“The purpose of our lives is to be happy” – Dalai Lama
“So how was Haiti?” – It’s just a conversation starter, but whenever I am asked, I wish I could better articulate how loaded that question is. Haiti is… complicated, beautiful, crazy, welcoming, frustrating, peaceful, devastating, and full of potential. With every question that someone asks I can think of at least twenty different ways to answer. There is so much that I could tell you, but I find it hard to choose where to begin. So many people tell me “it takes a special person to do what you are doing, I could never do that!!” but I don’t look at it that way. I am just an ordinary person doing what I love to do. We all have different interests and dreams, I am just following mine.
As I was anticipating going to Haiti, I knew I'd change, but I never could have predicted how. I've been home for two weeks now and I am still trying to process all that I've seen, heard, and learned. The spirit of the Haitians will inspire me forever. I will never be able to give Haiti as much as it has given to me. Coming back from a country where there is starvation, lack of governmental infrastructure, severe poverty, thousands of orphans, neglect and abuse, unemployment, with 50% of the population illiterate because they do not enjoy free education as we do here.. it breaks my heart. It has been an emotional roller coaster. I am so terribly tired. Not tired like after a long and hard day.. but drained. Emotionally, physically, and mentally. Tired of faking a smile and pretending I am happy to be here. I am happy to see my friends and family but I feel empty inside. Like a ghost, walking around and seeing things but not physically being here. I long to be back with my babies...back in Haiti. Every moment led to an enduring happiness and unwavering hope that I found in Haiti.
There are no bars on my windows, locks on my doors, or a gate surrounding my house. But yet I still feel trapped. Home is supposed to be a place where you feel safe, secured, and loved. That is why I cannot call this place home. Here, my insecurities are awakened. I feel like an outkast in spite of my friends, and it is hard trying to have people understand what I do and why I do it. I feel like I am being sucked into the norms of everyday life here in Canada. It seems so routine. I do not feel as ambitious, and I often find myself doubting my dreams. It is depressing being home. I look around and everyone seems so unhappy.. Why do people live like this ? Haitians have so little but yet they are the happiest and friendliest people in the world. I miss walking down the street and seeing people look up at you and greet you with a smile, not people that are too busy with their own lives to even notice those around them. It is clear to me that materialistic things do not bring happiness, they bring selfishness and greed. It is so hard not to get caught up in this lifestyle and allowing people to bring you down. It truly is a daily struggle for me. Sometimes I look up to the sky and see planes passing overhead and secretly wish that I could be on them. Although I grew up here in Chatham, and grew to love this town. I feel as if I am on vacation and that Haiti is my home. But Right now it seems like a world away. I often close my eyes and find myself drifting back to the chaos. The sounds of children laughing, babies crying, dogs barking, horns honking, truck gears grinding, and the sound of thunder before a big storm. Faces of the people I have met, and people I have passed on the streets, are engraved in my mind. I constantly wonder how they are doing, if they have survived the storms, and if they have enough to eat. Life is too easy here.
I miss the kisses from the children, I miss wearing pee soaked clothes all day because I loved holding them and hugging them. I miss the excitement in their eyes when they completed their homework or a craft that we were doing. I miss chasing them around and throwing them in the air and hearing them giggle. I miss the peacefulness and craziness. I miss the kids freaking out every time they saw a lizard or cock roach. I miss the girls screaming on the streets when it began to rain and trying to find a shower cap for their hair. I miss the bumpy roads and hanging onto the tap tap for dear life. I miss the kids singing- yes the same song over and over again. I miss playing out in the rain. I miss huddling over my lap top to watch a movie at night with the kids. I miss being able to be myself and being accepted for who I am. I miss being around people that are just happy to be alive. I miss going to bed at night feeling like I accomplished something or impacted someone. I miss feeling like I was needed.
People keep asking me about my experience in Haiti. How do I answer that ? I could write novels about my experience. They ask "What was it like?". The only I can think of is that it is nothing like here. Can you picture your life without electricity? Without running water? Without furniture in your house? Without a bed to sleep on? Without toys to play with? Can you picture your house without carpet, hardwood or tiles and just cement or dirt flooring? If you can, well then that is a start. Now imagine having no car, no bicycle, no roller blades or skateboards, no motorcycle, no scooter, no means of transportation except for your very own two feet. You are constantly working.. but not working to make money, working to survive. You are sold to a wealthier family and become a "Restavek". You are responsible for doing the house work, cooking, taking care of the other children, washing cars, doing laundry, etc. You are beaten regularly, sometimes for speaking out of place, sometimes for not doing a chore correctly, and sometimes for no reason at all. At night you sleep on a straw mat. Every night you wet yourself in your sleep, you do not mean to do this but you have encountered so much trauma that you are no longer able to control it. Once again you are beat with a cowhide whip or a belt. Every night you pray that your owner or someone in your household will not touch you. You constantly feel weak because you are so hungry and the pangs of hunger never seem to fade. You are thirsty, yet there is no water. If you want water you must walk to find a well and carry a bucket of water back, but you are tired. Or you chose to drink water that is contaminated with bacteria (Cholera) because that is all you can find. You have no friends. You do not know where your family is, or if they are even alive. Finally you are either let go, or you escape from your owners. You are left on the streets to fend for yourself. Everyone around you is struggling, suffering, dying. You feel unsafe because you know if people see that you have money or food they will want to take it from you. You feel embarrassed and ashamed because you cannot afford clothes so you have to walk around naked. Not only are you sick, but your children are sick as well. You have to watch them suffer because you cannot afford medical care. Their stomachs grow larger and larger as they become filled with worms. You know your kids will end up just like you because you cannot afford to send them to school. Every time you hear a loud noise, or a large truck go by that shakes the ground, you fear for your life and memories of the earthquake reply in your head. You smell, but there is nothing you can do about it. You do not have a shower and you do not have enough water to waste on a shower, you must use your water for cooking and drinking. You fall and scrape your leg but you have no bandages, its bleeding bad, so you find something, anything, a piece of paper from the garbage pile down the street to tie around it to help stop the bleeding. You watch your cut become infected, but there is nothing you can do. You feel as if you are fading. You dream of a new life. You have hope. Although you have struggled so much, you are happy to be alive and you keep waiting for that one day to come where you are saved.
This is not the life of every Haitian. However, the majority of Haitians live like this. The average Haitian lives on less than a dollar a day. Could you do it ?
In the middle of writing this blog I decided to go ahead and book a flight to Haiti.
In the middle of writing this blog I decided to go ahead and book a flight to Haiti.
The plan was for me to return to Haiti in September. I will be returning to Haiti on July 22nd :) !!! My heart is bursting with joy and excitement right now! I can't wait to go and visit the kids from OREA Orphanage !!!! During this adventure I will be volunteering at Rainbow of Love Nursery/Orphanage as well as Hope Hospital with Rigan Louis. Also during my time in Haiti I will be working alongside Danel Georges- the president of MUCI. MUCI is an organization that strives to help the Haitian environment. Danel has been involved with many orphanages and schools and is now working on a nursery project. With the nursery project we will be building gardens for orphanages/schools so they are able to grow their own food. I will also be visiting We Advance Medical Clinic in Cite Soliel once again ! I am really looking forward to going back. I will definitely be busy !!!!
I have been trying to think of some fundraising ideas and I am lost. If anyone has any ideas for me please let me know :)