Urgent Circumstances in Haiti
Over the past many weeks, there have been some shocking and grueling personal stories from Haiti. Father Rick has shared some thoughts with us and we asked if we could share his words with you, too, because many of you have called and asked for updates, inquired about our friends and colleagues, and are generally curious and concerned about how things are going in the country:
I write this letter fully aware of the continued devastation of the war in Ukraine, with so many serious consequences and even worries of nuclear war.
I am also very shocked and saddened by the tremendous destruction and loss of life by Hurricane Ian in Florida.
I am following with deep sympathy the destruction by the powerful storms devastating most of the countries in Central America, and the ongoing plight of so many refugees in that area and worldwide.
If you are reading this, it’s because the people of Haiti are also important to you, as they are to me. I have never in my life seen such a confluence of destructive forces as are afflicting the people here. There really are no words to describe what is happening.
I know that news of Haiti is scant, and I feel the need in the face of such silence to give some news as a wake-up call.
Gangs are destroying the fabric of civilization here, kidnappings are of the highest rate in the world. Kidnapping terrorizes the population, bankrupts families, drives competent people into exile.
Everyone in Haiti is hemmed in by violence, fear, riots, blocked roads, depletion of fuel, widespread hunger, rampant internal displacement of the population, and now a wave of deadly cholera. These are, no kidding, just a few of the plagues.
There is no one in the country unaffected by this convulsion of the nation.
We have mostly been spared direct harm, but not totally. We have had a number of kidnapped or assaulted staff. We have many, many displaced workers.
This past Friday on my way to Cite Soleil, I defended an unknown person who was being assaulted, and I was taken by my throat and thrown to the ground on my back.
I seem to have expected immunity from such treatment, being a priest, a physician, a foreigner and a senior citizen. I see now that all bets are off.
But in working with cholera patients these days, especially helping in neglected areas like the prison, for sure my own sufferings are very minimal, and it’s best to put my hands back on the plow.
Witnessing the trashing of human dignity from up close, as a physical and spiritual caregiver, as a brother in solidarity, but also as a shepherd, I would like to state my firm conviction that when raids on human dignity are unspeakable, you and I have only one course of action: We must be fully human in everything we think, feel, do and say. We must witness to the highest vision of humanity and show the highest road.
It is our best defense and offense to do so. The Christian view of humanity is very exalted.
In this time of enormous constraints, we are still good at what we have always been good at, getting in between the cracks. We know how to get where many others cannot reach, for the benefit of those trapped there.
We know how to get at least some things done, when for many others it seems like a dead end.
We are, these days, doing a ton of work by getting in between the cracks and reaching the isolated.
We can, and we do, give our blood, sweat, tears and the years of our lives. But none of us has money. We need to count on you for that. But we know we are blessed also by you friendship, concern and prayers.
Here is what the poet Rumi wrote about the cracks that have become our beaten path:
“I said: what about my eyes?
He said: Keep them on the road.
I said: What about my passion?
He said: Keep it burning.
I said: What about my heart?
He said: Tell me what you hold inside it?
I said: Pain and sorrow.
He said: Stay with it. The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
God bless you for whatever help you can give us, so we can raise up humanity together.
Father Rick Frechette, CP, D.O.
October 10, 2022
NPH Haiti was co-founded by Father William Wasson and Father Rick Frechette, CP, D.O., in 1987. Father Rick has worked in Haiti ever since. Seeing the scarcity of health care, he became a doctor in 1989, and ran NPH’s St. Damien Pediatric Hospital for many years. Today, he serves as an advisor to NPH.