Having thought about going to Haiti for a while, I had plenty of time to research the country, its climate, temperatures, population, currency, language etc. So I thought I was prepared for my new adventure but nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced during my week in Haiti with Haiti Orphanage Project ESPWA. It was all kinds of amazing, good, bad, happy, sad, inspiring, overwhelming & scary. Would I change a thing about my week? Absolutely Not, it was the best experience of my life & I can’t wait to do it all over again.
From the moment I stepped off the plane I was hit with a blast of heat & humidity that was completely foreign to me. Little did I know that most things I was about to encounter would shock me in some way.
For a small airport it was quite noisy and crazy but we got through that to be greeted by a lady I didn’t know at the time, but one I would grow to admire & be inspired by.
Michelle Johnson is a physiotherapist volunteering in Haiti for the last year, who has extended her stay for another. She could go anywhere with her qualifications, as could the amazingly super-qualified Norma Lopez (also a physio), but they chose to help some of the most vulnerable people in the world, in a country that is not safe. I have seen the results of their hard work and dedication in the form of little Jackie, a special needs boy who 1 year ago could not walk, but I had the pleasure of watching him walk proudly while holding the trusted hand of Michelle.
It was such a beautiful sight.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the work and sacrifice many people make in Haiti, work they do not have to do but work they are born to do.
Gena Hearty is a saint that has been sent to the people of Haiti. For 25 years she has taken in many children and adults with special needs who would otherwise be cast aside by society. She doesn’t take them in because she has to, but because she loves them with all of her heart. They would have NO hope without Gena and her workers. They are given security, shelter & love, the greatest gift you could receive in a country that is on its knees.
Father Rick & Damien Meaney are two great men also working in Haiti. The stories I have heard about these men takes my breath away – they really are supermen, but completely humble when you meet them. The stories are often sad but their drive to help is inspiring and it cannot be expressed how life changing it is to meet people like this.
Going into the orphanage I thought it would be quite a sad place – hard to spend a week in – but I was completely wrong. The orphanage was a joyous, friendly welcoming place. I smiled every minute of every day with these children who have so little in life. They loved seeing new faces in the compound, the excitement of the activity of work going on. They wanted to help and get involved and be part of it. It gave them something new to focus on and it gave me clarity as to why I was there. We engaged in chat and banter, even with the language barrier. We laughed and smiled and inside the walls of the compound we were just people coming together to get to know each other with the added bonus of improving living conditions.
I have never used a shovel or pick axe so much in my life. Tiring as it was, it was fabulous being part of the ESPWA team – to know I helped build 3 new extensions so the Madame of the house would have a proper space to call her own, her own bathroom, storage to actually put clothes, blankets etc away.
Conditions are poor but we made them better, that fills my heart with joy.
So all in all, I met amazing inspiring people who told sad stories, but did great work. I met children who live in a world without parents and a family home but who smile, have fun and don’t dwell on the negative. II saw a country struggling in a way that has shocked me to my core but has taught me to live life better, enjoy more, complain less and do more. I made friends with wonderful people who will inspire me forever. Roll on my next trip with Haiti Orphanage Project ESPWA.