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June 07, 2010

Travel Journal from Haiti

BLOG-Haiti-Main This week, I’m giving a member of the Care.com team a chance to share his story. Mike N. traveled to Haiti in May to help the earthquake relief effort. He brought with him 350 pounds of supplies (some of it donated by our generous employees!) and a willingness to help. He came back with great stories that I’m happy to share with you today.

Two weeks ago, I visited Haiti. Just over four months removed from the earthquake that wrecked devastation on what was already the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, much of the country is still in shambles. And yet, in the midst of the rubble and poverty, there is an enormous wealth of faith, hope, and joy.

BLOG-Haiti-1 I joined a weeklong trip to Port au Prince through Adventures in Missions. We spent the week working in the tent community of Ktadb. This location is on the outskirts of the city and, as far as we knew, hadn’t received any international aid since the January 12th earthquake. Just fewer than 3,600 people live in Ktadb, divided into about 600 handmade shelters.

When we arrived, there wasn’t a single tarp or tent in sight. Families had built homes out of wooden stakes and used bed sheets and clothing sewn together to form walls. It’s the rainy season in Haiti, and when the storms come, they soak through the meager coverings and turn the ground underfoot to thick, sucking mud. Most of the families have literally nothing but the clothes on their backs. The lucky ones sleep on cinderblocks to keep out of the mud—those less fortunate sleep on the dirt. I’ll be honest, it’s painful to see.

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We spent the first two days of the trip moving from shelter to shelter, meeting the residents, seeing how they lived, praying for them (and accepting offers from them to pray for us in return). The residents shared their stories and asked about us, too. We didn’t immediately start handing out supplies and food because we wanted to avoid creating a dependency on foreign assistance. Rather, we started building relationships, mobilized the community leaders, played with the kids, helped housewives wash laundry, and dug foundations for new homes alongside some workers. As we pitched in, meeting the Haitians where they lived, I saw things I couldn’t believe.

There was the old man who had lost his son in the quake and struggled with injuries himself—yet he said he praised God every day for life. That’s belief beyond anything I know.

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Two students, Reginald and Yvelise, who are both studying to be doctors, proudly talked about how they’ve continued studying at home while the deanship of the university searches for a new site to rebuild the collapsed school. Both have hope that they’ll return to college, finish their degrees, and then use what they’ve learned to help their country recover. 


 

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Remy, a 14-year-old boy living in a shelter with his older brother, pitched in to help us place tarps over the homes of single mothers, women with children, and the elderly. He never once asked for us to cover his own home, knowing others needed help more than he did. Remy showed me strength.


 

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Even before we brought out the boxes of donated toys and sporting goods, we saw so much joy on children's faces. They were more than willing to sing and dance and clap their hands, even though many hadn’t eaten in a day, two, or more. All they wanted was to hold my hand, be asked their name, and hear mine. That’s joy in a place where sadness should reign.

 


BLOG-Haiti-8 Through generous donations (many thanks especially to Care.com which sent me to Haiti armed with dozens of tarps, boxes of school supplies, and plenty of sporting goods), we were able to distribute nearly 200 tarps, making sure that the neediest of the needy received theirs first. We also purchased over $4,200 of rice and beans, which the local community leaders distributed themselves. It will only feed the residents of Ktadb for a couple days, but it’s a start.


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I went to Haiti thinking that I could help—and I did in the smallest way possible—but what really happened is that Haiti helped me. If faith, hope, and joy can survive in a place where none of that should exist, then I believe we can have those things here, too. I left Haiti being more thankful for the things that really matter in life—family and friends—than ever before.


 

BLOG-Haiti-4 I also left with the reminder that we really can do something to care for those in need. It can be as simple as giving the extra canned goods from your pantry to a local food bank or texting “HAITI” to the American Red Cross to donate $10 to the earthquake relief effort. You don’t have to go yourself. Whatever you choose to do, though, you’ll help make the world a little better and make sure that hope spreads out a little further than it did before.


Thank you for listening to my story. And many thanks to Care.com for supporting my trip, the residents of Ktabd, and donating supplies that will make a difference in the lives of hundreds of people.

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Comments

Mary

Thank you for your service. I am so angry that the millions donated are not being used as they were intended, to relive the misery and provide basic needs.
I think we all need to put pressure on the agencies to use our donations to help these folks, not just collect interest on the monies.

Almas

We are so proud of Mike for standing up to help the needy. As rightly said by him, we all should be more thankful than ever to the "Almighty" for every thing that has been bestowed upon us.

Tiffany Stark

I can relate to your experience I just returned from Haiti myself last Tuesday June 1st. It was devastating to see the conditions four months later without any change! Our mission was to a do trauma counseling seminar to help those individuals that are grieving and to deal with the trauma of the earthquake itself. We also did counseling with some individuals that have lost loved ones. I just returned from Africa in the beginning of May and I would say from my comparisons that Haiti is far worse. Without the earthquake or before the earthquake, things still are incredibly terrible with the malnourishment of children. 1in 9 children die by the age of 5 due to malnourishment. If you can live to 40 years of age you lived a long life. And imagine Haiti is only 700 miles from the USA! I will say the people of Haiti are very resilient people and have tremendous faith in God!

Brandon

Giving away clothes -- that's a good idea,like it!!

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