Port-Au-Prince, Haiti served as my home for ten days of my winter break. Throughout my time there, I was able to do countless things:
- Connect with the people of Haiti
- Explore the city of Port-Au-Prince
- Dive into Haiti’s long and diverse history
- Sample Haitian cuisine
- Teach English at two local programs
And the list goes on and on… yet even more impactful than all of the things I was able to do, were the people I heard from, organizations I worked with, and lessons learned. This trip not only opened my eyes to the country of Haiti and the depth of international relations, but also the impact of accepted societal systems and the way they influence every aspect of our lives.
This experience showed me that for Haiti to change, and become the nation it desires to be, that change must come from it’s own people. It’s incredible how much has been given by the United States to the people of Haiti, but at the same time, it creates a cycle of give and take, keeping the country in a state of dependency and reliance. While there are many people doing incredible work down there, making real and necessary change, it’s important to take a close look at exactly who you’re giving to, and the work they’re actually doing. Substantive change can only come by empowering the people of Haiti, and providing them the opportunities to choose for themselves what they’d like to do and what their country needs.
Throughout my time in Haiti, I was able to better understand how communities develop, and the importance of engaging various stakeholders and long-term planning. It also challenged me to think how these various aspects and ideas could be incorporated and seen within my own community back home.
- To the Alternative Breaks Program at the University of Maryland, thank you for putting on this program, without you this opportunity would’ve never been an option for me. Maïgane, Tori & Rosemary did an incredibly job at not only creating this trip, but ensuring it was the best it could possible be, and that it was able to touch the lives of everyone on it.
- To The Sanneh Foundation, your hospitality was unparalleled, whether it was Erik, Pushon (excuse my spelling), or even the staff at the house, you ensured we had an not only a safe experience, but were able to connect us to the local culture right from the start. The work your doing through The Haitian Initiative is changing lives, and I’m beyond grateful to have been able to experience it first hand.
- Share Hope, not only were you able to provide us with a meaningful connection to the people of Haiti, but you shared with us a message of love, and enduring hope, one that I believe we’ll take long beyond our stay. As well, especially as a young entrepreneur, you showed me that a focus on social advancement and common good, not only can lead you to success in business, but is a viable and growing model for budding companies – something I know will stay with me as I head back home.
- To The Papillon Project, while we never formally met, being able to tour your facilities was eye-opening, and to see that a people first model not only can find success, but also growth and financial return in the world of business was a wonderful opportunity.
Looking back, one of the most vivid things I was able to learn was the true beauty of Haiti, and while its often characterized as a country of struggle and strife, it’s a nation of splendor and limitless strength. Though the people of Haiti have been faced by terrible circumstances, from the earthquake of 2010, to the systemic government failure, the people of Haiti love their country, and are working every day to improve not only their own situation, but also that of their country. When one in the US thinks of Haiti, their first thoughts go to broken buildings, mourning families, and countless images of struggle… but spend even just a day in Haiti, and your whole idea of what and who Haiti is will be turned on it’s head. I’m not an artist, and so I can’t paint the clearest picture, but if you’re given the opportunity to truly experience Haiti, when you think on your experience, you’ll remember the warmth and beauty of the country, the powerful mountains on the horizon, the stretching coastlines, the liveliness of the city, and the innumerable smiles.