Monday, May 10, 2010

Hope In The Smiles Of Haiti


It's been several days of attempting to write this blog post, finally here it is. I guess you can say that I am at loss of words, however, I am not sure words are capable of describing the emotions and experiences of the days I recently spent in Haiti. As I flew into Port Au Prince without any expectations of what might touch my eyes and mind, I knew that there was no way to prepare for the type of enlightenment that I was about to encounter. Greeted by heart-felt, soulful Hatian music as we descended down the elevator of the airport for-shadowing the journey that was about to follow, I embraced the vivacity of the vibrations as the music absorbed into my skin.

Embarking on a four and a half hour bus ride from Port Au Prince to Les Cayes, the visuals were more shocking than ever expected. However, the smiles and the waving hands of civilians as we traveled through the streets overpowered the overwhelming destruction of buildings. Emersed with penetrating views of buildings decimated to the extent that you can not help but think of the lives that struggled underneath the rubble, tent city after tent city, people diligently working to rebuild their community, and determined faces with big bright eyes filled with endurance and strength. Taking in these views it was clear to see the importance and need for the work of Life Giving Force ( and World Orphan Project ( in Haiti.

Apon arrival of at the orphanage in Les Cayes we received a warm welcome from children chasing our bus up the hill until we came to a stop, waiting patiently for the doors of the bus to open, and looking in with smiling eyes. The kids slightly shy as first when given an extended arm, but within just a few minutes they latched on to any extended limb that they could grab onto. Pointing out my freckles, pushing my skin to watch the color change from slightly tan, to pink, to white, and back to its original color, braiding my hair, moving my hair out of my face, and pointing any exposed scars or bug bites. They were mesmerized by the smallest details and studied every characteristic. This particular orphanage had an estimated 230 kids before the earthquake, and now has approximately 345 kids. Looking into the eyes of these children, seeing their ability to love unconditionally and their craving for touch and attention, it was difficult to imagine the journey and circumstances that lead them to surround me outside of the bus. The amazing part of this experience though, is that one usually would want to exert sympathy or remorse to the situation of these kids, but I have to say my emotions were quite different. These kids have some of the biggest, brightest smiles that I have ever seen and laughs that could shatter any frown of sadness or destitute.  They found happiness in the simplest pleasures, shared when given the smallest portion of something to share, and watched out for each others well beings. These kids are survivors, and many (with the help of creditable organizations working for their health and education) are future leaders not only to their community, but possible examples to the world if we continue to believe in them.

This brings leads me to a quick side note: Haiti needs more than just "donations". Before I left for my trip, many people did not want me to go, they told me that they donated to Haiti, and that it would be better for me to have the expense of my flight, food, etc. donated. In many cases I believe this is true, however, there is also a need for organizations that have a sustainable plan that can be implemented to increase the longevity of donations given without utilizing the money in ways that use valuable resources or only provide a quick fix. In order to create sustainable solutions, it takes groups of people (minds) coming together and discussing ideas and possibilities... weighing out possible threats and challenges that might waste time, energy, and valuable resources. I was lucky to engage in some of this activity during this trip, adding input to an educational training for the children to learn how to use computers, learning about sustainable water solutions for the orphanage other locations dedicated to disaster relief, adding a different perspective, input, and/or knowledge from experience to any ideas that were discussed during the trip, and most of all connecting with the extremely talented and knowledgeable people that make up Life Giving Force and World Orphan Project leading to friendships, productivity, and connections that will last much longer than the dates that defined our trip.

Still absorbing and analyzing many of the emotions that came from this trip, there are many experiences that will remain unwritten to the public eye. This is not due to shock factor or extreme emotion, but merely the fact that  I do not feel that I can accurately describe these experiences without projecting a false image of the beautiful country of Haiti. New realizations and deeper understandings arise whenever I bring myself back to these experiences. Nonetheless, there are some very concrete messages that I do have from the trip, that can be simplified into acknowledging the pure strength of Haiti. Acknowledge the beauty of the land and the people, the potency of the potential triumph to overcome the destruction, and the bright futures that are embedded in the eyes of the orphans. With this, there is a need to give more than a donation, keep them in your thoughts, read their stories, use the power of thought to send positive reinforcement, and support and encourage organizations with sustainable plans and solutions that helping these individuals rise over the challenges that are currently facing. Haiti is strong, is beautiful, is powerful, and with help and encouragement will continued to share the stories of triumph and shine its bright light.