One experience in particular stands out in my mind. The other day, I asked Gwenn to accompany me on a visit to Pinchinat, Jacmel's largest refugee site. There, about 7,000 people live in "tents" fashioned from sticks and rags. As we walked around, I watched people's faces light up with surprise at hearing this "blanc" ask, in perfect Creole, "How can we help you?"
Gwenn decided to take packets of diapers from her own orphanage and hand them out to women in the camp (pictured). After half an hour of walking through the muddy lanes, we met a woman and her baby, named Patricia. Gwenn noticed that Patricia, tiny and listless, was unable to cry though she appeared to be trying. The mother explained that Patricia had been throwing up for days and was severely dehydrated. "Let's go," Gwenn said.
In five minutes, we were back in Gwenn's truck with Patricia and her mom, headed to the St. Michel Hospital on the other side of town. As luck would have it, the doctors on duty were staying in Gwenn's guest house, so as we arrived they let us straight into the ward and put baby Patricia on an IV. Within minutes, she had perked up noticeably, her big brown eyes filling with life.
To me, Gwenn's actions epitomize guerrilla aid. Like her family and friends, she understands that she can't do anything on the scale of, say, Doctors Without Borders. But by keeping her eyes and heart open, she found a need, a gap in the larger efforts, and she filled it. She made a difference.
Barton Brooks is an international aid administrator and founder of the nonprofit volunteer organization Global Colors. His mission is to establish sustainable grassroots humanitarian aid projects around the world without the subjugating factors of time or previous experience. He calls this style of work "guerrilla aid." For more information, visit GlobalColors.org and GuerrillaAid.com.