A LETTER TO CARRIE - Midwives For Haiti


Dear Carrie,

I will think of you a lot this week while we are in Haiti. The events of the week will be familiar to you. Right now, it is 5 a.m. Watching the sunrise over the banana trees is one of the most peaceful moments of the day. There is that subtle, underlying rhythmic roar of the world turning. But, even now, there is a cacophony of sounds – the roosters (of course!) and dogs, people chattering as they walk to market, the mototaxis. Not long ago, there was the insistent beat of the voodoo drum in the distance. Soon, we will be in the full mix of the day, surrounded by crowds, honking horns, those suffering with illness and hunger, laughter and singing, smells of cook fires, rubbish amidst natural beauty, and on and on. You know what I mean. Later, there will be time to go the “prayer hill”. For a few moments, we will seek and find a Sabbath respite.

As we participate in this day and beyond, there will always be the essence of you. We will know this as individuals, yes, but also, as a passion known as Midwives For Haiti. With your life comes a poignant reminder that we embody, often with great intention, sometimes through the subconscious, your lessons that lead us forward. Relationships lay a foundation. Those first graduates are now lifelong friends. What a delight to see them mature! Beyond them, the list is extensive. We are student and teacher. Hundreds of volunteers come in solidarity of a worthy cause. We bond with the many who champion this service. Staff and teachers are like a family away from home. There are matrons, government ministers, priests, and other organizations. You know there are more. And, then, there are the pregnant women and their newborns.

Mother and child. There must be many ways to break into the world’s ongoing cycles of poverty, disease, violence, etc. But, service to mothers-to-be would seem to be a most powerful one. The domino effect almost surely should be a positive one. Prenatal care leads to less maternal illness. This and increased delivery skills beget healthier babies. That new family has a better start. A healthier family plus the service of midwives educating the community strengthen all. And we serve Haiti by bringing healthcare to the rest of the family, freely passing our wisdom to others, and taking our stories to the world so that others may also serve in their many and varied ways. You have seen the power of service.

You remind us that for these relationships and services to mature into lasting and positive worth, there must be determination and persistence. Granted, as a redhead, you already have the advantage on me. Still, it is hard to imagine a more determined group of people than those with MFH. Those hundreds of midwives from around the world all come with a focused look and an attitude that says, “A pregnant lady is in trouble, and I must do something about it.” For nine years, volunteers have returned over and over again. And with each visit, paz a pa (step by step), we continue this marathon of hope and service. That it is doing well in many ways validates the determination and makes the persistence all the easier.

Humility. We cannot walk the dusty streets of Haiti with arrogance on our sleeves. In deed, it is quite the opposite. We must quietly step down from our dais of privilege if we are to honestly and effectively witness here. And, then, we must strive to keep our hearts humble even as we return home. Humility is a way of life to be fostered constantly. Often, it is recognized in life. People know and appreciate. Sometimes, the exclamation point is added after life. You are proof to both points. MFH is a great act of service. But, that is not enough. We cannot mop the soiled floors of maternal delivery, treat each and every patient with deserved dignity, get on our knees in the dust to examine and treat, and embrace without hesitation those in distress without first stripping some of the prideful veneer from ourselves and commit to carrying the cross of love to the world.

And through all of these – the bond of relationships, service to others, the discipline of persistence in endeavors, and fostering a humble heart – we all, each in our own way, follow a lifelong path of pursuing the Spiritual. This is not an easy path. But, apparently you understand well the struggles and rewards of this journey. Please continue to run beside us during the struggles and dance with joy at our epiphanies. And both will happen.

Two days ago we crossed 21 riverbeds to get to the remote village of Cabestor. There is a beautiful new birthing center named in your honor.  It is not yet open for business, but there have already been three births. This community of 13,000 people has long lacked obstetric and general medical care. Three hundred people crowded our clinics those two days. Many more were turned away. Late that first afternoon, the medical team put a few basic tools in our medical backpacks and headed up a rugged path and into the hills for some house calls. At the first compound was the 11-day old infant who unofficially christened your birthing center. Another fifteen minutes up the mountain was “grandmother Lulu”, three generations of family, and at least 10 minimally dressed grandchildren. As we left through the front gate, there was an elderly man with a broad smile. “Please come to my house. Someone there is very sick.” How could we not go? The team slowly hiked up the trail. He skipped lightly and without effort on soles thickly leathered with use. The dirt of the compound had been freshly swept. Coconut palms framed the vista. Lake Peligre peaked through the distant horizon. Inside, the dirt floor hut was meticulously clean. In the dim back room a double bed mattress lay on the ground. An ornately carved headboard leaned against the wall. Six years ago, his wife had a sudden and catastrophic brain injury. She was instantly paralyzed from the neck down and able to communicate only with subdued and slurred speech.  But, her physical exam was remarkable! Anyone who has ever cared for a total care patient would have marveled at her care. She was well nourished. Her skin was soft and without any evidence of ulcer. Every joint was supple. He lay down beside her, gave her a loving hug, and showed us his self-learned physical therapy routine. We were amazed and could offer only our profound and impressed affirmation for the remarkable care he was providing. But, that, plus a bag of lotions and soaps, was enough. On the walk back down the mountain I pondered what we had seen. There was a loving relationship, selfless and unconditional service to one in need, and a persistent and determined commitment to what was required. And in that brief encounter, without spoken evangelical word or pounding of pulpit, I knew that we had, indeed, witnessed the Spiritual.

And I thought, again, of you.

Carrie, the sun is up. It is time to load the Pink Jeep [OK, so now it is a white Land Cruiser] with duffel bags of supplies, our backpacks filled with your wisdom, and head out for today. Come along. There will always be a seat for you.

Alape’ [Go in Peace]

Zamni ou [your friend],

Ken Heatwole

(Caroline Dawn Wortham 7/14/1989 – 9/5/2015)