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“The Wounds of a Nation Still Bleed” Amy Wilentz’s ‘Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter From Haiti’ Review by Michiko Kakutani

“One heroine Ms. Wilentz singles out for praise in these pages is Dr. Megan Coffee of Maplewood, N.J., who was one of the few foreign doctors to stay on many, many months after the earthquake, establishing a TB ward at the university hospital in Port-au-Prince.

“In so many ways,” Ms. Wilentz writes, “Dr. Coffee is the ideal foreign-aid delivery figure. She’s creative; she’s responsive. She lets Haiti teach her how to deal with Haiti.”

She figures out how to pay for what the hospital won’t pay for, runs out to grocery stores to buy peanut butter for her patients, and gives them spaghetti with Russian dressing in the morning. “Because she offers targeted help on an individual basis with no cash or material exchange,” Ms. Wilentz goes on, “there’s almost no room in her enterprise for the kind of maneuvering, corruption, or profit-seeking that has been the ruin of so many larger, more carefully planned outsider projects in Haiti.”

Dr. Coffee, who regularly tweets about Haiti (@DokteCoffee), turns out to be as articulate an observer as Ms. Wilentz. This is a series of her tweets quoted in this book:

“I have learned in Haiti that someone always wants the empty box./It makes a hard bed more comfortable for a sick patient. The floor more comfortable for the family member taking care of patient./It organizes all the possessions of someone who has no family who wakes up from being sick on the streets in the TB ward./So little is wasted.” “