I have been in Haiti for a week now.
I have some routines in place: Breakfast in the morning, meetings all day, then dinner followed by a debrief time. Haiti reminds me of Cotonou: the banana trees, the tropical weather, and people’s height (5’8). Yes! In my estimation, Haitians are rather short.
The friendliness of Haitians is striking. They will stop and go out of their way to give us directions. They are proud yet humble and have less beggars here than Portland for instance. Although we have struggled to find it often, authentic Haitian food is delicious. I love the legume sauce and the yams.
By mid-week I was beginning to feel weary of all the meetings with school heads and teachers. I wanted to interact with kids. Three of us decided to go visit the Heartlines Ministries’s hospital and to play some music for the patients there. The hospital is made of tents and various volunteers serve as nurses, physical therapists and doctors. I sang for about an hour and served as background music. As we were leaving the facility I was doubting the effectiveness of the performance since most of the patients did not seem to be paying attention. Then, as an answer to my yearning, we walked by a house located next to the neighborhood’s pub where 6 to 8 kids were having lunch and playing with one another.
I approached them and asked “Ou voule chante avec moin?” They all in unison screamed “Wi” (Yes). This was our first interaction with Haitian youth. I sang an impromptu 15 minutes set that turned into a dancing party in the street. This was such an uplifting experience for the three of us. To see their smiles, their happy faces and innocence, gave us a much needed break from the depressing meetings we’ve attended so far. This 15 minute experience refocused the lenses through which I was processing this whole trip. We are here because of these kids.
If they are happy, hopeful and transcendent of their difficulties, why should we let ourselves be overwhelmed by the challenges we were discovering? If they believe, why can’t we?
Two additional opportunities to interact with Haitian youth presented themselves on Saturday at the NPH orphanage and on Sunday in a remote school of Jackmel (4 hours drive from Port Au Prince). In both places, the kids were an inspiration to our team. They were so alive, so conscious of suffering but yet so resilient and ready to dance, sing and laugh. I left the orphanages thinking to myself that any commitment to be involved here can’t be taken lightly because these are real people, with real potential and for whom the slightest help will make a huge difference.
For the remainder of the trip, my sight is gazed at these smiles and these faces. I can’t forget, that in the end they are the ones we are accountable to.