Ever since the earthquake in Haiti in January, many have asked if our organization has gotten involved. (The DR shares the same Hispanola island with Haiti). In January, we helped send aid over but did not make an actual trip. In April, the staff decided to exchange our spring staff beach retreat to go help in Haiti (some exchange eh?). Our group went to work with an organization that my Dominican church has been in cooperation with ever since the earthquake. Honestly, its hard to put into words my experience that we had there. Honestly, I was a really emotionally tough trip on me. Even though the DR is considered a third world country, Haiti is much worse. Haiti is hot, dry, hot, poor, and HOT. Our staff divided into 6 groups to serve the different people in the community.
1. Womens Group- who taught a group of women in the community to bake bread that they could sell. We also brought down an oven to donate along with the ingredients to get them going for a couple weeks.
2. Teenage boys (sports and other "manly" games)
3. Teenage girls
4. Pre-school age
5. Elentary age group - This is the group I helped in. We did different fun activities, bible studies and crafts. This day, Fausto dressed up like a clown and we did different games with balloons. Plus, the kids just loved playing with him. :)
6. Construction- group built private bathrooms where people could privately bath themselves (with bucket water).
Just a disclaimer. We were only there a couple days and these are my reflections based on the limited time I was there. I do not claim to be an expert by any means. Thus, if you see something false with my observations, feel free to correct me. :)
HEAT: Okay, so the heat here is NOTHING compared to Haiti. In Port Au Prince where we were, there are very little trees and no breeze. So, there is no way to escape the heat. A large portion of the population live in these tents, that are packed into every open piece of land. Actually, they are packed into ANY type of land. Sidewalks, allies, parks... everything is full. So if you do the math. The Haitians are never able to escape this heat. If anything, its even hotter in the tents.
Things for kids to do: When we went April 21st, school had just began starting again. The kids were forced to stay in their housing areas. Honestly, I don't think I even saw much grass while I was there. The community where we worked was gated off. Thus, it was safe, but there was very little for the kids to do. Anybody want to bring a sports ministry to Haiti? They sure need it!
Lack of jobs: Because everything is so dry, there are very little jobs for people. The DR brings people in because of its beautiful trees, rivers and mountains. As a result, many people can find jobs in tourism. However, in my opinion, the only thing drawing people to Haiti is earthquake relief and God. The main jobs I saw were road vendors and people working in sugar cane fields (which is HOT, hard labor).
While I thought I was not a too high maintence person, I realized how I am still very emotional dependent on my privacy, running water, and cooler nights. It made me more aware of the lifestyle we live as Americans is incredibly different than the majority of the world. Now, does this mean that I am going to take bucket showers from now on and never turn on my fan. No. However, it has made me realize that I have very little to complain about. I cannot let my emotions get flustered when our lights go out everyday or we go a day or two without water. I am still incredibly blessed.
Please continue to pray for Haiti. There is still much work to be done, even now 4 months after the event. Also, pray for the missionaries who work there. A little shout out to Jared and Jalayne Coblentz who are still currently serving there. Folks, it takes tough missionaries to live there. Thank you Jared and Jaylayne and any other missionaries who are serving in Haiti.
Here are some other pics of the trip.