The greatest thing that you realize about Haiti is the importance of people. The cities are bustling with people; even more so than in the United States. Thousands upon thousands of people were just on the streets, and because you stick out like a sore thumb, people are constantly running to sell stuff to the “rich Americans.” Then, here you are with your disposable camera and matching t-shirts and reality smacks you in the face. “Here are people in which I no way can relate to. They have a different culture, lifestyle, government, language and appearance.”
The first night as we went back to the mission complex to sleep, we were excited for what was about to happen during the next week. Yet, we knew that a few photos and news articles had not prepared us middle-class Americans for what awaited us in the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
As we began each day, we were all stunned by the beauty of Haiti. Our complex was right on the coast and its beauty was comparable to something out of a classic “paradise” photograph. Just taking a group of Haitian kids to the beach for a day, was a treat for them. We drank from coconuts, sat in the shade of a tall palm tree and felt the cool ocean breeze. It all looked just like paradise.
Each day we would go out and do a small service project such as going to a feeding center or a moun-tain church. But the highlight of each day was spending time with the kids from the orphanage. We played soccer, Frisbee, badminton, softball; danced, hid Easter egg, sang songs and had a spa day for the girls.
Mostly, we just enjoyed being fellow teenagers with them. Some of the older boys knew English so we were able to communicate a bit with them but when the language barrier got in the way, we laughed instead. Everyday was an amazing and unique experience. We got to know each of them and became friends.
The last night before we left, we had a Haitian barbecue. We ordered BBQ chicken, set up chairs from the church and a large speaker for playing music. When nightfall came we decorated the place to look like a party and ate all of our food.
When one of our adult leaders offered to dance with the leader of the girls orphanage home, we cranked out island music and everyone began to dance; American and Haitians alike. We talked to one of the leaders and they said this was probably the best night of the kids’ life.
On this special night, they were in Jacmel. They enjoyed the evening and seemed to forget that they were orphans; they were children of God dearly, loved and blessed. It was one of the hardest things to leave them that night. We probably took half an hour saying our goodbyes, mostly through hugs and tears rather than words (which can’t always be understood).
Coming back, I found myself much more open to people, taken by the fact that I can communicate with them. Haiti changed my life, because I don’t see skin color anymore; I see people, just like me, individually and wonderfully created by God.