It was my first time with Astrid & Dave in Haiti and indeed the country is mountainous. A wonderful beauty which overwhelmed me in many ways. Since my return to DC I still struggle to describe in words what I experienced in only 5 days. It was a trip that surpassed my imagination.
Haiti the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world. I was aware of that fact when I started to volunteer for Kids Connection Haiti one year ago but I do know now that I was not fully aware of what life in such a country really means. Basic needs like shelter, water, electricity and food are simply not given to all of them. Education and medical treatments are luxury goods. We visited families were up to 10 people live in a room only 180 squarefoot small. No running water – only a bucket to get water from a well that’s 10 to 20 minutes walking distance.
On Tuesday morning we visited a church service and ten little tiny dead baby bodies were laying on the floor in front of the altar. None of those kids had a chance to survive. It was quite an emotional moment and difficult to keep the tears from coming down my face.
Throughout the whole trip my heart was deeply touched by all I’ve seen but I never felt depressed or unsafe. Actually it was the opposite. I did feel a deep connection to the Haitians and so loved by all our KCH students. Haiti does something to you and your spirit. I would describe it as uplifting and empowering. And being back in DC I now know what that magic is that happens to you in Haiti. It is LOVE. Pure Love.
Early wake up 4am, hard for someone who loves to sleep in but knowing that it is my first trip to Haiti makes it easy to wake up. DCA off to JFK, change airplanes and off we go.. a trip I never thought would change my perspective of life so tremendously.
I met Astrid at the airport in Port-Au-Prince, she took another flight, I was happy to see her. Watching outside the window while landing and seeing this incredible beauty made me feel dreamful. Indeed we arrived in the Caribbean.
On the way to our “hotel” Astrid mentioned several times how lucky we are to stay at a luxury place. After living in Dubai for 5 years, surrounded by 5*hotels, and now being in a car driving through Port au Prince looking outside the window and seeing poor neighborhoods, I was pretty confused where this “luxury” place would be. But even more confused when we arrived at St.Luc. It was a nice place, no doubt. But Luxury At this point, I just figured that Astrid and I have different definitions of luxurious!
Dave arrived later that day and we all spend a great evening together, planning the next days, the meeting with our KCH students and we visited the hospital of St. Luc before going to bed.
6 am off to a new start. Meeting with our KCH students at Haiti Communitere. It rained and stormed the night before and most of the streets were flooded. A rough night for Haitians living in tents or shacks. It took us therefore longer than expected to get through the streets but I already fall in love with the vibrant street life, the colorful houses, busses and joyful people, so I didn’t mind this long ride at all. Between 10am and 11am all students arrived at Haiti Communitere. (www.haiti.communitere.org) Being used to unpunctuality from the middle eastern region I didn’t spend to many thoughts on late arrivals. Astrid, Dave and I bought on the way to Haiti Communitere some water, juice and candy and I was greatly surprised that all students immediately started eating & drinking. Some even used the water-tap at the restrooms to clean themselves. It made me wonder but I still had no idea.
We had a wonderful, productive day – deeply touched by the life stories of every single student and at the same time so overwhelmed by the kindness and loving hearts. It felt just like a family, dearly connected.
After the meeting, we decided to drive most of the students home and I guess that was the time when my eyes opened and I started to understand Home – all of a sudden a brand new definition to me. It doesn’t always mean it is a safe place, not all necessary (for us necessary) basic needs are given. Running water, electricity, a bed to sleep in, a waterproof roof, space for privacy, clothes, dishes, furniture… NOW this was all luxury. And in this moment I fully agreed with Astrid, our place where we stayed was incredible luxurious – we had a bed to sleep in, tripping water in the shower and food to eat in the community area!
6am, another early morning and I start loving to wake up early. Today we visited the orphanage in Kenscoff, up in the mountains and more of our students homes.
The delayed arrival yesterday of some of the students also made now absolute sense to me, some of them had to wake up at 6am to walk down the hill to Port au Prince, just to be there between 10am and 11am for our meeting. The money for “tap tap” (Haitian colorful busses) wasn’t spend as every penny is needed for food.
Visiting Cite Soleil
Early morning again. Astrid told me several times in DC about Father Rick, an American priest, who opened orphanages and hospitals in Haiti. She speaks so highly about him and after visiting his orphanage in Kenscoff, I thought it is a good idea to visit his church service before I leave back to the US.
I have heard before that sometimes baby bodies are laying in front of the altar – babies that died right after being born or within the first weeks and month. Not having a chance to survive. But since it was Tuesday and the funeral is usually Mondays, I decided to go. And as we all know sometimes it comes different than expected! 10 baby bodies, wrapped in plastic foil, 1 kids body and 1 adult on the floor in front of the altar. All died – not enough food, not sufficient medical treatment. The community stood around them grievous, sorrowful and sad. For 30 minutes singing the most powerful songs, holding hands and saying their last goodbye. I couldn’t be inside the church. It was too painful. My grandmother passed this year with almost 90. She lived a long, loving and wonderful life with her family. But these babies never had the chance to even grow a little older. I tried not to cry too much but I could only resist until everyone started to shake hands and hug each other as a symbol of standing together as one.
After Church, I knew I needed time for myself. Too many emotions, too many impressions in only a few days – none of them yet absorbed. I called Sam, having some “me-time” at Haiti Communitere seemed to be exactly what I needed right now.
The wonderful Haitian guy who drove me to HC was already waiting at our place. But he was not only waiting – he studied English. And his way to learn English was by listening to songs and reading the lyrics at the same time. And the song he sang was: WE ARE THE WORLD!
Saying goodbye to Haiti that day was very difficult. My heart was so open, the love I received beyond words, the urge I feel to help these incredible wonderful people is indescribable. And the biggest lesson I learned: Things can give pleasure to the mind and senses, but only love can give pleasure to the heart.
I will be back soon!