Is WATER such a critical issue…for real??
Pastor just yelled up at me, “Sorry, Gramma Lynn. We have not water.” He’s been working on the generator all morning. But he isn’t talking about MY drinking water. He’s concerned I might not get a shower today. I’m not concerned… I have wipes, hand sanitizer, a bandana to pull back my hair. And he doesn’t let me drink the well water anyway. I will surely survive, I won’t get sick because the generator is broken AGAIN.
Up on my balcony, Emil (14) and Kebi (10) are mopping up the remnants of last night’s downpour, despite my protests. They are two of the sweetest boys, cleaning up for Gramma with big grins on their faces. Like it’s a privilege that I invited them up. I invited them up to have a quiet, clean space to tend their wounds. Both boys have raw gaping gashes on their shins. It would appear that someone sliced them with a machete. But no. The problem is not so much that they got scraped as kids will do, but that the cuts have not been cleaned, due to lack of water. Bugs are crawling all over the puss-filled lacerations.
A cut in Pignon is not just a quick ouch with a couple days to heal. The muddy water that the kids slosh through and even the dry dirt they usually play on, are breeding grounds for bacteria. ( I arrived in Haiti 10 days ago with some insignificant rash on two fingers – probably Oregon poison oak. Typically it would blister, then ooze a bit, then dry up without much thought or treatment. But this time I noticed it wasn’t healing, but getting worse. I wash my hands 20 times a day here but realized it needed more help so I applied Neosporin and bandaged it. It’s healing quickly now. But I’m trying to imagine what could happen if I waited for a weekly bath to get it cleaned. I think it could look like a bug-infested machete gash quickly.)
Back to the boys…Kebi first showed me his cut (actually, Emil dragged him up to me and lifted Kebi’s dirty jogging pant so I could see. Kebi was embarrassed) on Monday. I tried to find out from him how long it had looked like this – if we understood each other, he said one week. I would have thought it was months…the gash is ringed in black, which is very tender to the touch. At first glance I thought “infected” and told Pastor he might have to see a doctor. But we decided to give first aid a chance. No running water available, so I filled a bowl, and got a few clean towels. (“Clean” is relative – these towels were washed in questionable well water, and probably laid to dry on rocks.) I used soapy water, and then hydrogen peroxide which frothed like crazy, and alcohol wipes. But I could not get over the fact that his dirty pants would be pulled down over it, and then he would crawl into a probably dirty bed. There is only water for a weekly bath. I don’t know how often clothes or bedding is washed. (It’s ridiculous to use the word, “bedding,” as if we’re talking sheets that are ever changed.)
So I concentrated on cleaning and bandaging the wound as thoroughly and tightly as I could. I would have liked to clean his whole body, but there were a line of “patients” (none else were as bad as Kebi’s, but most of the childrens’ cuts looked somewhat festered/infected/not right) and only a couple clean towels to use. So I washed his one leg. It looked a different color then, than the dirt covered partner. And then the bowl of water was filthy. I used hydrogen peroxide and gauze to wash the others’ smaller cuts. Each day since I have brought Kebi upstairs to monitor and re-dress his cut. Never has his bandage lasted over night. He says (again if we’re understanding each other) that he doesn’t take it off, it “falls off.” I tell all the children, “Pa touche’” – don’t touch. They nod and say, Qui. The bandages fall off no matter how well I tape them. These children live and play on dirt all day long. And like any children, they run and kick up dust. They need to bathe daily but there’s not enough water. The dust, along with the humidity, I think, makes it near impossible for adhesives to stick. (Weather Channel says temp = 93 degrees, but Feels Like is 105 degrees.) With Kebi I tried gauze and medical tape, gauze, medical tape and a wrap bandage, and regular bandages with additional medical tape. But I know he’s trying. And each day it DOES look better, not worse, so I’m hopeful.
The frustrating thing is that these kinds of things SHOULDN’T be happening, and wouldn’t be, if the orphanage had adequate water. Emil and Kebi should be able to wash their bodies every night. If the gashes hadn’t had the opportunity to fester in filth, the wounds would have a better chance at healing. The orphanage property sits at the base of a rocky mountain. The well is dug at 500 ft. The generator is not adequate to pump the water. And it is a bad well, with limited output. The water has to be used for drinking, cooking, washing clothes AND washing kids and Francois and Madam. Pastor’s hope is to dig another well, closer to the flat land where there is a known strong water table.
If we can get a decent well, so that running water is always available, the children could be taught about the importance of cleanliness.
As it stands now, any available water has to go towards drinking. I can’t even imagine having to tell my children, “No, you can only have one drink today. Or no, even though you are covered in dirt, with scratches on your arms and legs, no, we have no water for bathing.”
Will we hear their pleading for a drink? See their wounds? And not respond?
*This is Denny now, we are currently at $4,000 pledged for a new solar powered well, which means we only have $16,000 more to go, please consider giving whatever you can, no gift is too small (or too big 🙂 ). You can click here to donate (it will say you are giving to Andando, that is ok, just designate Haiti and they will give us all the funds), or send us a check. Thank you*