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Healing in Haiti: The Work of Agape

Roy Crystal | Haiti

The Walls are Down


Despairing woman living in tent next to her destroyed home after earthquake, Léogâne, 2010.

This exhibit documents the work of Agape Global Health for Haiti in providing medical and public health services on the island of La Gonâve, Haiti. It is about how people can help others to heal. In January 2010 a massive earthquake struck Haiti. Thousands died; a million became homeless.  That year I learned of the work of Agape, which since 2001 has conducted a weeklong medical clinic on La Gonâve.  I joined the team as a photographer and have returned nearly every year since. 

This exhibit first suggests the suffering of Haiti since the earthquake.  Next it focuses on the healer-patient encounter in the clinic, daily life on La Gonâve, and Agape’s other work.  I tell the stories of the patients through portraits and their own words.  Through this lens, I tell a larger story of the suffering and resilience of Haitians and the power of “agape” (selfless caring for others).

 

I have been a documentary and landscape phtographer and an environmental planner (my day job) since my college years. I earned a B.A. in Art from Antioch College and a Master's degree in Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania.  I have participated in many juried photography shows, at the Griffin Museum of Photography and other places, and mounted several one-person shows.  

Since retiring from the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2017, I have been concentrating on my photography and my pro-bono work for Agape Global Health for Haiti.  My work for Agape has became my passion and the team members my friends.  I am deeply involved as a photographer and environmental planner.  I expect to continue this work as long as I can.

Over the years Agape and my role have evolved.  Originally a religious mission, Agape is now a secular non-profit.  Along with the yearly weeklong medical clinic, Agape now operates a year-round prenatal clinic, a water filtration program, and the “Days for Girls” program offering washable menstrual kits and education.  I serve as Agape's Vice President and on its Board of Directors, and manage the water filtration program.  We work with the non-profit Water with Blessings, which provides water filters and training to “water women” in exchange for a sacred commitment to filter water for four families.  This program has grown steadily. 

My photographic work on this project has also evolved and deepened. As both a participant and observer, I need to wear two hats, but I am privileged to have close access to the people of La Gonâve and life of the community, and see how they have changed over the years.  Now, rather than simply documenting the work of a particular non-profit, this project is really about the difficult effort to do "the work of agape" - how people can help themselves and others to heal. 

“Healing in Haiti” documents life on La Gonâve and the work of Agape – especially what happens in the clinic, the relationships between the doctors and nurses and their patients, and the stories of the patients. In this intimate setting most people wanted to share their stories and be seen – even when they were suffering.  I interviewed people and took their portraits.  I try to tell the story poetically, with the Biblical resonances that seem natural.

Life in Haiti is complex and hard to understand.  A proverb says “Ayiti se tè glise” (“Haiti is a slippery land”).  I have the narrow viewpoint of a soldier on a battlefield.  But the stories of the people I have met merge into a larger tapestry of pervasive poverty and environmental destruction. Except for a small elite and middle class, Haitians lack access to health care, clean water, and proper sanitation.  Many girls miss school because they don’t have menstrual pads.  Many people are burdened for years with chronic medical conditions that could be cured by access to a good doctor or nurse.  People cry out for help but meet their daily struggle with humor, religious faith, and a voluble gift for self-expression.  I often feel frustration with the massive job to be done and my personal limits.  Outweighing these difficulties I see repeatedly the power of compassionate medical care and listening to move people from pain and anxiety to hope and healing.  The power of “agape” – selfless love and caring for others – inspires me.  I hope to share it with you.

Project documents the work of Agape Global Health for Haiti, Inc. - see https://www.agapeglobalhealth.org/ - but is conducted independently by the phtographer.

 

 

Roy Crystal

34 Grapevine Avenue

Lexington, MA 02421

email: the3crystals@rcn.com

telephone: land line - 781-861-1518, cell 339-223-6553

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