The military was not about to leave anything of value to the Aristide government, so they took what they could and trashed the rest.”
We entered the building and were led to the office of the newly appointed director of the hospital, where we also met with several members of the faculty and medical staff. The director was quite candid. “We have nothing!”
After introductions in English and French, and a brief statement from each of us as to what we hoped to accomplish, we embarked on the tour. To Marlon and Jerry’s surprise, with the exception of the presence of one or two nursing student volunteers on some of the wards, the official tour showed us pretty much the same conditions as we had seen the day before.
After the tour, our caravan weaved through the pedestrian traffic from the center of Port-au-Prince to St. Catherine’s Hospital in Cité Soleil.
“Cité Soleil is the lowest point in the city,” Dale, our driver explained. “It was where they unloaded the slaves in colonial days. During the Papa Doc years, they changed the name to Cité Simone, in honor of his wife. They resettled people from the countryside during those years. It was never intended to be permanent. Now, there are people who have lived their entire lives there.”
The neighborhoods we passed through were clearly poor, with small, one-room homes built of concrete blocks. Many were unfinished, doorless, windowless echoes of life in the poorest country in the hemisphere. Once, crossing over a river of open sewage, I asked, “Is this Cité Soleil?”
“Not yet,” responded Dale.
Ten minutes later, we took a left turn. The narrow road dropped 10 feet in elevation, flattened out, and plunged straight ahead into a seemingly endless plain of cardboard and tin shacks. Footpaths snaked between the shacks, and wisps of smoke rose from the open fires used for cooking. The smell of urine and feces intermingled with smoke and the aroma of cinnamon and vanilla. There was even more life in the streets—buying, selling, sidewalk industry—than in