It’s a Small World After All: Spending Winter Break Abroad

The saying, “be the change you wish to see in the world” has been thrown around our generation for our entire lives. I have always found joy in helping others. Community service for sports teams or for school was never a drag. I would volunteer to do extra hours at the soup kitchen or would ask to spend weekends cleaning up the little league softball field that I grew up playing on. As I have gotten older, I have learned that when an opportunity arises, you need to take it and run with it, because you never know when something like it will come back around. So when my friend Ryan invited me to do mission work in Haiti over winter break, I knew that it was an offer I could not refuse.

Ryan and his family have been doing work in Haiti ever since the earthquake in 2010. His mom opened a rehabilitation clinic to provide medical care to those that would normally be turned away for being physically disabled. This trip was a little different than most. Ryan planned the whole trip himself, with our main goal being to raise money for a school located in Grande Sous that would soon have to close, forcing the students to walk up to 2 hours to get to the next closest school. Over the course of a semester, Ryan and I, along with 3 of our friends, raised over $2,000 for the teachers of Grande Sous and collected multiple bins full of school supplies to donate to the school. We packed up our supplies and headed to Port-au-Prince.

 

I fully expected the culture of Haitian people to be drastically different than that of the typical American, but nothing could have prepared me for the culture shock I had stepping foot in Haiti. The immense amounts of poverty was just overpowering. You could not turn a corner without it being thrown in your face. The majority of the people walking around on the street did not have shoes on and were covered in dirt and dust. There houses consisted of these small, cement squares with tin roofs that looked like they were not finished being built. Children ran around in minimal to no clothing for the pure fact that they did not have anything to wear. It truly made me so thankful for the life I have been blessed with.

We spent our time staying with the family of the manager of Ryan’s mom’s clinic, which was located in Gonaïves. The hospitality of him and his family was unlike anything I have ever experienced. He took care of us as if we were his own family and made sure we were always fed and hydrated. Cedieu, the manager of the clinic, is one of the most selfless people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Him and his wife cook dinner for them and their three children, and always have leftovers to feed the kids in the neighborhood and visitors that are just passing through. They go above and beyond to help those around them, even if they do not have a surplus of food themselves.

 

When we went and visited an orphanage near Cedieu’s house, we bought sanitary products like shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, tooth brushes, and basic things that we do not necessarily worry about having enough of. Walking into the gates of the orphanage was extremely eye opening. It was a concrete square consisting of bedrooms and classrooms with a grass center that the kids would play in. The majority of the kids in the orphanage were given up by their parents at a young age because they could not afford to take care of them. These kids just sprinted up to us and gave all of us these hugs that were just screaming appreciation. We sat on the steps of the classrooms and drew on construction paper. With their being a language barrier, we found ways to communicate through pictures. It was a night filled with pure fun and, hopefully, some time for the children to forget about their worries and struggles.

Visiting the school in Grande Sous was an experience in and of itself. We had to hike a total of 6 miles to get to the school, which was deep into a mountain range. We packed all of the school supplies into backpacks and carried them up the mountain with us in 98 degree weather. The children of the school were definitely nervous when we first arrived. They looked at us as if we were not even human. I can remember some of the younger children coming up to me to touch my skin, my hair, and even my earrings. They were so fascinated by us and how we looked so different from them. They sang some songs to us, we walked around and learned some of the children’s names, and even had some time to dance around and be goofy with them. Keeping the air light and letting them remember that they are still just kids, was one message I was hoping to get across from this trip.

    

Spending a week in Haiti was an experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. These memories and this country holds a special place in my heart and I will eternally be grateful for the way it has changed my life. I am inspired to pursue more missionary work in the future and to take my career down the path of international healthcare. I want to be able to see the world and learn about how people in different parts of the world live their lives and do what I can to help as many people as possible. We have this abstract mindset that in order to make a difference, we must change the entire world with just one action. In reality, it is the cumulation of tiny victories that have the biggest impact and it all starts with our perception. Once we begin to base our perception of others on what our heart finds rather than what our eyes see, that is when we will see a change. As Sandra Bullock said, “There’s no race, no religion, no class system, no color, nothing, no sexual orientation that makes us better than anyone else.”

 

 

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