The strength of the Haitian people
Today was a hard, yet inspiring day. We woke up bright and early, at breakfast together and started our trek up the steep hill to the school. After the relief of making it up to the top, and seeing the beautiful view that we would witness while working we were greeted eagerly by all the young Haitian children attending the school. They rushed outside yelling ‘Blons’ which is the name for white people, and shortly after formed a circle around their teachers who led them into the most adorable song and dance. We all took pictures and a few team members even joined in. There were a few children with broken school shoes, frayed socks. One boy I noticed had a badly disfigured foot, so bad he couldn’t walk on the sole of his foot. He walked on the side of it and still managed to wear shoes, walk and kick around a soccer ball like all the other children. He coped with life the way all the other children did, and didn’t let his disability stop him from doing anything he wanted to do.
When we got back to work, I noticed quite a few differences from Haiti to home in Canada. In Haiti when you need some water, you have to send someone all the way down to the well to carry up 5 gallons at a time on top of their heads. In Canada, you would just call in the water truck. The construction worker’s lack of protective gear was alarming. Most of them were slip sliding around in their flip flops every time water got on them during all the cement mixing. None of the workers wore gloves to protect their hands, goggles while smashing rocks, or hard hats for protection.
Seeing our new friends Wesley and Kevinson working so hard shovelling and using the only broken pick axe they could find bought me to tears. I was wearing gloves just to pick up sand and rock filled buckets, immediately passing them to another team members. So after a short while, I couldn’t handle watching them clench their hands in pain anymore. I dug up the extra pair of gloves I had brought along, took off my gloves and gave a glove out to some of the workers. The relief and thankfulness on their faces from such a simple act filled me with such joy. I have formed a friendship with these two boys and I am so thankful to have met them! I have been so moved by everything I was able to witness today and I look forward to more while on this amazing journey in Haiti.
Michaela ~ Haiti Hero Holiday volunteer 2013
A Collective Thought on Trees
A very special day today! Three groups of business people came to the home to give back. It all started with a group tour that allowed the donors a chance to look into the lives of these children and inner workings of the home.
Joanna- “It was amazing! After the tour, a business group had all the children, all the donors, and our mighty LiveDifferent team plant trees that grow fruit and vegetables around the home. What was so special to me was that this gift wasn’t just going to be used up. It was something sustainable and long lasting, and will continue to give to this incredible group of kids. My special memory was when one of the kids; Umnud, had planted his tree and had his arms wrapped around it. Clearly enveloped with joy by this bestowal, Umnud reminded me for the one millionth time on this trip how grateful these kids are. Not to mention how much honour they carry with them.”
Taylor- “I was overwhelmed by the act of giving. Not just by the children, (how they are with each other and our LiveDifferent team) but also by the donors . Declan, the leader of a company gave a moving speech that inspired me. He spoke about philanthropy and explained that he was a businessman who worked to help others invest money so they were constantly increasing their funds. Refreshingly, he had realized that giving back was the reason he sought out to make so much money. He said, this (the home) and places like it are where his heart is. It moved me to find that this man may have been a businessman, but that it did not define him. He proved to me that stereotypes can be very wrong and that all people can do great things when their heart is really in it!”
Jessica- ” I don’t even know where to start. My favourite part was physically planting the trees with kids and the donors. What was so special to me was how invested the kids were in the maintenance of their trees. It was comparable to how a mother would nourish her child. The thrill of actually putting these plants in the ground was obviously something these kids cherished. Ironically, where we come from a lot of kids may not have put so much love and respect into planting a tree. R-Pae, the sweet girl I planted my tree with was immensely involved in the process. She and I planted the tree and by herself she went to get a watering pale. I watched this little girl lug the pale across the court (she would not let me help her) and water each and every tree around her, one by one. I should mention, running back and forth with full water pales. We’ve experienced many acts of kindness by these kids. Today was no different. A gentleman who’d been planting, had dirty hands and R-Pae helped him wash them.”
Isn’t the cycle of giving magnificent? These companies were ecstatic to be in the presence of these remarkable kiddies and visa versa. When they were headed to their truck the kids gave each member a present, a bracelet or necklace they had made, as they doused them with water and smeared wet baby pounder on their faces (a Thai New Year’s tradition!!) Lastly, proceeding this eventful farewell, we surprised the munchkins with a water filled balloon fight! One of the most hilarious events that we took part in all week. The balloons disappeared almost instantaneously but it did not stop there. The kids roared with laughter as they threw the remaining hidden balloons (in their shirts, behind their backs…etc, etc.) at the best targets and then filled buckets with water and dumped them on each member of the LiveDifferent teams head. SO refreshing on such a hot day, and an amazing way to end yet another memorable day at the home.
Sah wah tee kah:)
Coffee, Rock Stars, and Thrift Stores
Bamboo Poles and Hearts Filled With Hope
When Christal asked for blog volunteers, my hand shot up. I usually have a lot to say and was so excited to be in Thailand, I thought, no problem, the words will roll off my tongue…..I was wrong.
Would you like some water?
On a hot summer day, if someone asked you this question I guarantee your answer would be yes, without another thought. Nothing could ever prepare me for what I experienced today and it will forever force me to rethink the answer to this simple question.
Today was our second day in Haiti and as usual, it started with the very tiring hike up the mountainside to our build site, the school. We were told that we could help today by bringing water to the work site from a local well. LiveDifferent is pretty cool because they really get us involved in the community and do things the way the locals would, so this means that we would be bringing the water up the mountain from the well that is 20 minutes away…on our heads!
I was quite nervous about this because while watching the locals they made it seem a little too easy. While walking down the mountain I kept watching to see if I could pick up any tips. We arrived at the well and there must have been about 50 people there filling up their buckets. Everyone from 5 year olds to grandparents were filling up buckets, placing them on their heads, and walking away as if it were normal to be carrying that amount of weight on their heads. What wasn’t normal was the group of white people who were attempting the same, so of course we drew quite a crowd!
We learned the bucket rarely goes directly on your head, you must have a piece of cloth wrapped in what looks to be a donut between your head and the bucket. If the ‘donut’ wasn’t folded or placed right, you had no hope of taking any step towards your destination. As I stood there waiting, I was laughing and joking with my friends wondering how I was going to do this with a full 5 gallon bucket of water in front of me. As I was attempting to tie my extra shirt into a ‘donut’, a lady about my Mom’s age walked up to me, took it out of my hands and tied it for me. As I thanked her in Creole she placed it on my head and helped me place the bucket properly then she walked off. Later while the group was discussing this, another volunteer said ‘she wasn’t even smiling, this wasn’t funny to her because this is her life.’ She made the trip up the mountain everyday, most likely upwards of 5 times a day, but she was willing to help us. The group of LiveDifferent volunteers stopped a few times on the way up the mountain to catch our breath and she was waiting for us every time with a full bucket still balancing on her head, and she helped us retie our ‘donuts.’
It was only after reaching the top of the mountain, when I could empty out my bucket into the large container that it hit me how privileged we are in developed countries.
In our debriefing that night one of the staff mentioned a quote that states, ‘one of the worst parts of being poor is that it takes up all of your time’ and after experiencing the hike up the mountain today, this quote could not have been more true. Instead of spending time with her family, developing skills or even finding a job, this lady spends the majority of her day getting water. This is something that in Canada, we wouldn’t even give a second thought to. An average 8 minute shower uses 40 gallons, one flush of a toilet uses 2 gallons and that doesn’t even include the water we use for drinking, cooking, cleaning our cars, or watering our gardens. It took me 20 minutes and all my energy to get only 5 gallons and I guarantee the next time I turn on a tap I’ll think differently, will you?
Matt ~ Haiti Hero Holiday volunteer 2013
Live with purpose, live with love, LiveDifferent
I can’t believe this day has finally come. After months of fundraising, planning, and anticipating we’re all here in Haiti. It is the most surreal experience to speak and dream of doing something, and then actually live it. I had no real idea of what Haiti would be like; after all, all I had ever known of this country was through text and film. What I have experienced on my first day in Haiti has surprised me, amazed me and touched my heart in so many ways.
When we first came to the Haitian border after our 3 to 4 hour journey from Dominican Republic I was instantly aware of the change between the two countries. First step was to get our passports and papers processed by the Haitian customs. As we got out of the bus to get some fresh air, it was instantly clear that our presence was noticed by all the locals. It is later that I found out how rare it is for a group of Caucasians, “blons” as the Haitians call it, to be seen in Haiti. We began lining up to get processed. The female officer would call out each name of the passport and match our face to it. As she did this I noticed her smile at every single person that came up to her window. A smile on a custom officers face is something that I am not used to in Canada or the United States. Her smile instantly put me at ease and I felt my anxiety fade away. I was ready to begin my journey.
Walking through the border in the blistering heat is something I will never forget. I kept looking around me and thinking I cannot believe I’m in Haiti!! It really felt like an out of body experience. There were fewer guards than I had anticipated. The extreme difference in the environment, infrastructure and scenery was shocking from what I have grown up with in Canada.
Once we crossed into Haiti, we got on another bus to drive to our hotel. During this ride we all got to see a glimpse into some of the lives of the people. As I looked out the window I noticed children running around, parents working, people walking along the street. The condition of the houses that the families were occupying was incredibly heartbreaking. At times I could see 6 to 7 people in a house the size of my bathroom at home. It is one thing to hear about these conditions, but to actually see them as a tangible reality is really an emotional experience. Out of all the quick glances, one struck me the most. As we drove by one of the houses I noticed a young boy, maybe 4 or 5 years old, run to a man who seemed to be his father. The boy bear hugged the man’s leg and did not let go. It was in that moment I saw in front of me what we hear all the time. We as people are all the same. We all have families, we all love our families and all we want is to love and be loved. We are all of the same worth and we all deserve basic human necessities and amenities. The people of Haiti are just like us, but why is it that they suffer and live in such unfair and brutal conditions? I knew this question would come back to me again and again every step of my journey.
Once we arrived at our hotel in Cap Haitien, I was so surprised at how beautiful, clean and well kept it was. My own pre-conceived notions were confronted and crushed. The staff were equally beautiful and extremely gracious helping us settle in. Although I was happy, I also felt a conflicting sense of guilt because of the beautiful space I would be living in compared to many Haitian families a few minutes away from me.
Once we were settled in, we went to visit the school we would be working on for the next few days. The walk up the hill to the school is definitely not for the faint of heart. It is yet another example of what people go through everyday in this country. Once we got to the school I instantly saw the breathtaking view of the mountains, ocean, and Cap Haitien. It is something that cannot be described in words, and it encompasses the beauty of Haiti. The entire school was made of stone, cinder blocks, and cement. I could already tell how much work and effort had gone into building the two classrooms and principals office that holds 177 children. I was astonished that so many children fit into such a confined space. And yet they come to learn, they want to grow and build a better future for themselves. These tiny rooms are the hope for so many families. I could also see the work that still needed to be done and I knew how much work it would take. I am so excited to be a part of it and leave my fingerprint on the school in Cap Haitien.
After the school visit we went to explore the town. Walking through the village I was confronted by level of poverty that I have never before seen. It was so hard to walk by and not be able to do something for them right away. There were so many children and parents peering through their doors to watch us walk by. We waved to as many as we could to say hello. So many would light up and wave back saying, ‘Bon Soir!’ Somehow the people of Haiti are surviving, they are living. They get up everyday and work for a better day. They open up their homes and smile and wave at a group of foreigners walking through their town. The spirit and strength surrounds you at every corner. The people of Haiti live in conditions that no human should ever had to experience. I never really truly understood this statement until I walked through the village.
I cannot wait to keep exploring this beautiful city and learning from the amazing people who call it their home. I hope to bring hope and show the people of Haiti that someone cares. Someone in the world out there has thought of them. Everyone deserves that. Everyone in the world should feel that they matter, and that their suffering has not gone unnoticed. As much as I am excited to help with the construction of the school, I am equally excited to learn from the people in this city. It has become very clear to me that the Haitian people have many things to teach me. I am in anticipation of the lessons and adventures that await me. It has been less than 24 hours that I have been in Haiti and I have a renewed understanding of what it takes to live with purpose, live with love and to LiveDifferent!
Star, Hero Holiday Volunteer, Haiti 2013
Falling In Love, One by One
It’s common to fall in love with Thailand. It’s hard not to. But I’m falling in love in Thailand. Seriously. One child at a time. One adult at a time, one idea at a time.
Every day we travel from our hotel to the children’s home. Once there, we’re instantly enveloped by the younger kids who compete, it seems, in expressions of affection. Then we play!
This morning we began with photography lessons. Augusto and I were just amazed at our eager pupils. They handled the cameras with tenderness. And then shared their knowledge with each other with equal tenderness.
Tonight was karaoke night and time again to put work aside and fall in love with all of the incredible people I’m blessed to be with.
And I’ve fallen hard for the idea that love is power. And there is none greater.
~ David, Hero Holiday Volunteer, Thailand 2013