Haiti…this country.. there seems to be so much to say. Its people, their encouraging smiles and friendly attitudes, their tireless ability to work hard, the culture, the hot piercing sun, the beautiful terrain – the list goes on. I have traveled before, I have seen some awe-inspiring things, I have even seen harsh poverty before, but I have never seen anything like Haiti. This is such an amazing place! Haiti, a country with a rich, deep, yet young history, that grew from a revolution of slaves. It went from being known as “the jewel of the Caribbean”, one of the richest lands in the West, to becoming one of the poorest countries in the world. The Haitian people have seen many natural disasters, repeated dictatorships, destruction and abuse of their land and resources, and contamination of their water systems by people who are supposed to be here to help. It would seem only natural to be angry, to give up, to lose hope and to stop trying, but I have never seen people work so hard for so little.
My name is Quinn, I am a psychology major at the UBC Okanagan campus. I have had the opportunity to work side-by-side with Haitians for the past several days to build part of a school in an impoverished district in Cap-Haitian called Calvaire. Here in Calvaire the people have no real transportation, in fact they have no real homes. On our first day here we went on a tour of the community. People here live in shacks with tin roofs and makeshift walls; concrete is expensive and not many can afford it. There is the constant worry that if it rains, “Will it flood my home?”, “Will the roof cave in?” There are no locks on doors and there is the always the chance of being robbed, or worse.
As traumatic as this sounds, to me the most stunning realization has been the situation of their water supply. For us “blancs”, a term the Haitians use in reference to foreigners, we have dubbed it “the water run.” Many women, children, and men must make the trek up and down a mountainside each day; over garbage, rocks and boulders, and through wooded areas to access a community well filled with dirty polluted water – yet the only source they have. I did “the water run” and carrying a pail of water in this searing Haitian heat is absolutely draining, yet I have seen men take twice as much, and little girls and boys no older than 12, (some with no shoes), carry this water alongside us. I have also seen women doing as much as 12 loadds of water in a day! They do all of it without looking drained; still smiling, politely greeting and laughing with us, and the children even had a water fight, ( I totally lost that water fight).These people of Calvaire don’t have the luxury of turning on a tap, turning on a light, or locking their doors, and the children especially don’t have the chance to reach for their dreams like we do…like I did.
Education is not normally an option here, as it is too expensive and too far away for most families. Thanks to this continuing project with LiveDifferent, the children of Calvaire have a chance to reach for their dreams. Over the last few days we have built a roof and part of a retaining wall for this school that had been started a few years ago. Children currently attend grades 1 and 2, for morning or afternoon classes. Their teachers and their principal/teacher Denise, a wonderfully smart and caring man, are from Cap-Haitian. The look on the children’s faces alone is enough to make me feel that all the work that I have done to get here is worth it.
On work days, when the kids get recess, we also get recess, and it didn’t take long before everybody was having so much fun! When the end bell rang, I was the first one to say “Ahhhwwwwwww, already…can’t we play a little while longer?” These children have a beautiful light-hearted innocence to them that just makes you want to give more, stay longer, and work harder. They deserve their dreams, and though what we have been doing in these few days is only a roof and part of a wall, it is stepping stone to giving those children their dreams.
There is so much I could say, there have been so many amazing experiences that I have had, and amazing times that I have shared in getting to know these beautiful Haitian people. The Haitian workers are the strongest, most hard driven people I have ever met! They have a strong sense of community and a lot to teach us. They live with so little, but they live for reasons that seem beyond my of understanding.
– Quinn, Participant, LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Haiti