by Patricia Brintle
When volunteers express the desire to join the team on a project they always ask what to bring, how to dress, what we will eat, about vaccinations, mosquitoes… all questions about the necessities of life. My informal answer is to plan as if they were going tent camping in a remote area. At hearing this, some will decline to go but others will embrace the prospect with ardor. I almost always forget to mention to be ready to push our vehicle if needed. Vehicles in Haiti are too often used until their very last breath; and even when they die, parts are re-used in other moribund cars or transformed into interesting artworks that are sold for much more than the entire car was ever worth.
At our very first trip back in 2010, although I had not mentioned “pushing cars” as part of the planning, our team got a taste of it. As soon as we got in the car to leave the Jeremie airport, the driver gave us an impish look with a shy chuckle and asked everyone to get out while he scanned the area for able bodies to help push the car. Joe, Bob and Eddy immediately stepped into gear and join the other volunteers to the front of the car; as if rehearsed they all let out a unified groan and began pushing. Ellen and I were asked to remain in the car.
One, two, three… pooooooouuuuushhhhh… and after a couple of violent hiccups, the car took off. The guys rushed over and quickly got in the vehicle, a few others jumped in the open back while it was still moving for fear that it would stall. We continued on our way to fulfill our plans for the day under the applauds and laughs of a few spectators
Pushing the car was a common occurrence for me as a child, especially when crossing a river and the thought of being stuck in mid stream never left me to this day. We never needed to push any of our cars again but each time we drive through a river, my butt involuntarily rises just a wee bit from the seat as if to lighten the car and keep it from stalling in the water.