The People of Haiti ‘Will Not Be Left Behind’

The Global Health Program at Rush and the Zhou B Art Center have teamed up for a Sept. 9 benefit, Art for Haiti, to help provide health care in impoverished communities. Jennifer Towbin, MD, a hospitalist at Rush, helps spearhead the program.

Jennifer Towbin, MD, (right) with an interpreter during a 2010 trip to Haiti

By Jennifer Towbin, MD

On Jan. 12, 2010, the largest earthquake on record hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  It claimed the lives of thousands, devastated the city and impacted the lives of everyone there. Little did I realize that it would affect me too. Soon after hearing of the earthquake, I knew I wanted to be there to help. Luckily, with the help of the Rush Global Health Program’s counterparts in the Dominican Republic and Dr. Stephanie Wang, 10 days later I found myself traveling to Haiti.

It was like nothing I had ever seen before. The destruction and devastation were indescribable. The pictures shown on the news only partially prepared me for what I saw. The air was thick with dust and debris. One building was leveled to a pile of rubble, while its neighbor was standing untouched. Intermixed with the piles of garbage that lined the streets were makeshift tents and blankets where people were living. They were too scared to be indoors.

Yet, what struck me the most was not the rubble and ruins. It was the citizens of Port-au-Prince. Despite the annihilation of their homes, city and loved ones, the people of Port-au-Prince that we encountered were genuinely resilient men and women. It seemed as if they had said to themselves, “We have a choice; we can either wallow and be bitter, or we can pick ourselves back up and get back to living.” People had resumed their streetside vending. Only now, it was located on top and in between the rubble. People were out with brooms and hammers trying to clean away the debris. Life was not stopping. Continue reading