As a third year Finance student at the University of British Columbia, the need for me to expand my horizons and widen my perspective has become almost imperative as I transition into my final year before graduation. Despite being a business major, I have always been fascinated by the rich history of many cultures and nations. Having played integral leadership roles on various on-campus clubs and volunteer initiatives within the community, I wanted the opportunity to help on an international scale and when I heard of Live Different’s collaboration with UBC for a trip to a nation struggling to survive in poverty and being the poorest in the Western hemisphere, the choice became clear. Today I got to experience Haiti’s Citadel and it is definitely something I will never forget. Seeing real cannons and cannonballs and dungeons above a 3000 foot mountain was extraordinary. However, I personally felt my hike up was an accomplishment all on its own. Despite being out of breath and sweating profusely after the hike, the breath-taking view and exceptional restoration of the Citadel makes the hike worth doing several times over.
This afternoon we were able to finally celebrate our wrap up on what we had come here to start- an expansion on a school for one of the poorest communities in Cap Haitien. It was now finally our chance to celebrate this accomplishment with the teachers and workers who helped make it possible – along with the students themselves. I cannot express the joy that was felt when we were able to hand out cake to the students and teach them how to blow bubbles (which always causes quite the excitement and awe!) However, during my time I was fortunate enough to connect closely with a few students in particular. One specifically being a ten year old boy, one of a twin. On the day of the party, as he has always done before, he met me on the bottom of the makeshift steps to the school. He would grab my hand and help me up and then proceed to dust the dirt off of me before guiding us to his seat – always making sure no other kid, including his brother, stole me away from him. I must admit it was hard to hold back a tear saying my final goodbye to him, and the look on his face as I squeezed him goodbye indicated the feeling was deeply mutual. I wish him, his brother, and all the students at the school the deepest amount of luck and good will. I have never met students so eager and desperate to learn; whereas we in Canada, myself included, tend to take that opportunity for granted. I will never forget seeing all the students who would show up for classes in the oppressive heat despite terrible illnesses or in some cases, extreme hunger.
As we left, I felt a certain level of pride to see the roof and retaining wall we had all struggled so hard to build.I have suffered from back problems for years and the buckets of cement that needed to be carried was definitely not an easy task. We were finally also able to raise the Haitian flag for the school. Seeing that flag rise and wave established a sense of hope; it solidified the emergence of education for these children who otherwise would not have had the opportunity. When walking away from today’s community party, the one prevailing thought that continued to run through my mind was how much I felt these little Haitians had changed and helped me, when really I had thought I was coming to help them. Through my various associations on campus I hope to fundraise funds for this school as donations are still needed for windows, classrooms, etc.This small community in Cap Haitien will stay with me as I head back to Vancouver in the next few days and I think that a part of me will always stay there with them.
Nina – Participant, Live Different Hero Holiday Haiti