August 17, 2013. I arrive in Haiti for the first time since I was two years old. As soon as I walked out the airport doors, I felt a thick dense heat wave slap me across the face and it hit me, I finally made it to Ayìtì. The red hats haggling me to “help” with my luggage were the first to welcome me. I was waved down my Leslie and Ryan waiting behind the gate motioning me in their direction. We made our acquaintances and hit it off almost immediately.
It was 10:30 am and the other vision trippers wouldn’t land till’ after noon so we headed to the grocery store to pick up some things for the week. I was surprised to see the extensive variety of meats, cheeses and good ol’ American processed junk they offered. It sort of reminded me of a corner store in Brooklyn, but with friendlier staff. Once we picked up the other volunteers we made the long bumpy ride to Pierre Payan taking in the essence of all that is Haiti.
The next day we went to church. The heavy rain the night before made driving up the hill very slippery. My flip-flops kept getting stuck in the mud and tore before I entered the sanctuary. I spent the whole service with muddy feet but I wasn’t the only one. We sat on wood benches with no backs to lean on which I thought made the humidity that much worse. It seemed like Chris and I were the only two sweating bullets in there. Everyone else was in the spiritual zone, singing in harmony accompanied by a young boy playing a beat-up drum set (pretty good I might add, considering) and a couple people tapping the tambourine. Pastor’s sermon was about being a good Christian – doing the right thing even when it’s not convenient or easy. He urged us to be grateful for everything. “Meci Bondieu pou labou” Thank you God for mud he says. “Because it rained we have mud so that too is a blessing”. I thought that was so profound.
Monday morning started off like every workday. We met in the work yard at 6 am were we read a scripture followed by group prayer. Afterwards we headed upstairs for a homemade breakfast and Haitian coffee. While the other 2 volunteers stayed on the compound to make filters, I chose to tag along to make deliveries in the mountainside.
Our first stop was in a small neighborhood right outside Pierre Payan. It was about 7:30am when we made it out there. The air was still crisp and Haitians were well into their mornings. We parked the truck right in front of a well pump and children were gathered around washing their faces and getting their water supply for the day. As we drove off Ryan explained to me how that well had been contaminated with cholera several times. That was a hard pill to swallow.
It took over 2 hours to get to our destination on the mountain. It was much cooler up there and people were so friendly. It was Marchè day so everyone was walking up to setup their posts to sell and trade their merchandise. I needed to use the bathroom about half way up and by the time we made it up there, it was an emergency! I was led to a 2-room shack with an outhouse further into the woods. Let’s just say some things are better left untried! As I’m coming out, I was offered a glass of water and I bite to eat which I graciously declined. I was taken aback by their hospitality and kindness for a complete stranger. I thanked them for their generosity and made my way back to the truck.
As the guys were unloading the filters, children began to gather around to see what all the hype was about. For minutes, they all just stood there looking and whispering in each other’s ears. I caught them off guard when I started speaking Creole. They all started to laugh when I asked “Qui l’age ou” How old are you? With big smiles on their faces each stated their number. A couple of them were teenagers but you couldn’t tell from their small size. They were so curious to get to know me and find out why I was there. I spent the next 20 minutes mostly answering random questions about my family members but managed to give them a quick lesson on how bio-sand filters worked. That was pretty cool.
Out of everything I was able to witness while in Haiti, my most memorable experience I would have to say was on repair day. It was a humid drive out to a rural, remote community. The homes were very basic and connected to one another by makeshift power lines. Despite the obvious poverty, people were in high spirits. Children were playing football, women were preparing meals and chatting away; it seemed like just another day. People were genuinely happy though they had very little. Some were especially happy when they saw the big white water truck coming down their dirt road too. We couldn’t make it from one house to another without someone flagging us down to take their order, prepared to pay on the spot! It was incredible. News of the filters was getting around and EVERYONE wanted one.
I had the wonderful opportunity to speak to an older Haitian woman who gloated over her filter. Overjoyed she says to me, “Depi’m gen filter-a m’pa malad non” Since I got my filter I haven’t gotten sick. That moment confirmed my reasoning for wanting to come to Haiti on a vision trip. I wanted to be a part of a great cause and work along side an organization that was saving lives and making a real difference.
It’s been a month since I’ve been back home in the states. There hasn’t been one day that I haven’t thought about those kids at the well or the sermon on gratitude and the older woman whose health had improved since owning a bio-sand filter. Clean water is something we all need to survive and thrive and we all deserve to have access to it. Clean Water for Haiti makes that possible and affordable for so many Haitians. Their work is truly life-changing and I am thankful I was able to be a part of such a great project.
~Lyne, August 2013 Vision Trip Guest
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