For the past year I have been part of a group planning to travel to the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) mission in Kobonal, Haiti. We are currently scheduled to go in early November, but as you no doubt know, there is currently an outbreak of a very virulent form of cholera in parts of the country. (A recent update on the situation can be found here, an explanation of the disease can be found here.)
Obviously, this has us greatly concerned and we are monitoring the situation as closely as possible and are in constant communication with the mission. We will no doubt be making a go/no-go decision sometime in the next few days, as the situation warrants. (One site of particular benefit so far has been BioSurveillance, who made the map above.)
As someone who has taught classes on social justice and thinks about these issues often, I find my mind wandering in many different directions concerning this terrible outbreak and our planned trip.
If you read my previous post about “practical solidarity,” you might understand what I mean when I say that I’m not particularly concerned about contracting cholera should I go to Haiti in the next few days. I am confident that I have access to all the things I need to prevent exposure to the bacteria, and should I get it, to the resources needed to treat the disease and secure evacuation back to the United States.
That comes with being an American with the means to go to Haiti in the first place. The injustice in this is the situation facing the people of Haiti. It is an incredibly poor country in the first place, devastated by an enormous earthquake just 9 months ago, and now facing a cholera outbreak presumably caused by recent heavy rains that contaminated the rivers which provide water. What an injustice for a people to be continually beaten down by such circumstances?
I have the luxury of making the decision not to go, not to put myself in any sort of peril because of this situation. That’s the easy choice to make. Except that it’s not.
My decision to become a part of this group and go to Haiti was prompted by a deeply placed yet inchoate sense of mission. I’ve made almost 20 trips to Central America over the past 10 years and it has left me with a desire to do something, to make some contribution to the work of the Church in those mission areas.
When I first met Fr. Glenn Meaux of the SOLT mission in Kobonal, it didn’t take me long to decide to be part of the group going to assist his work. (Learn about the mission here.) The work he is doing is so important to the people there and I would like to use my meager skills to be of some assistance, if I can.
It is frustrating to contemplate postponing our trip again (we delayed going last April because of the January earthquake), but I completely understand the reasons why we must consider it.
I hope we can still go. I hope we can be of service to the people of Kobonal. But, not because I will it, but because God wills it. It is frustrating to wait for the “perfect time” to go, when I feel there will never be a “perfect time” in a country like Haiti.
I’ll let ya know.