Haiti School group makes visit, prepares new dental clinic

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Fri., Jan. 18, 2013
Dr. Saud Anwar, president of the South Windsor Haiti School, with students in Haiti. Photo courtesy of Dr. Saud Anwar. - Contributed Photo

Members of the South Windsor Haiti School returned on Jan. 16 from a trip to Lilavois, Haiti, where the organization runs a school for 80 girls, ages 5 to 12. The group is establishing a dental clinic at the school, and the main purpose of the trip was to deliver dental equipment and prepare the clinic for future use.

Traveling with the group was Dr. Joel Davidson, a dentist from Tolland who has voluntarily provided dental services to the people of Haiti for years. He has been pivotal in the group's efforts to organize the clinic. Davidson was also able to give students some dental hygiene demonstrations, as well.

Also in the group was Dr. Saud Anwar, a South Windsor town councilor and president of the South Windsor Haiti School, Inc., Temple Beth Hillel Rabbi Jeff Glickman and his wife, Mindy Glickman, Anwar's son, Taseen, and Steve Smith of Vernon.

Another goal of the trip was to deliver two generators to the school, which South Windsor Haiti School received as a donation from the Connecticut Haitian American Association. They were sent to Haiti, where they arrived at the area of Pétion-Ville near the capital of Port-au-Prince. Transporting the generators to the school in Lilavois was not a simple process, as generators are in incredibly high demand and there was a risk that they would be stolen. The people who received the generators were only willing to hand them over to a member of the group in person. So Anwar and group members had to make the trip to Pétion-Ville and transport the two generators to the school themselves.

The group also brought with them a gift of 80 dresses, which were hand-sewn and donated by members of the Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in East Hartford. They also brought with them food and clothes donated by Deals & Steals in Northampton, Mass.

The group arrived in Haiti on Sunday, Jan. 13, a day after the third anniversary of the 2010 earthquake. It was also Dr. Anwar's third visit to the country since that fateful day. His annual visits have given him an opportunity to see how the situation there has slowly improved, and also to recognize where improvements are still needed. Anwar first visited about two months after the earthquake happened, where he observed that “things were in extremely bad shape.”

“The second time that I went, I saw people were moving on with their lives,” Anwar said. “I've traveled all over the world, and I've never seen the resilience I've seen among the Haitians.”

While he saw some number of people still living in tent cities, those numbers have steadily gone down, and many people have found a “somewhat improved status compared to before,” he said. However, by our standards in America, that status is still “extremely, extremely poor,” Anwar said.

Anwar noted that the people of Haiti persevere despite a lack of any of the central leadership we take for granted in America. “Anything that the government is supposed to do has not happened,” he said. “Whatever people are coming together and doing, they're doing it themselves.”

Rabbi Glickman also shared his observations from the trip. “There's still a tremendous amount of squalor going on in Haiti,” Glickman said. “There's no infrastructure like we know in America. Roads aren't roads, there's no electricity or water or sewers. It's amazing that so many people can get by as they do.”

Those who are well enough to have a house usually share it with three other families. “The alternative is a tent,” said Glickman. “Heaven help those who live in the tent cities.”

“If you don't have electricity, you don't have refrigeration,” said Mindy Glickman. If people can afford meat, they have to eat it immediately because there is no way to preserve it.

Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital, is roughly the size of South Windsor. But while South Windsor has a population of 26,000 people, Port-au-Prince has 2 million people. With no infrastructure, the challenges the people have faced in the earthquake's wake are overwhelming. Yet, the group was happy to see the girls at the school smiling and persevering.

“We brought things for the school because education gives them wings,” said Glickman.

“While we're not going to solve all the problems, at least they will be better off than where they were,” Anwar said. “We're trying to do our little share.”

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