The Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien:
This morning we were able to explore more of Haiti’s history, as we went to The Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien – it was incredibly humbling, to see all the country has been through. The tour lead us through seven different exhibits, highlighting the original natives of the island, the impact of Christopher Columbus, their movement towards independence, and history since independence. One of the most interesting exhibits was one of the anchors from the Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus’s lead ship. I was even more fascinated to see an exhibit dedicated to the line of Haitian presidents, as well as the evolution of the Haitian flag.
As we walked down the final exhibit, featuring a gallery of art pieces by numerous Haitian artists, the tumultuous and dynamic history case to life. The hallway was full of countless pieces, of love and loss, joy and sorrow, hope and despair, light and dark. Each piece seemed to be contrasted by another, and it made me reflect on how as people, we often find ourselves comparing and contrasting our lives versus others, our way versus theirs. In missions work, or any form of service it’s so easy to be caught up on the material comparisons, and we lose sight of the actual quality of life – just because it’s not what you’re used to, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
Following the tour of the museum and a quick break for lunch, we had the opportunity to be given a tour of Papillon Enterprise – a local organization established a few years ago, with the mission of “orphan prevention through job creation.” They’ve grown to employee over 300 Haitians, in a number of roles, from crafting custom beads/pottery, running a child-care/pre-school program, creating screen-printed apparel, and even running their own coffee shop. My favorite part of the entire tour was simply seeing how engrained they were in the local community, and while it was established by an American woman, it was very clear that it was made for the people of Haiti. As someone who has a passion for community development, I loved having the opportunity to witness and engage with an organization that was doing it the right way.
Looking Back, & Looking Ahead:
7 years ago today, over 160,000 people lost their lives as a result of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. It’s been incredible to spend today alongside the people of Port-Au-Prince, hearing their stories of loss and struggle, but also those of hope and restoration. As we speak, it becomes more and more clear that while Haiti was effected by the earthquake, it’s not defined by it. This experience has been incredibly humbling, and the stories I’ve heard will never leave me. At the same time, the opportunity to be hear and share this opportunity reminded me that Haiti is more than a single event. While in the US it’s easy for us to be caught up in life, and to not take the time to really investigate the rest of the world, this has really challenged me to continue experiencing and connecting with other cultures and nations, to allow myself the opportunity to truly experience a place, and not leave my perspective up to another’s assumptions.
Tomorrow we’ve got an early rise, to get down to the site for the Sanneh Foundation’s Haiti Initiative with our hosts. We’ll also begin work on our lesson plans for when we teach English next week, as well as diving deeper into some of the issues facing Haiti. After today, I’m definitely looking to keep my eyes and ears open, both to the stories and experiences of the people here, as well as the organizations we’re working with and how they’re engaging with their communities. I’m beyond grateful for today’s experiences, and I cannot wait to see what tomorrow has in store.