Stories straight from Haiti

The earthquake in Haiti has effected many in the United States — some far more than others.Jozy M. Smarth — a native Haitian, nurse and Lieutenant Colonel for the U.S. Army — has been providing support for Haitians after the military diverted her to Haiti on her way to tour in Afghanistan. She is currently acting as liaison between the military and the hospitals, and as the evacuation coordinator for USNS Comfort Hospital Ship and other local hospitals.Despite inconsistent lines of communication, Smarth spared a few moments to share her experiences with The Vermont Cynic and give us a personal update on the situation in Haiti.The Vermont Cynic: Why were you selected to go to Haiti to help with relief?Jozy M. Smarth: I was hand-selected to come to Haiti with the 82nd Airborne Division, because of my background. I was born and raised, until age 12, in Haiti — Port-au-Prince, to be exact.V.C.: What is the current status of Haiti’s recovery?J.S.: From where I am, recovery is going very slow.  Things have improved slightly at University Hospital.  The NGOs, the Non-Government Organizations, are more organized and collaborate much better now.V.C.: What does your average day include?J.S.: My colleagues and I meet with the transfer coordinator and we facilitate transfer by ground, the easiest, or by air, with the Navy, the most challenging because of competing missions.We also supply water and MRE’s, meals-ready-to-eat, for the NGOs, if asked.  We help with the supply of oxygen and other medical supplies, and we meet with the hospital leadership to assist them with either security issues and/or medical issues.V.C.: Why is working with the Navy difficult?J.S.: My team facilitates the transport via ground and air.  By ground is easier because we use our military ambulances. By air requires more coordination.We use the U.S. Navy helicopters.  We do not have dedicated air assets, so we have to make a request and wait for someone at a high level to decide whether they will accept that mission.If the answer is no, we have to find another hospital that is closer or the accepting hospital has to provide the transport.  It will be by ground and will take longer.V.C.: Has your background knowledge of Haiti helped you in any way while you have been there?J.S.: Certainly.  My advice and counsel have been sought after from medical to language to culture.  My military colleagues want to understand and make sense of what they are seeing and experiencing.  I “translate” that for them when asked.V.C.: Overall, what has this experience taught you?J.S.: This experience has taught me that there are wonderful people in the world.  I have met so many people from so many parts of the world who rushed to the aid of Haiti.  They are still coming every day — all kinds of organizations from medical to logistics to religious.The biggest impact has been in the medical community, for obvious reasons.We are truly our brother’s keeper.  I am also so very proud and in awe of the members of the United States Armed Forces.  They are just phenomenal.I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has come and [is] still coming.  Haiti needs all the help she can get. This is certainly a long-term project and I will be in the thick of it.  This has become my life’s mission.This crisis has certainly changed my life.  Take nothing for granted.  Maximize your time with family, friends and colleagues.  Tomorrow is promised to no one.