Once a year, I have a privilege of helping to lead a team of 30 doctors and medical providers to serve the community of Tokio in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Tokio is the second poorest community in Port-au-Prince, in the poorest city and in (by some metrics) one of the poorest countries in the entire world. It doesn’t get anymore challenging than seeing and coming face to face with such a tragic level of poverty and human suffering.

Eighty percent of Haitians live under the poverty line and 54% live in abject poverty. The average per capita income in Haiti is $480 a year, compared to $33,550 in the United States. More than 10% of Haitian children die before age five.

One of the biggest struggles we face as a team is how do we make any significant difference up against such overwhelming challenges? Sometimes it appears that what we have to offer, in terms of medical care, for the Haitians seems limited and to fall short in comparison to their daily struggles. How can we make significant and sustainable changes for the Haitian people?

The solution to that question is to turn the plural into the singular. Our team can’t change Haiti and impact all the Haitian people (perhaps you are surprised that I said that). But we can truly help them and make a real and significant difference one person at a time.

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one. — Mother Teresa

When we look at the sea of people and the enormity of the problem in Haiti, it is easy to get overwhelmed, become fatalistic and be tempted to just give up. In reality our team can’t solve the all problems we see in Haiti— because truly the problems are deep, complex and systemic. Yet we can make a difference in one small community, with individual people, one person at a time.

Looking at the overwhelming issues and challenges as a whole will lead to paralyzation — but looking into the face and eyes of each individual patient, will move us to compassion, care and love.

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