From a Rooftop in Haiti

I’m still processing the last 48 hours. There’s so much on the go, so many things accelerated that I feel like I’ve been lifted up in some funnel cloud and I’m not sure when my feet will touch earth again and for how long. Then news brings me crashing down hard. Getting a call that Alison Hawkins had passed. Disbelief. Denial. Not Alison, you must be confused. Not her, not now. Team Broken Earth has changed many lives in the places we’ve been. But it also has changed the lives of our many volunteers. How so? It’s a question I get asked a lot. In my answer, I frequently think of Alison.

In the early days of Team Broken Earth, recruitment pretty much happened by word of mouth. People heard about what we were doing and wanted to get involved. Alison approached us to go on a trip early on. She was on the general surgery floor and was still relatively new to nursing but was keen to help. On her first mission, she knew very few of the others on the team yet her energy, enthusiasm, and compassion to the patients of Haiti made her a perfect fit.

For team members who’ve pulled long shifts at Bernard Mevs hospital in Port au Prince, we all know how the rooftop has become the undesignated breakroom. I remember sitting up there with Alison. It was just us. The sun was setting and the generator began to rumble as the lights kicked on. I could tell she was deep in thought when I approached. As I got closer, I noticed the tears in her eyes. She had just punched a hard day in the hospital, but she smiled and said she just had the best workday of her life.

Haiti can be a hard wake up call. It breaks everyone that goes in the sense that you inevitably compare and feel guilty about the life you have at home in the face of poverty and despair that you never thought could be as real as it is on the streets before you. Alison was going through this. She spoke of her young boys at home and how they would have a good life, how lucky we all were to live in Canada. She had a quiet strength. I may have been the shoulder that day, but she offered a shoulder to me many times since, helping me get back up on my feet after a tough case. She had the tender confidence of an old friend. I will never forget that.

The last beams of sun illuminated the roof in gold as Alison went on to say that she wanted some advice and was wondering if she should change careers. Said she was always a little unsure but the exposure in Haiti gave her a better appreciation of teamwork. She returned home and became an outstanding ER nurse and loved every second of it.

I feel lucky to have known Alison, privileged to have worked with her and am a better person for having had conversations with her on the roof. Whenever we asked for help, Alison was often the first to volunteer. Whenever we asked for even a little bit more, she was the first to stick up her hand.

Back before the quarantine, I was grabbing a beer with a friend of mine who had recently lost his mother. He said one of the most comforting things that helped him through his grief was the number of stories and anecdotes people shared with him. Most of which he had never heard before and that surprised him as he was very close to his mother. What was amazing was that this portrait formed of her that he never expected, and it filled his heart. He mentioned the book, Jacob’s Room, a book he read in university. He said one of the most interesting things the author did was never introduce you to Jacob. You never hear his voice. Everything you learn about him, you learn from the memories and stories of those around him. Jacob represented the loss of all the young soldiers who died in the war.

I thought about that today as I scrolled through all the comments and condolences online. I thought about Alison and I smiled at the idea of the many stories and anecdotes there must be out there. Please take a moment to share them. There are many hearts in need of filling today. Mine included. Let’s create that portrait of remembrances of someone we will never forget.

We will see Alison’s smile in her boys’ eyes, her hope in the eyes of patients in Haiti, and her strength when we walk, row, or run Quidi Vidi.

Till we meet on a roof again, my friend.



12 Responses to “From a Rooftop in Haiti”

June 29 at 11:59 am, Carole Janes said:

So sad..Sending hugs.. 🙏❤️❤️❤️


June 29 at 12:23 pm, Cyndy Stead said:

Condolences on the loss of your friend – any your memories sustain you during this difficult time. I’ve never met Alison but your words evoked feelings of friendship, love and loss. Beautifully written.


June 29 at 12:27 pm, Margaret Pynn said:

Beautiful tribute !


June 29 at 1:09 pm, Ethel Frampton said:

Good Morning Dr. Fury. So sorry for your loss, I could feel your pain this morning as I read your Blog. i too have been there. Yes friends and family paint beautiful portraits of our loved ones in these trying times. Each word we hang onto with every passing day to help us through..During this pandemic my thoughts have been with the families who have lost loved ones during this time and not had the opportunity to hold the hands of so many dear family and friends and hear their words of love and encouragement. I realize it has been necessary, but still more difficult than before. Find Peace in your Memories. These memories will last a lifetime. I have always admired and watched you and your team Broken Earth as you went on your missions, and yes I have prayed for you all too Take care and keep doing what you do. God Bless. Ethel


June 29 at 4:15 pm, Joy Byrde said:

Hi Andrew – Thank you for sharing your Alison story – so very sorry for the loss of this lovely friend & dedicated nursing Team Broken Earth Colleague 😢- hope you can find comfort in those special memories & in the caring thoughts & healing prayers from your many friends/ fellow medical folks & your loving Family -May she RIP & May her memory be a blessing


June 30 at 4:20 am, Kelly O’Brien said:

Thank you for the beautiful words about Alison she was a very special person and to know she touch so many people is very heart warming to our family heartfelt thanks she loved the work she did and she will be forever cherished .Our family will never be the same Alison will forever be in our hearts and missed more than words can say.


June 30 at 6:09 am, Ellen Gardiner said:

So sorry for your loss💕May the love and memories you all shared with Alison keep her spirit and soul alive for the beautiful person I’m she was.Condolences to you all💕


June 30 at 10:00 am, Cindi Borden said:



June 30 at 10:05 am, Callista Silver said:

These memories will last a lifetime, thanks for sharing. I bet there are so many people glad that she did not change her nursing journey. Wishing all of you peace as you struggle through this difficult time.


June 30 at 10:51 am, Scott Wilson said:

Thanks Andrew, your words will help us process her leaving us with greater strength. The ER family will get renewed strength by remembering her as you did.


June 30 at 11:25 am, Leslie Martin said:

What a beautiful tribute to your friend Andrew. A well-lived, but far too short life.


June 30 at 12:05 pm, Leslie said:

I worked on 5East St Clare’s several years ago and Alison worked there I saw her few years later in a heavy weight competition but she always stuck out to me she had that smile and a kindness that once you encountered her you never forgot her ……….


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