With the TWA group (photo credit: JZ)
On Saturday morning I went with a few members of the Canadian volunteering group to a children's malnutrition clinic located not too far away from our house in Port-au-Prince. When visiting schools and clinics as part of my own schedule I am usually lucky enough to have a driver and a well air-conditioned 4x4 to transport me directly from A to B. I was therefore interested to learn that I would be taking a tap-tap and then walking on the busy streets in order to reach our destination.
Colourful tap taps on Delmas
After a brief wait, we were finally let in to the clinic. There were a group of women sitting on the roadside opposite the building, looking at our group with hostility; I was later told that these were mothers of some of the malnourished children who would not be allowed in until midday and were scornful that we were allowed in before them. We were met with a chorus of high-pitched howling: the children, aged between 0 and 3/4 and around 24 in total, were hungry and hadn't yet been fed breakfast yet so we got to work immediately. The nurses didn't speak much French or any English and so communication was a struggle. Before I could get my bearings, a bowl of what appeared to be porridge oats was thrust into my hands and I was pointed in the direction of a cot which had been numbered ("Ou! vingt-deux!").
The first few seconds at the clinic were somewhat bewildering. I sheepishly made my way to a cot and met a small baby girl who couldn't have been more than six or seven months old, although I couldn't be sure. Some babies and children had tags on their feet with their name, age and other information. Some did not. I came to learn that many of the latter were orphaned, and so their vital details were unknown to the clinic and thus to us. As there were only four of us, it was difficult to be completely attentive or bond properly with the babies. I must have spent too much time with Twenty Two (unfortunately, she did not have a tag) because the porridge bowl was just as swiftly taken from my hands and I was issued a new bowl for a new baby. Thankfully a second volunteering group arrived and the children were attended to more efficiently.
Celebrating a birthday with the TWA group