Since the earthquake last week in Haiti, I have felt terribly conflicted about how to respond. We returned from the Dominican Republic last Saturday, just a few days before the earthquake. Had we been in the DR at the time of the disaster, we might have been in a position to have responded directly. Having just returned to the U.S., though, I found myself considering all the "practical" reasons that I could not turn around and fly right back. Family, patient schedules, work obligations, etc--many, many reasons which are valid, but which pale in relation to the scale of the disaster faced in Haiti.
So, I have no good idea how to respond. I was let of the hook--for now--when the medical relief teams in Haiti called for physician volunteers with trauma, surgery, orthopedics or emergency room experience. I lack skills in those areas, and so I could justify that I currently was not needed. Could I find another option, such as to work in the DR as diaster victims came over the border? Probably, but stateside obligations again make it easier to justify not traveling.
I feel like I am copping out: if pressed, I know I could probably do more. This would take a significant effort to get the time off work, to readjust my schedule, and to use vacation time to make the trip.
What have I done, then? I did put my name in as a volunteer willing to work after the emergency/acute reponse is over. I do not know if/when I would even be called to assist, but at least if I am called my skills and abilities will be better up to the task. I have also contributed to relief organizations already at work in Haiti.
Is that enough? Probably not. Is it enough for me to feel as though I am at least contributing somewhat? For now, yes. I have deferred the issues of how to work around time away from the office until later, but this gives me time to figure out how to handle that should I be asked to volunteer.
For now: all of us should try and help in whatever capacity we are able to. Look at the Partners in Health Stand With Haiti website to see if you can help directly. Donate to Doctors Without Borders--USA, who have already established hospital outposts to care for the injured and sick. Support the American Red Cross. All of these organizations--and many others--are already carrying out critically important work in Haiti.
Individually, we might not be able to do much. However, when unified, our smaller efforts grow into something much larger and much more significant--and we can make a difference.