WHEATLAND – Most people can take a general route and return to the place of their birth even though it might be far from Wheatland. However, for WHS senior shot putter Natalie Iacovetto, having come from Haiti at eight months old, returning to the place of her birth was a vastly different experience, “…but it’s the most at peace I’ve ever been, like I’d never left,” she said.
Through missionary friends who work in Global Outreach to build up Haitian pastors, Natalie and mom Anita spent two weeks at the compound in Titiyan, Haiti north of Port-A-Prince. They did whatever they could to assist in the day-to-day operation at the compound including going out to schools to oversee the health concerns of children who are measured, weighed and given a worm pill. They helped in the clinic in stifling heat and humidity. “It might be 98 and 98 percent humidity. Shorts and pants for women are frowned upon and anyway, skirts are way cooler,” said Anita.
It was obvious to other Haitians that Natalie was Haitian so they would attempt to speak to her in Creole, their native language. “I took French thinking that would help since Creole is based on French but it was nothing like what was being spoken,” said Natalie. It was extremely confusing to the Haitians when she had no concept of what was being said to her and that she had a U.S. passport, something very desirable there. “Compared to most of the people there, I was tall,” she said. If you know her biological half brother Clayton who is also Haitian, really tall and playing football for Chadron, he would surely be considered exceptional.
“Much of what we saw in the clinic were burns,” said Natalie. “Cooking over open fires makes not only adults but children vulnerable to burn accidents. There was no such thing as pain shots before removing burned skin.” Even the children were tough as they had long since understood that crying wouldn’t get them anywhere. Maybe Tylenol or Ibuprofen was all the clinic had for pain. Haitians do not regularly take pain meds so a little goes a long way.
The food was outstanding. Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables with rice. “The food was wonderful,” said Natalie. For many of the children, that one meal at school was the only solid one they get. School is not free; much sacrifice is made by the families to get a child educated. Even if one gets advanced education, there are no jobs to be had. Natalie told of a young woman who earned a nursing degree but because of the chaos in the government she has not been able to take the test for her license. Every time testing was imminent, the government has shut down for whatever reason.
They attended a mega-church where the people were extremely well dressed with scarves and hats, men in three-piece suits and ties listening to two-hour sermons and 10-minute prayers. “I was dying in that stifling heat sitting on wooden benches and the Haitians were doing fine,” said Anita.
Within a few days of their arrival, riots began and the two were confined to the compound. Riots were due to political instability with the current president. The next time they were able to leave was to the airport and they were driven by a Haitian driver. “Whenever anyone left the compound, there was a prayer for God’s protection over them,” said Anita.
When it came time to return home, what should have been a 30 minute trip to the airport was one and a half hours. The rioters had the roads blocked so they had to take backroads. Their Haitian driver from the compound had to bargain with and pay off the first group. At the second road block the rioters were masked and it took much more time and money to get them through that one. “They were screaming and pointing at the missionary [a White person],” said Anita. “It’s a very volatile state at a travel level three.”
“I wanted to see where I came from,” said Natalie, “and I’d like to go back. It’s like I’d never left but now I really understand how blessed I am to be here in America with my parents and the opportunities I have.”