Spending ten days in Haiti opened my eyes in unexpected ways. I’d heard stories and seen pictures of its devastation after the 2010 earthquake, and read articles about how it remains the most impoverished nation in the Western hemisphere, but I was still shocked to see the state it was in.
I only had a brief glimpse of the capital Port-au-Prince, but after seeing its crumbling tin walls and tarp-covered shacks, the harsh reality set in. I kept wanting to compare it to what I’d witnessed in the poorer rural areas of Bolivia or the crowded slums of Calcutta, but came to the conclusion that I’d witnessed an entirely new level of destitution. The good news is that the cities and villages near the epicenter are certainly not going it alone.
Hearing stories from volunteers who continue to devote their time and energy to rebuilding Haiti was truly inspirational. I heard real life testimonies from people ranging from Ohio State medical professors volunteering at an optometric center for infants, to a church youth group from Illinois who ran an orphanage day care program, to team members of a construction firm from Connecticut, to a priest running a clinic for elephantiasis, to a recent civil-engineering grad who consulted with local builders, to members of the World Bank in D.C. teaching rural children computer skills, to a young college grad teaching nursing classes. All of their experiences pointed to one truth: there is, in fact, hope for Haiti.
With all of the problems they face, the spirit of the people I encountered was life affirming. Their joy was infectious and their determination to conquer adversity was most impressive. Their generosity was almost overwhelming, from the sugar cane treats to the Caribbean dance lessons to the meals they prepared and shared. After our very brief acquaintance I now count them among my best of friends.
I’ve included a range of images from my time spent helping out at a soccer camp on Haiti’s West Coast, in a small fishing village called Anse d’Hainault. Haiti, je t’aime!