Blog post written by Dorene Palermo.

Morning came early. At 7:30am the van and a “tap tap” pulled into the courtyard. For two days Jules and Marge had been gathering the clothes, shoes, and dresses from all our suitcases into their room. Their beds were piled high with little clothes, sorted into sizes. Ten large suitcases and two bags were loaded into the “tap tap” to deliver the clothes to Nadege, the principal of the school at Terre Noire. Richard, Neal, Arnold, and I squeezed into the back with the luggage. The rest of the team headed straight to the clinic at Cite Soliel to open the clinic.

The trip to Terre Noire (Blanchard to some people) was even more exciting than our previous trip in the “tap tap.” Not only did the traffic threaten to climb into the back with us, the road was partially submerged for long stretches. We bounced across five or six small, clay-gray lakes that replaced the shattered road. School children in their uniforms walked carefully around the water on either side. A car behind us got stuck, and traffic going both ways came to a stop. Fortunately we were ahead of it and could continue on.

Terre Noire’s campus is surrounded by warm, yellow walls and as the gate opened, I felt so welcome. I have been to the school there twice before and the little children in their neat uniforms and carefully groomed hair, polished shoes, going down walkways clean enough to eat on is a warm and pleasant sight.

Our translator and another young man began to unload the “tap tap” and put the bags on the sidewalk as Nadege came to greet us. We were uncertain as to what we were supposed to do, but Nadege welcomed us with a warm smile and about that time a few small children with 3×5 cards paper-clipped to their collars arrived and sat on the bench against the wall. Neal and I greeted our students, and with the help of the translator, explained we had met them a year ago and gave them the little presents we had brought along. Pat, Taylor, and Jane who were not on this trip sent gifts to their sponsored students, and Neal and I gave those gifts to them.


After the children left, Nadege was looking at all the luggage we had unloaded. I told her these were the dresses, clothes, and shoes we brought to her. She looked at them all and then asked, “May I use some of them for the school?” I said, “Of course. We brought them to YOU. Anything that the schools can use. Of course if you know some other children that need something, you can give some to them. It is up to you. We have brought these to you.” She looked stunned. She asked me again and I replied the same thing. We had not given her any idea about how much we were bringing so I think she was a little overwhelmed. She smiled then and the smile said it all.

Thursday we will come back to visit a classroom at the school and give new clothes to the students there. I can’t wait.

We climbed back in the tap tap and headed back to the clinic. When we got there things were well underway, everyone now experts in their roles. Richard had now moved to his own exam room and we added another translator for him. We now had all 4 doctors and 5 nurses going full speed ahead.
It was amazing to see Marge direct the flow of patients, to hear the occasional cry of a child, to watch the translators and the triage nurses with the patients large and small. The patients were indeed “patient” as they sat outside the door of each doctor, looking forward to the care they would be receiving. The pharmacy had become a non-stop operation, so much that half of the morning passed before Neal and Helen had time to greet each other properly. Last year the lab had some activity, but not so much. This year it looks like Grand Central Station, and Jami was kept hopping. It is interesting how different the mix of patients is this year from last.

By 2:30pm today the ace clinic team had again run out of patients. They served slightly less than our goal of 110 so we will hope that tomorrow we will have an opportunity to see even more. This is a wonderful group that works so well together it is fun to watch. Patience, flexibility, and creativity on the part of everyone certainly has made things go even more smoothly than last year

So we went home a little early, but clearly drained from the effort. Sitting around waiting for the wi-fi to come on and getting the air conditioners to restart was about as ambitious as we were for a while.

About 4pm, the tap tap filled with the awesome wooden Einstein bowls pulled through the gate. These are beautiful handcrafted wooden bowls, true works of art. The man carefully unloaded and unwrapped the stacks of bowls from the back of the tap tap, arranging them carefully on the retaining wall in the courtyard, under the watchful eye of the wizened old woman who apparently was in charge. The man carefully affixed the prices to each type of bowl with little round green stickers. Sleepy, slow moving team members gradually emerged from their rooms or from the gazebo by the pool to look over the beautiful art, and began to choose items for Christmas presents or to bring to WPC to the One World Market next week, or just to take home and enjoy on their own table. When everyone was done looking and shopping Einstein’s folks re-wrapped each bowl in paper, put them back in the tap tap, and headed back to wherever it is they are made. Artisans on the street outside the hotel’s gate were not at all happy that Einstein could bring his wares into the courtyard but they had to stay on the street.

We were all glad when dinner finally came – it seemed like forever – at 6pm. After devotions, and few discussions of “business,” we headed off to our rooms, worn out but having had a really good day!