The office is quiet, my bags are packed, the driver is here and as soon as I have finished writing this article I will head to Port-au-Prince airport, where I will watch the city shrink and recede into the clouds for the last time as Outreach International’s Haiti Emergency Coordinator.

The office is quiet, my bags are packed, the driver is here and as soon as I have finished writing this article I will head to Port-au-Prince airport, where I will watch the city shrink and recede into the clouds for the last time as Outreach International’s Haiti Emergency Coordinator.

I am filled with a tumble of mixed emotions as I look around our office and think how far the program has come since I stepped out into the midday heat at the UN airport in early February, with a pup tent in hand.

While Outreach International, an Independence-based international non-profit, has supported schools all over Haiti through a local partner for many years, this Haitian organization was overwhelmed with the post-earthquake problems and had seen their office collapse, along with many schools.

Outreach International, with the support of many people in the Independence area, decided to establish its own presence on the ground to help in the relief and reconstruction effort. That started as just me and my pup tent, but now consists of an experienced small team in a Spartan but efficient little office plastered with pictures of the schools we support.

We have managed to distribute cash relief to more than 500 families associated with the schools, replenish schools with supplies (including over 40,000 pieces of chalk, 10,000 pens, and 5,000 notebooks, pencils and erasers), provide emergency funding to the schools, erect temporary school tents, conduct extensive professional structural assessments of almost 30 school buildings and respond to the cholera epidemic.

At the same time, Outreach International and its local partner have managed to keep the schools running.

I will soon be handing over to the team established on the ground, recognizing that their knowledge and experience of Haiti is far greater than mine. This trip to Haiti is my last in this capacity and I will transition out of my role as Emergency Coordinator by the end of the year. I will still remain involved as a consultant and enthusiastic supporter, but they will be able to take Outreach International’s program to the next level, beyond what I would be able to accomplish. I am very proud of the team – they are highly motivated, skilled and have an immense amount of energy and passion.

That said, Haiti will need the continued support and solidarity of people like you and me. As Paul Farmer, a medical doctor with a long history in Haiti, said recently, the situation here is one of “acute on chronic.”

The earthquake was not the beginning of Haiti’s problems. It has suffered for many years, struggling with a dysfunctional economy, political turmoil and recurrent humanitarian emergencies.

Nor was the earthquake the last of its problems. In recent weeks Haiti has had to deal with Hurricane Tomas, an alarming cholera epidemic and uncertainty in the runup to its presidential elections on Nov. 28.

I have learned that grand plans in Haiti take a long time to be realized and need to be adjusted frequently to take into account the rapidly developing situation. But I have also learned that the complacent despair voiced by people who have given up on Haiti is irresponsible and misguided.

Despite the poverty, the tropical storms, the cholera, people are figuring out ways to improvise and keep moving. Merchants are out in the marketplace, loudly making deals. Children sit on schoolbenches swinging their legs and reciting French verb conjugations. Local doctors and nurses scramble to heal the sick.

Church men and women continue to counsel and exhort their parishioners. If Haitians have the tenacity to keep going in the face of adversity, who are we to tell them it is a waste of time, or not worth the effort while we live comfortable, relatively wealthy lives?

I am deeply grateful to the Haitian staff, school directors and teachers who have invited me into their lives at a vulnerable and emotionally troubling time. I am thankful to Outreach International for being a fantastically supportive boss. And I feel immensely humbled by the many people in the Independence area who continue to support Outreach International faithfully year after year.

As we prepare for Thanksgiving this week, it is to readers like yourselves that I want to offer my deepest thanks.