos and days that followed, the wait on the tarmac…and concurrently feel like my time in Haiti was light years away, as I’m speaking English not Kreole to my patients, that I’m waiting in Chicago traffic, not in the back of a pick-up truck on my way to work. The other warped sensation comes from both real time and memory flashes of visuals, sounds, smells; heart palpitations, stomach turning and acid taste – not knowing if these are a result of the past or present… or that these sensations are just from watching a movie, a very powerful movie. The kind where I’ve engrossed myself as one of the characters, needing to sit in my seat for some minutes following the full credits, gaining balance of where I’m actually at in the world during that specific moment. But then I leave the theater, start conversation, have some ice cream and gain my body and mind’s normal equilibrium.
It’s hard to put into words – it’s going to take patience and some mentoring from our friend time (none of which our media blitz seems to contemplate) to process this surreal experience. We all have many stories to tell, they will come out slowly and passionately.

I am once again experiencing deep heartache, as I empathize with those who suffer from horrific injury and even more painful, from the loss or losses of those they love. I know your empathy and compassion runs equally as deep as mine. Thank you for being in that same uncomfortable place with Brian and me, with all of our teams and with the Haitians both pre and post earthquake. I draw strength from my faith and the faithfulness of others. And knowing that in all things is God, and that God is good. And God is help and hope, endurance, love, peace…My racing mind stills for a moment when I remember that God is holding close those who have died, when their suffering was more than God could bear, or just that it was their time. None of this will ever sit right with me, with us, but I think that’s how we are meant to be. So when we are in a place of discomfort we can be moved into action. I have grown to know that my broken heart is my best part… otherwise I’d just be content living my beautiful life with Brian, my great kids, family, friends, flowers, food, fun…
Thank you also for “getting it” and for being ever close, side-by-side! I apologize for not being more personal with notes and thanks – again, that rascal time keeps stealing from me, leaving each day with a shortage!
Ever grateful and with deep affection - sue

Sunday, January 17, 2010

January trip 2010

Jan. 7, 2010
Hi from Haiti to snowy Chicago!!!
Thank you all for thinking of us and praying our safe way to Haiti. We have arrived WITHOUT a glitch...every person accounted for, EVERY bag miraculously weighed exactly 50 lbs (wink, wink) as we checked in at O'Hare, and each of those precious and peanut butter filled bags appeared on the PAP side turnstile! We were out of the airport and up the mountain before dark - record time!
People were camped out waiting for our early morning arrival to the clinic. We had many preparatory meetings this year, so we we jumped off the trucks ready to go - well... a few walkers had to take a minute to wipe off their sweat (that is not a "no sweat" kind of climb). We unloaded our nicely inventoried, numbered and labeled suitcases (how impressive everyone was packing the Saturday before we left - finishing in less than 3 hours - BEFORE I even arrived!!!)...and started seeing patients. Our first patient was a tiny, elderly woman with the most radiant smile, calm disposition - wearing a stiff, old, thin, (gross) little blue dress. We learned from Willem that she had walked all day on Weds and slept outside Weds night. She was exuberant that she was our first patient! To make this short, as her story unfolded to us and her clothes were removed we saw a 2-month-old infection that was just absolutely raw and oozing, from her neck to her legs, truly the worse I have ever seen. We had no idea from her countenance the severity of her problem - We tenderly bathed her, we gently applied medicated cream, we gave her a double shot of antibiotic in her thighs (the only place we could find that was without severe infection). We covered her in lovingly made soft blankets to keep her warm, we gave her peanut butter, Crocs, a health pack, Brian's lunch, a soft T-shirt from a student's backpack...literally she was every patients need rolled into one. Throughout her painful treatment ordeal she kept smiling. Many tears were shed with the large realization of the suffering - physical/emotional - that is "underneath", but with so many of us working together both here in Haiti and all of you at home who have helped to send us here, we can relieve some of this suffering just a little bit at a time. She left with her husband by her side a few gently tears down her cheeks (the antibiotic shots hurting her legs? or the sweet tears of human connection?) - we were told by an interpreter that they would be walking for at least 12 hours and would be home early morning...It was cold and rainy here last night, but the clouds have cleared and the sun is peaking over the mountains. We are sure they are seeing the same sun on the other side of the mountain and that our little lady friend is feeling better today :) I hope you are seeing the sun sparkling in your yards and driveway this morning! We are thinking of all of you and are grateful for your prayers and support!
Brian and sue

Jan 11, 2010
Dear Friends -
As we pack to go home we are looking at over 40 completely empty suitcases - and with each empty suitcase is a memory of an infant snuggled in a blanket and soft diaper; a child with colorful Crocs on his growing feet and a bar of soap to wash those feet; an adolescent with a toothbrush; a mother with a bandaid; so many infections and diseases treated with so many different medications; both the strong and week slathered with creams to combat the intensity of an itsy bitsy mite (scabies). The amazement and pure joy in the return of a child who recovered from malnutrition through the determination of a father, many prayers and eating a peanut butter porridge. Severe burns and puncture wounds; sky high blood pressure and beautiful mountains; pregnancy and death; teeth rotted to the root, smiles as wide as the river; healthy babies, people who don't know how old they are or their birthday; sharing sandwiches, shirts and shoes, smiles and tears, human touch, humanity together in Haiti. We are returning home with empty bags but full hearts! And as we will fill the bags again soon, our hearts will continue to overflow.
With gratitude and fondness,
Brian and sue

Jan 12, 2010
Hello Everyone!
We want to get the word out to as many people as possible that we are all ok after a very large earthquake. Please pray for our Haitian friends and keep them close to your hearts as we try to recover from this event.
There is much damage here, but again, we are ok and so is the house we are staying in.
We will contact you as soon as we can. We are due to leave tomorrow afternoon, but we will have to see how the roads are and if the airport is open. Please get words to our families if you are able to.

Jan 13, 2010
Maggie -
I am in awe at the outpouring of compassion and empathy of all our family and friends, and their family and friends and others we don't even know...
We are certainly seeing first hand so many people who need help. Little by Little can accept donations for earthquake relief.
our website is :
our address is : Little by Little PO box 934 Glenview, IL 60025
You can certainly send this info out to anyone who might request :)
Love you so much and can't wait until dad and I can talk with you and Kyle for an extended time. Please call Kyle and tell him in person that we are safe and how hard it is to make calls and send mails! xo mom

Jan 14, 2010
"Hi everyone,

I just got off the phone with my dad. The phones are back up after being dead yesterday, but of course they have limited access to the phone and internet, so I'm relaying his message to the best of my ability :) They are all still safe and hanging in there, despite the tremors and aftershocks, one yesterday that - as a tremor - registered 6.0!
He said that they might be able to leave today, as they've heard that the airport will be open for private jets that fly in with aid. It sounds like they will be able to head back to Miami on one of these jets from Walsh Construction, I believe, in shifts of 11 people. Surely some of the details may change, but they are in contact with the right people and are hopeful that they will be able to get back stateside either tonight or tomorrow. They spent yesterday back up at the clinic and will likely be back today as well making use of the time that they are there to be of help where they are needed.
Of course they, and I, are so thankful for your prayers and support. I will let you know if I hear anything else. "

Jan 14, 2010
Just quickly while I have internet access I want to clarify Maggie's email - we are totally fine, we are safe, we have food and water, and we have peaceful mountains and brilliant sun! We are all packed and will be ready to go whenever either the commercial planes (AA) are available or when any other option may be available. The route to the airport is safe and clear and all the Haitians everywhere are so appreciative of the help the rescue teams (which we are identified as) are providing. The humanitarian aid is so important, so essential and certainly a priority. We are on Haitian time, which means being calm and patient with no clock watching or any particular certain agenda...
Just keep the injured and those in need in your prayers, and be reassured by this email that we are well. We are so absolutely blessed to have such loving and well connected family and friends at home, all working together to first get help here to the Haitians, but at the same time bring us back home to all of you. We do love you all so, and feel uplifted by all your prayers.
Sue and Brian

Jan 16, 2010
Dear team #7, friends, family,
We are home safely, but our hearts are in Haiti...
We are so grateful for your love and concern, your prayers and support for us and all of our team, and we want you to know that we felt every moment that we were held closely by you and our loving God. We know also that at the same time you have kept all the Haitian people in those same thoughts and prayers! You have all heard us talk previously about the strength, patience and resiliency of our friends in Haiti, of their peaceful and loving countenance, in spite of desperate situations. We have truly seen the face of God in both the Haitians eyes as they endure and in each selfless expression of compassion given by both our team and other rescue workers in the immediate hours following this disaster. I know we will continue to see God's hands and feet as Haiti continues to be cared for by so many. Brian and I were talking after mass this morning and came to this conclusion...This earthquake and the misery, destruction, devastation and death it brought came from below, but love, strength, help, hope and life will come from above! Please continue to pray for Haiti.
Brian and Sue