Flying over Haiti to Jacmel click to enlarge all photos
Flying over Haiti to Jacmel
click to enlarge all photos

by Jeane LaRance…

I would like to begin this series on my experience as a photojournalist in Haiti by telling you a little about AHDH, Inc., the organization I travel with and how I got involved.

After the death of my only son in 2001, my life as I knew it was over. I knew I had to find something different to help me get out of myself, so when a friend, Michael Beauford, called and told me he was going to Haiti on a medical mission, I said I wanted to go. I flew to New Orleans and Michael introduced me to Dr. Charles René, co-founder of the organization. I have no medical experience, so I offered to be their photographer. It took awhile to convince him that they did need a photographer to document their efforts and to have visual proof of their needs, especially for fundraising, and to show the donors how their money was being used: that was in 2005 and I am still with them. The organization is called AHDH, Inc., the Association Haitienne de Développement Humain, Inc. it is a well-organized 501 (c) 3 non-governmental organization (NGO), founded in 1986 by a group of Haitian professional in New Orleans, Louisiana.

 

It was June, 2005 the first time I stepped off the charter plane in Jacmel, Haiti: I had a feeling my life was about to change in ways I couldn’t even imagine. The airport was just a small building with some storage space and one tiny room for the ticket agent; there was a porch area where the scale sat for weighing outgoing luggage and seating consisted of a single bench, or some steps. Luggage was an entirely self-service affair. There was a large red water tank with a hose wrapped around it in case of fire. The runway was a dirt strip with some black top here and there and it was in the middle of a large field that usually had animals grazing on it. There was no fence and someone had to clear the area of animals and people before a plane could land. It was beautiful! I had never seen anything like it before. Today there is a large modern airport with indoor seating, a paved runway and a fence to keep the animals and people out. I have to say I liked it better the way it was.

 

Our driver met us at the airport in an old ambulance that we all crammed into for the worst ride of my life! It wasn’t too bad until we turned off the blacktop onto a dirt road that was not very well traveled by vehicles, it was so bad that it was impossible to do anything but hang on. At one point we had to navigate through the river! What an adventure it was! We drove through several small villages and people ran after the vehicle shouting and waving I felt like I was with a crew of rock stars! But these people were more than rock stars; they were the doctors and nurses who performed life saving surgeries, restored eyesight, brought hope and medicine to the sick. They are my Heroes!

 

After what seemed like hours, we turned off the main road and our driver, Roger Boursiquot, said we had arrived in Ridoré, our destination. I could not believe my eyes; donkeys were lined up side by side along the road as if they were parked in a parking lot. At the top of the hill, next to the market place, is a very large cross with Jesus on it. I wasn’t sure what to think of that, but I knew I’d hear the story later. Then we arrived at the hospital, St. Joseph; a beautiful little building the people built by hand, like everything else in the village. They built it believing that if they had a hospital the doctors would come and they did. In 1986 Dr. René and his team arrived, but this is the beginning of my next essay. I do hope you will follow the series.

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All images are property of the photographer, Jeane LaRance and may not be copied or used without permission. More of her work can be viewed on her website.

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To see other parts in this series click here.

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