Sitting on the flight home from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti to Manchester UK, I begin to get a real live sense of what it might feel like to be locked away in the Haiti women’s prison we visited just earlier today.
But wait a minute, how dare I compare a plane journey to prison life? Yes, my back is aching from sleeping upright, I feel claustrophobic, trapped in, hot and bothered, irritable. My husband has just been violently sick in the bathroom so there is an element of threat from me getting poorly. Yet in just three more hours this will all be over and I will be free, I will be back in Manchester, a city that seems so easy in comparison to the hell I saw today.
How can I even begin to selfishly compare this plane flight home to a confined, stinking prison cell with some cells overcrowded with over thirty plus women crammed in? If I need the bathroom I can just slip out of my seat, walk up the aisle to the left or right of me and go to a fully functioning toilet. I don’t have to do my business in a bucket right here in the middle aisle amongst people. I can wash my hands with soap and water and even freshen up my face. Not to mention the fact that I have a pack of baby wipes to hand to get that ‘fresh feeling’. How dare I even compare this slightly uncomfortable journey home with what I witnessed today? These people surrounding me don’t smell like rotten cheese. Most of these people probably took a shower or two already in the last twenty four hours.
Guess what? My stomach is full of food. Granted I feel a little queasy after a week spent in a developing country, but I just ate a lovely American Airlines pasta dish, with a side salad and dressing, followed by cheese and biscuits and a caramel brownie. To wash it down I had not one, but two drinks … a lovely cold glass of fresh apple juice and a bottle of fresh drinking water.
I don’t need to hand the stewardesses desperate little notes begging them for things do I? I don’t need to slip them notes that read ‘please, I need the equivalent of 50p for clean water’ or ‘please, I have been locked away here for up to five years with no sentence or trial, please advocate for me’. No I don’t have to do that. If I want water I can take a short walk to the back of the plane and help myself to a glass of cold water, and if I fancy gorging any further, why not grab a bag of complimentary salted pretzels to go with it?
Sitting still, hemmed in by a sleeping Zoe and Dave (people I actually love, not complete scary strangers) yes, my knees are a bit sore, I’m exhausted, my mind is whirring from the images I’ve seen after a week spent in Haiti, some things I wish I could un-see or un-feel, but I can’t. I can’t because I’ve seen it for this very reason, to communicate a message to you reading this.
I urge you to be grateful every day for every good thing that is in your life. Honestly, it isn’t relative to what Haitian people are going through. That used to be my one liner before this last week. Although this might seem harsh, how can your circumstances be relative to a massive earthquake destroying your home, forcing you to live in a make shift corrugated tin house, then realising that your little girl has become sick with seizures and learning difficulties due to the after shock?
How can anything we experience be relevant to legs being chopped off by relatives because there is no access to a hospital via ambulance because the roads are all blocked off with collapsed buildings?
How can anything we experience be as harrowing as being a twenty-year-old girl trapped from the neck down in the dark, hot, rubble of what was her kitchen alone for thirty whole minutes?
How can anything be as bad as your spouse getting caught up and killed in the earthquake, leaving you and your two children behind to fend for themselves in a dry, hot place, where actually your only source of income is crops, that now years on have all died due to drought?
When this plane lands in now 2 hours thirty I won’t be in danger for my life. There won’t be riots just outside my home, and there is no imminent threat of yet another devastating earthquake. Yet to be honest, even if there was, the carnage wouldn’t be half as severe because our buildings are built properly, we have a good police force, we have the army for reinforcement and access to hundreds of fire engines. Not just the one for the entire island.
Does your life really compare? I’ve lost people close to me to cancer, but they died in hospital beds with family around them and on pain medication to ease the blow.
The biggest heartbreak I experienced was when my parents divorced. Yet the physical aching of my heart driving through the streets of Haiti just doesn’t compare. The poverty on the island just doesn’t let up. It’s all over it.
Is poverty really ‘relative’ ....
Please pray with me for the ongoing amazing work of Compassion who are making such a real difference to mothers, babies and children’s lives.
Please join with me in praying for political stability in Haiti.
Please also join with me and pray for justice for some of the women who have been locked away for nearly a decade and are yet to go to trial to get their sentence.
Together we can do our bit, small changes all add up to big ones. Please I urge you play your part.