Merely a week later, planes were boarded and the team touched down in Cap Hatien, one of the few airports unaffected by the quake, located in the north of Haiti. A cargo plane, chartered from Florida and boldly emblazoned with the emblem of Emmanuel TV, arrived shortly afterwards and unloaded essential medical supplies and foodstuffs with the assistance of the United Nations. Carrying only a rucksack of personal necessities and a resolve to meet needs and solve problems, the team had arrived and the vision was nearing reality. Whereas mos t aid organizations had set up base in Port-au-Prince, the nation's capital and scene of most carnage at the time of the quake, the ETV team decided to choose a location slightly away from the capital. Upon the advice of a local charity, Konpay, they chose Arcahaie, a small rural town of roughly 100,000 inhabitants 40km north-west of Port-au-Prince, a place many earthquake victims had run to for shelter. It was a ten hour journey along bumpy roads and over steep mountain paths with a jeep and two large trucks carrying the life-saving supplies and equipment.
For every member of the team, this was the first time they had ever entered a disaster zone of such magnitude. It was a journey of faith where obstacles did not dictate the direction. "We were told that we have no experience and that we should not go - but we went anyway," declared Cara Lauchland, a SCOAN evangelist from the USA. "We were told that no flights are going in to Port-au-Prince so we flew in to Cap Haitien in the north. We were told that the roads were too damaged to drive on; we drove all the way without any problem down to Arcahaie." They arrived on January 26th 2010.
Arcahaie: A Shocking Reality
Although Arcahaie was not as close to the quake's epicenter and not as affected as the nation's capital, the disaster had nonetheless taken its deadly toll on the primitive town, both physically and mentally. "The people were absolutely petrified after the quake," explained Rachel Holmes, a SCOAN Evangelist from the United Kingdom and also part of the first team. "They thought that the end of the world had come. We met many with psychological problems. They kept thinking that the ground was always moving. And the government issued a warning that no one should sleep inside their house, so everyone was sleeping on the road or in their yard under sheeting or rough plastic. People were frightened to be inside."
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With plantain farming and fishing providing the main source of income for the people of Arcahaie and a staple diet of bananas, the community was already in abject poverty before the quake hit. "There is no central water supply, limited electricity and no sewage," Rachel continued. "Most people drink water from dirty wells, from the gutter by the road, or water which collects on the roof of their house. Most of them have never had simple advice such as the need to boil the water before drinking it. Due to this many are very sick, especially the children."
The privilege of free health care that many enjoy is merely an illusion for the majority of Haitians. Speaking of the team's initial surveillance of the area soon to become their new abode, Rachel added: "When walking around town, we came to notice that the children would play with no pants on and sit in the gutters - so they got infections, even tiny babies. This was a big problem - no hygiene at all, no awareness of dirt bringing germs and sickness. There has been no community health care. They just lived or died with their complaints. Getting to hospital was impossible for most people because it was so far and they couldn't pay. Plus there was no transport. The need is very dire."
With the help of community leaders, a plot of land in the outskirts of the town and a nearby well was located. Physical eyes beheld an abandoned piece of land with some uncompleted buildings, but faith saw a thriving medical clinic providing primary health care for an entire community. With the sea as their shower, a hole as their toilet and banana leaves as their mattress, tents were pitched on the stony ground and Clinique Emmanuel was born. Almost immediately following their arrival, people found out and crowds of sick and suffering began swarming to the area. Both injuries inflicted during the earthquake and longstanding illnesses that before had no source of treatment were brought and the clinic began its work. As Fiona Tonge, a SCOAN Evangelist from England with nursing experience put it, "Out of a heart of compassion and an instruction in righteousness, things which seemed impossible became possible. From nothing, from an idea, a concept – came people, medical and food supplies, a plane, vehicles to navigate the mountain roads and a piece of land to pitch our tents."
Working almost non-stop in the sweltering heat from dawn until dusk, with the doctors and nurses attending up to 80 people on a daily basis, the team worked selflessly to meet the needs of the Haitian people. Local support for the mission thrived and people willingly volunteered to serve as translators, the main language of the locals being Haitian Creole. A number of native nurses also joined the mission and volunteered their services. God's provision and direction was evident right from the onset. "Grace just abounded", said Nick when recalling the beginnings of the clinic. "I saw practically that where God directs, He provides. There are countless little stories of almost impossible situations where God took control."