This is a unique time for rebuilding. It’s the beginning of the year. We’ve put together long, sometimes extensive and excessive lists about how things will be different and better. But how long does it actually take to rebuild aspects of ourselves? Neighborhoods? Schools? Communities? Countries?
I woke today and was going over my to do list and getting prepared for the days events and had a flashback to 5 years ago. I was sitting on my couch and got a phone call from one of my interns named Eric Cioe. Dr Cioe was on vacation in the Dominican Republic on his way to go whale watching. But something happened. I got a phone call that looked like it was from an international number and hesitantly decided to pick it up.
It was Eric and he said “Dr Gore. I don’t know if the news made it to you guys in Brooklyn but apparently there was a big earthquake in Haiti and they’re saying a lot of people were probably hurt. Do you think its ok for me to go help at one of the area hospitals? I’m not far from the border and there is a hospital nearby.” “Just be safe,” I said, knowing that if I told him “no” that he would go anyway.
While we were on the phone I turned on the news only to find the horrendous evolving casualties and destruction that had occurred. I was just in Port au Prince a year earlier taking pictures in front of the presidential palace and now its all gone.
I was in Haiti in 2009 working with local NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) to help figure out how to improve the efficiency of a recently built clinic but also how to help link resources and develop a more comprehensive regional health care network in the northeastern part of the country. The week prior to earthquake I was meeting with people at my hospital about assisting with the efforts of this future regional healthcare network.
Being an emergency medicine doc already working in Haiti, it only made sense that I travel 3.5 hours to Port au Prince, Haiti to help with the relief efforts (the trip took almost 24 hours due to traveling in a disaster zone). I went with a team of docs and nurses to help work in the tent hospitals to provide emergency care. We were happy we went down but the thing lingering in the minds of me and some of my team members was “how do we help with long-term rebuilding efforts?”
Having foreign medical teams wasn’t sustainable and eventually volunteer and donor fatigue would happen. Our team from EMEDEX International decided to start looking at solutions primarily focusing on Emergency Medicine education and training. We have continued these efforts since 2010 and have worked along side many dedicated Haitian medical professionals and community leaders so that communities were in positions to provide their own internal emergency services.
Teaching was/is far from the sexiness that comes with working in a tent trauma unit in the middle of a crumbling hospital affected by an earthquake. There was no blood and guts or rushes of adrenaline; however, it involved a lot of planning and talking and meeting with people, which doesn’t always appeal to those of us with short attention spans.
I remember having a conversation with some friends of mine after I got back from post earthquake Haiti a little over a month after the event and they asked, “How does it look? We know people gave all of this money so is it fixed yet?” I kind of looked perplexed and bewildered at the question due to me scrunching my forehead, eyebrows and eyes. Does he realize how long it takes to rebuild a building, a city or better yet a country? Then I thought to myself again. No he doesn’t.
Many of us look for magic bullets or magic pills to solve problems both personally and professionally. Some of these problems have been in place for decades and in some situations longer than that. Developing solutions, teaching, and rebuilding all takes commitment.
It involves understanding the problem. It also involves understanding the culture of who we are trying to help. It involves bridging and creating a hybrid of the old and new so that new ideas introduced are palatable and believable.
Often, there is no money or resources to make the process easier, yet the problem still needs to be fixed. How will you remain committed to what you started? Peace Out.
– Dr Rob.
Dr. Rob Gore is an emergency medicine physician in Brooklyn, NY. He is also the founder and executive director of the KAVI (Kings Against Violence Initiative), a youth violence intervention, prevention, and empowerment program. He is a board member of EMEDEX International, an organization dedicated to the global promotion of emergency medicine and disaster medicine through education and training. Most recently, he is co-founder of the Global Empowerment Project, a docu-series focusing on travel and philanthropy through community projects.
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