A close friend of mine, growing up, had spent a tremendous amount of time in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, to help work on philanthropic projects through her family's organization: Global Family Philanthropy. Prior to my first trip, I had obtained a solid amount of hands-on charity work exposure via the National Charity League, volunteering for St. Vincent De Paul, and doing AZ Magic Camp. However, nothing I had ever experienced leading up to 2015 came anywhere close to the mind-altering actuality that I absorbed once we arrived in Haiti.
Haiti is special. The opportunity to step foot there, help others, build things, and put smiles on peoples' faces for an entire week was a blessing that I simply could not pass up. No one should. After a life-changing first impression, I returned for a second trip the following year. Both trips fell on Thanksgiving week. I remember my family being a little bummed that I couldn't attend Thanksgiving for two years in a row. But, for me, it was actually the perfect time to go. In America, on this particular week, we stuff ourselves full of concerning amounts of food, bask in the comfort of our homes, share too many laughs to count, and are so in our own world that we forget about how it is for people living in third world countries.
While in Haiti on those two Thanksgiving days, there were no endless feasts, fine wines, or people plopped on the couch watching football for several hours straight. Instead, our group prepared meals for the orphanage, which were much more modest. For Global Family Philanthropy, the orphanage was a principal project for the overall organization. It was a home that they worked tirelessly to fortify over many years. And it was a family. Even volunteers were considered "family members". As I look back, almost seven years later, I feel a unique nostalgic warmth for all of the bright-minded people that I was able to meet, for my close group of friends whom I was able to travel with and work alongside, and for the gorgeous landscape that is the country of Haiti.
It blew my mind how lush, green, and vast the countryside of Haiti is. We spent a fair amount of time tightly-squeezed in a van, venturing from project-site to project-site, being awarded eye-opening views of the entire terrain. To be frank, much of what we stared at outside of its windows was distressing; nonetheless, seeing eager-to-help Americans is a pleasure to many people who live there. It was a blissful surprise to realize that many Haitians are immensely more joyous, gratuitous, humble, and respectful than many people who grew up in America. Although, that isn't something that gives me satisfaction to say. It's just the truth. As I retrieve the thoughts, memories, and emotions from both experiences in Haiti, there is a lot I could recap on. However, I want to retain the same curiosity, intrigue, earnestness, and mystery I once had before embarking on this one-of-a-kind adventure. Immersion is the best teacher.
I hold the following images near and dear to my heart. Not only do they symbolize some fun and productive trips, but even more so, a necessary time in my adolescent years that taught me many lessons surrounding mindset, gratitude, responsibility, discipline, and compassion.
Here is a look into my experience in Haiti, some projects we worked on, a few perspectives through my own eyes, and some profound views captured there.
I hope to return.