Day 6 – Project Day #3 Empathy
We awoke in higher spirits from the previous days excitement. We met for our usual group breakfast promptly at 8:00 am. Unfortunately a few of the team members were not feeling 100% and instead remained behind to recover – but attempts were courageously made to come in spite of their health.
We arrived to admire the work that had been conducted in our absence. The support beams had been applied along with steel sheet roofs. The majority of the stucco had been applied and the school was truly becoming realized to what it would become. We said our greetings to the Haitian builders and set to work. We began with our usual production line to bring sand down the mountain. From our experience we learned to make it far more efficient – although with a lot less resting! After we had retrieved an impressive amount of sand we took a water break.
Following this water break we ironically set off to get more water! We went on a hike down to the local water well with a few local companions where we were greeted by a large group showering, doing laundry, and collecting drinking water. They kindly greeted us and allowed us to retrieve our water in turn and leave on our way. At this point we had collected an entourage of children who were greeting us like family and accompanying us back up to the school. I am always impressed at the skill of the Haitian people to walk up what seems like cliffs to us with buckets on their heads – they are truly a strong people. Some children were kind enough to “guide” those of us lacking sure footing and would push us up if we ever slipped or needed help.
The ability to be welcomed into a community without even speaking the same language is truly an indescribably touching experience. We arrived back from our water run with our new posse in tow and were soon surprised by a new arrival. A large group of women – which we assumed to be from a church- arrived to our work site and began filing into the school and trapping a few of our group inside. They then spontaneously burst into song and brought smiles to many of ours faces. They said ‘thank you to our group before departing on their trek. We quickly formed another production line and finished off a pile of sand before departing for our lunch break.
After a delicious meal of sandwiches, pasta, chicken, and potatoes we said our goodbyes to our under-the-weather companions and set off back to work. We were happy to find that the recently constructed windows and doors for the school were being delivered and began getting attached. We broke our group into specific work groups – mixing cement, applying stucco, adding cinder block walls, and even just moving water buckets and cement bags. It was great to see that we were all becoming friends with the locals and learning each others names. We sweat, laughed and talked with each other; both learning new languages and new ways to work more efficiently. After a short period we split our group into two teams to play with the large groups of children that were migrating towards us.
Both groups quickly began breaking out the balls, crayons and paper. The joy in a child’s eyes from such simple games and connection is an extremely heartfelt experience. The second group even brought out kites to fly – which the Haitians were far superior at flying then any of our attempts. It was full of laughs, hugs, “monkey-in-the-middle”, colouring out of the lines, and various fun activities. The way these children laugh, smile, and embrace us so openly and instantly is one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The feeling it gives and the connection it creates cannot be described in this blog – you have to be here to experience it yourself. Holding their hands, sharing their laughs, and seeing a glimpse of their daily life. They are a people who have very little in the sense of material possessions or wealth, but they are rich in their appreciation for each other and the value they place on what they do have. They live life to it’s fullest and cherish each moment in spite of the challenges they face. Because it is all they know. I showed my new Haitian friends pictures of a birds eye view photo of their city I took from our plane and saw their eyes light up. It was touching… but also sad because it is unlikely that they will ever see that view with their own eyes.
We left that day knowing we had worked hard and headed back to our hotel. I left smiling with children in tow and proud of the school to be. Prouder still knowing that these children shared that feeling. “This is my school, This is our school” the children had said – and the school was not yet completed!
After dinner the group met upstairs for our usual debriefing. Our focus today was on empathy. On never jumping to conclusions but instead seeing things from another’s perspective and share their feelings. We discussed how we can sometimes place higher value on those we relate to. We used American rescue worker’s as an example – they were sent to Haiti to recover the American dead bodies trapped in the rubble. While at the same time there was still hundreds of Haitians trapped alive in the rubble; 60 in one collapsed supermarket. We all place our priorities differently and we talked more about how we have to put faces to statistics so we can better relate and understand them.
An example of statistics that was mentioned was the 9-11 attack and how 2,973 people died. This got massive media coverage and attention. Where as the fact that each day over twice that; 6,000 Africans die from AIDS. Each day, an additional 11,000 are infected. On top of that once every six seconds someone dies of starvation; this can be in the upwards of 50,000 every day. Thess statistics do not even phase most “well off” people. Because they don’t relate or understand those numbers; they’re just too big to truly understand.
But now I have faces, names and memories to put beside those statistics and I understand that it our responsibility to recognize the wrongs in this world and the luxuries I live with. It is our generation that must live and make these changes. Because we are all people… we’re just born in different places and indifferent situations. Besides that, there’s not much different. We all eat, we all sleep, we all struggle, we all love, and we all care.