Eleven Days, Eleven Things I Learned:
A Reflection of My Time Spent in Haiti

1. It’s important to invest in your group and your community. My regret on this trip was not connecting with others from my group from the very start. It took us a few days to open up and really connect with each other, and we really began to bond when we had another few unexpected days together. To say that these individuals are amazing is an understatement. I saw God working through each person in my group that week and each person has inspired me in one way or another. We are all different people, coming from different backgrounds, having our own interests and such, but we all came together to serve in Haiti and we will always have this experience to remember. We plan on keeping in touch. On the other hand, it was easy to connect with the students, being a camp counselor. I put heart into all I did that week, from planning the lessons to executing them. I tried to make sure that each camper felt loved and was having a good time that week since I knew that they were all looking forward to the camp. I wanted to deliver the best experience possible, so investment is important.

2. Joyfulness is everywhere. Everywhere we went, we were greeted with a smile, and in some cases, hugs and/or even kisses. Everywhere we went, we were welcomed with open arms. Everybody we met was proud to show us their country and happy that we were there. Everybody wanted to get to know us. Despite all the hardships and not having much, they have a surplus of joyfulness… something I will spread a lot more of in the states.

3. Contentment doesn’t depend on wealth. We met lots of people and drove through lots of communities during our stay. After getting a glimpse of how Haitian’s live, it was evident that they didn’t need big houses or brand-name clothing or electronics to be happy, compared to those in the US. One experience that will always stick with me is when we visited a hospital one afternoon. In the parking lot, three young boys were playing with {recycled} toy cars which they made from used bottles and bottle caps. They were content, they were entertained, and they were showing off their cars to us and letting us play with it. They were occupied for a long time, too. There is a lot to compare to in the states. I work in a restaurant and some of the children that come in are not happy unless they have a tablet in their hands, forget the kid’s menu and the tv’s.

4. I take a lot for granted. No, we didn’t stay in a shack, but we stayed in an apartment with no AC (it is HOT in Haiti), limited running water, no water heater at that, and limited electricity. I take all these luxuries for granted when at home and all these things are easily attainable. This trip also made me much more aware of how advanced our health care is in the states, after visiting a hospital in Haiti. The same goes for education, it is easily attainable in the United States, but hard to come by in Haiti.

5. Love is the best language. On the day we arrived in Haiti, we had a group discussion on what we thought our biggest challenge would be during our stay. I said communication, and I was not wrong. I didn’t know a single word of Creole, and I couldn’t remember much French. Somedays it was really frustrating when the campers were asking me questions or trying to tell me things, or when we would go to places and people would try and make conversation. I always wonder, what if these people are telling me something very important? I wonder how different my experience would be had I known the language, it breaks my heart in a way. Would I have made better connections? Probably. But here is the thing- I did indeed make connections. It took work of course, but it was made possible because love is the best language. I put my heart into making sure that the students would understand the crafts and games, I put my heart into making sure that the English lessons would be made useful, I made sure that the high school volunteers would be able to translate things easily. I sent my love to each person I met. Each day I met with the campers I demonstrated love, they reciprocated that too. Each person I met outside of the camp I demonstrated love, and they also reciprocated. If all fails, love is the best language.

6. You can find beauty anywhere. When I told people about this trip beforehand, and when I talk about it now, people think of Haiti only as a broken, impoverished country. My goal is to now change people’s outlooks on the country. Upon arriving, I saw beauty everywhere I went. The water, the mountains, the vegetation, the animals wandering around, the sunrises and the sunsets, the buildings, and most importantly, the people. There is so much brokenness, but that doesn’t mean that there’s a lack of beauty.

7. The culture is way different. The first thing that I noticed was the driving. Driving in Haiti is chaotic, and the roads are treacherous. Speed limits are rarely shown but for sure they are never followed. Drivers tend to drive on whatever side they want, and often pass each other. Tap-taps (decked out pick-up trucks/taxis) are overcrowded, and sometimes you’ll find four or more people on a motorcycle, and people are fearless drivers. Lots of honking, too. The town we stayed in doesn’t have many stores, but lots of markets and vendors. Bartering is huge. I made a couple attempts at bartering. Driving by, you see lots of head-carrying, you see Haitians bathing and doing laundry in the river. Trash is everywhere, there is no proper system in place for disposal. You see half-built structures, apparently when one obtains enough money, they buy the land and build as much as they can with all of their savings. Voodoo is practiced. There is so much more to the culture, but there was a lot to take in, and a lot I have yet to learn.

8. Education is everything. When we had to extend our stay a few extra days and we were discussing our safety, one of the adult leaders said that we are probably in the safest location in town; everybody loves the school we were staying at and wouldn’t cause any harm to it. That really hit me. Most Haitians lack access to quality education, and education is so meaningful- it impacts social and economic development. I never thought about the importance of school until I was in Haiti. The Mortel High Hopes for Haiti Foundation has served so many in Saint Marc, and students are able to do so much with their education and better society.

9. God is so big. Upon returning to Ronald Reagan Airport, we were interviewed by a local news station. One from our group said, “”Staying there those extra few days reminded me why we were there.” From the surface, it appears that we as a missions group did a lot that week, but it was really God who was doing all the work. God kept our spirits up the entire time we were there, God pushed us to always do more, God brought so many people into our lives and introduced us to so many people. God provided us with an unforgettable experience.

10. Always be on a mission. I have always been service-oriented but going on this trip has inspired me to do so much more. It is important to stress that you can serve God and serve anybody anywhere, you do not have to travel out of the country to serve. Start in your home, in your neighborhood, your school, your local city, seek into volunteering at local agencies. You can do ANYTHING. My major, Human Services, will give me the opportunities to serve after college in whichever field I pursue. Always be on a mission, and always inspire others to join along.

11. There is so much hope for Haiti. It’s been almost two weeks and I am still replaying each experience in my mind; all these memories bring me so much happiness and I love sharing these moments with anyone who is willing to listen. People may know Haiti as the broken, impoverished country, and better yet, the country that had the terrible earthquake. Ultimately, they do not receive enough credit. Haiti is a beautiful country with beautiful people and there is so much potential. It’s important for me to spread awareness of Haiti, and the Mortel Foundation, and to stay involved with the foundation, and with my sister parish which I had the pleasure visiting- I am now joining the Haiti committee at my parish. All the students I met are bound to do great things. Everybody I met in Haiti is well-deserving of a better life. There is so much hope.

Molly T, 2018 Haiti Alumna