Haiti. One and a half hour ago we felt -always with fear and respect- a little grown up already… more than adolescent… tremor. Five minutes later, we receive a call from our hospital-centre with the information that all the patient children and their relatives, terrified, had left for the courtyard with their blankets and mats, to the cold of the evening… Again we had to go there to calm them down, and try to make them return inside. It took much time and translators’ work to convince them and make them return to the dormitory halls… That’s life. May the Lord have mercy on us.
Jimaní, this little Dominican border town of some 18,000 inhabitants, only 45 km away from the Haitian capital, has become centre of many humanitarian government and non-government institutions and, at the same time, centre of recollection and storage of humanitarian aid, coming from the Dominican Republic and from the global village of our planet. Aside from that, Jimaní has two special institutions that have deserved these days marks of excellence in the generous and unconditional dedication to the suffering Haitian population. They are the “Melencian General Hospital” and the Social Centre of the Catholic parish, “San José Nutrition and Formation Centre.”
Would you like to contact in a humanitarian way with Haitians who have been damaged by this nameless earthquake? It is not necessary to reach the capital of Haiti, Puerto Príncipe, to get in contact with wounded and decimated by the cruel tragedy of the 12th. Just come to these two mentioned humanitarian centres of Jimaní.
The wounded started arriving from the first moment, and continue arriving till now moved, on one hand, by desperation and, on the other, by the kind and welcoming soul of the Dominican people. The possible daily animosities and the small ancestral prejudices between Haitians and Dominicans, explained by History and the “histories” of both peoples, have given in to a wave of compassion and mercy in the Dominicans and of confidence and gratitude in the Haitians, in a parallel proportion to the tremendous disaster.
But there is also an important psychological and humanitarian element, complimentary to those mentioned above: Only six years ago, in May 2004, Jimaní was a victim of a natural calamity that demolished part of the population and left more than three hundred fifty Dominicans and more than two thousand Haitians dead and disappeared: a devastating flood, caused by continuous very intensive rains, sowed desolation and death. The inhabitants of Jimaní experienced in themselves, as receivers, the national and international solidarity. Now it is their turn to become active senders of solidarity, following the popular saying “today for mi, tomorrow for you.” For these reasons, many inhabitants have opened their houses to receive Haitian relatives of those in the hospital, collections have been made to give economic aid, food has been given to those in need, many volunteers have been mobilized to attend to the damaged, etc. How good it is that… love and solidarity are repaid with solidarity and love!
With regards to the “Melencian General Hospital”, hundreds of wounded Haitians arrived to this frontier town with the intention to go to the simple health centre of Jimaní, with capacity for about thirty (!) beds. The medical personnel -doctors and nurses- the available beds and medicines, the medical instruments, the halls, corridors and free spaces of the hospital… everything became minimal before the urgent avalanche of badly wounded people: seriously wounded or crippled people, some with the painful as well as unavoidable need of mutilation of members to avoid the advance of the fatal gangrene…
We have to emphasize that generally from the first moment, not only the professional health personnel, with their exemplary and heroic work, but also all the people of Jimaní unanimously responded and splendidly went our of their way in an attitude of generous service to receive and attend to the poor damaged people.
And together with the hospital, the ‘San José Nutrition and Formation Centre’ run by the Catholic Church.
The Claretian Missionaries accepted some three years ago to take pastoral care, as a new missionary challenge, of this zone that forms part of the “Deep South,” considered as the most impoverished region of the Dominican Republic. After two years of ministry, the missionaries thought it opportune and necessary to build in a land, property of the diocese of Barahona, this social centre in which we offer and conduct medical campaigns, formation conferences for mothers, workshops of formation in human and Christian values, courses of sawing and dressmaking, of cooking, youth encounters, community assemblies, etc. Soul and moving power of this centre, both in the construction and in the operation phases, is Fr. Roselio Díaz Heredia, dedicated with juvenile enthusiasm to his ministry as pastor of the Parish of San José de Jimaní.
Well now, this centre has opened wide its doors to Haitian damaged people, preferably children. There are two halls, equipped with mats with a capacity for about 35 wounded to receive mainly children, sent by the nearby hospital after the cure of their wounds, in a nice collaboration between the State health centre and the Church social centre. The children accepted -more than a hundred till now- are attended to by four general doctors and two paediatricians, two psychologists and technical personnel. Thanks to God the Dominican Department of Public Health has provided the medical personnel and has also given us serum, medicines and food for these badly injured children.
The tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes cruelly cause desolation, affliction and death, in their wake. But, at the same time, they efficaciously awaken the noblest conscience of the human beings to convoke them to solidarity, to generous sharing and to fraternal feelings. And this is true not only of those who experience and live the tragedy at close range, like the inhabitants of Jimaní, but of every human being who lives anywhere in the world. All are convoked to the Great Fraternity by the way of generous solidarity. It not possible to remain cold and impassive in the face of tragedy, as mere onlookers. You must give! You must give yourself! And you, what? Will you be only a TV watcher, or a generous benefactor, efficient and caringly authentic helper? Yon have the answer.
A hug from Jimaní, this frontier town.