For those of you just joining us, I wanted to do a short recap since my entire adventure in Haiti isn't here online. This experience has been one crazy ride, but one I will never forget or take lightly. It has already changed and molded me into someone new. You can't see these things and forget. You can't see these things and believe people actually live this way in this day and age.
Haiti is unlike any country in the western hemisphere. With many issues revolving around poverty and corruption, Haiti is the poorest country in this hemisphere and it seems many suffer a very serious lack of integrity. Then again, some may say that about most Americans too.
One person I met here actually referred to Haiti as the closest thing to Nineva.
The longer I stay, the more closely I see how much Haiti is really hurting. I would have loved to be there at the beginning, immediately after the earthquake, when I hear stories of how everyone was working together for the betterment of Haiti. Now it seems like a distant memory as many organizations have pulled out of the country and have forgotten these people who need some sort of hope to hold on to.
My work in Haiti began at the end of January when a group from my hometown church was planning to visit for a little under two weeks to build temporary shelters. On that trip, the group of 14 constructed 19 temporary structures and one permanent foam core home as a sample of what we would like to work towards.
During my second trip, my dear friends Alonda and Danny joined me as we traveled with Kendra around the Dominican Republic and Haiti for 3 weeks. We finished the odds and ends on all the temporary homes (rain gutters, stretched blue tarps, buried hurricane straps), supervised the water well drilling, solar security light installation and latrine construction, and began work on digging holes for a pavilion to provide refuge from the hot sun.
Then, for four weeks in May, I traveled with Kendra on my third trip to network with other nonprofits, interview potential families to move into our community, and research ways to improve the quality of life of these individuals who have been living in refugee camps for the last 18+ months. We worked with the UN military to spread gravel, then actually moved in 21 of our 25 families. What a glorious day that was! Check out my post "Moving Day" for more on that.
The fourth trip was for part of June and July (4.5 weeks total) and focused on the community and how they are adapting to their new residence. We provided micro-enterprise and agriculture opportunities and had an organization interview families to build better temporary homes made of plywood - for free. The To Do List was very long, but we were able to move the group to a better place with some long term solutions.
People will ask if Haiti is fun or if the people are nice. In my experience (remember, this is only my opinion and many other people have had very different experiences than I), my answer is usually no. The environment there is harsh and intense. I've never seen anything like it and there is nothing I can compare it to. We have met some amazing Haitian people, but the vast majority can be lumped into the unfriendly category. In their defense though, I'm sure I'd be on edge if I had been through what they have and if I had to constantly be watching out for my family to protect them from all the bad. They've also been taught that the white people have money and food. While we try to give when we can, our intention is to give them the tools and allow them to do it themselves. This is about self sustainment and sometimes tough love.
My experience has been very different from others who have helped in Haiti this year. Most groups come down to stay on a compound or in a guest house. This means running water for showers, beds with air conditioning and no bugs at night, and usually Internet and a good meal too. Its always the same - they start early in the morning when it is cool, quit before dinner, and have free time before bed.
Kendra and I have been living very differently. On top of the stress of project completion and having a short number of days to move the project forward, we work most days 14+ hours, seven days a week, eat meals of snacks when we have a spare moment/remember, sleep in mosquito nets and are lucky if our fans work to keep us cool at night. Did I mention the no running water thing? Usually a bucket shower, unless we are lucky. The experience has proved more grity than many people could or would want to handle. What's hard to grasp is that even though it isn't ideal, we are still living better in Haiti than most Haitians.
Some relief for us has come from a random friendship formed with a church from Tulsa, Oklahoma - Victory Compassion and wow, are they compassionate! We have loved getting to know them and are so grateful they continue to invite us to stay with them when space is free for a real shower, hot meal and air conditioned dorms!
This trip is my fifth and we will focus mainly on reconnecting with organizations who have made promises that have not been fulfilled. The unfortunate thing about this country and the help that organizations are here to provide - is that it is not easy to secure the help. We have been gone for two and a half months from the people to find that the organizations that were supposed to provide a variety of things are in fact waiting for us to return before providing them. Isn't that backwards? The people who provide for Haiti won't give to the Haitians without a liaison organization to bridge the gap. It's crazy.
Haiti needs love. Haiti needs Christ. That is the ONLY way this country will ever heal. While I can't help fix everything, I can help to see this project through and pray that these families see the potential of what their lives can be.