Two years ago, I boarded a plane to the earthquake, hurricane, and cholera ravished Caribbean Island of Haiti. I had $500 in our Organization's bank account, I had 3 suitcases, and a heart and a head full of determination that we would "make it work". At the time I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I arrived in Haiti speaking only a few common Creole words- hi, how are you?, what is your name?, how old are you?. I had no idea how I was going to communicate with my kids and be able to understand what it was that was making them cry, angry, or if they were hungry or sick- but we managed. Charades became a fun game in our household. We learned to communicate without using verbal language. I honestly had no idea of the complications and red tape and the governmental corruption that I would find myself in. I had no idea how I was going to raise a group of children that would be fully dependent on me. I had no idea of the financial demands. I wasn't prepared for the responsibility or what was in store for me, but I had no other option but to roll with the punches.. and that is exactly what we did.
I was on my way to earning a double major- BA(honors) in Criminology & Sociology at the University of Windsor. I had the most perfect little house, a beat up blue sunfire, a job I enjoyed, a boyfriend I had thought I loved, and a family that meant (and still does mean) the world to me. I had everything that our Western Society claims is "important". But something was missing. It had been since I had returned home from my first trip to Ghana in the summer of 2010. I began to feel a great void and realized how deeply unhappy I was with my luxurious life back in Canada. At the age of seventeen, I exposed myself to things that forced me to develop a new sense of reality. After that first life altering trip, I then decided to travel to Haiti as I had this ache in my heart to be once again doing something more meaningful with my life. During my first trip to Haiti in May 2011, I fell deeply in love with the chaotic and complex country. I found myself there. I found a place that I felt at ease, where my heart constantly felt full, and where I felt as if I could be my truest self. I fell in love with the people and their vibrancy and resiliency. So when I got a call about a group of children that needed assistance, it took me all of forty five minutes to decide that I would pack up my entire existence into 3 suitcases and give up my former life full of the finer things to live in a small house with no electricity, no running water, tarantulas & cockroaches running up and down my walls, absolutely no furniture, to ride on the back of motorcycles and be covered in piss, snot, and vomit on a good day- human feces on a bad. To most- this sounds absolutely ludicrous. But within these past few years I have learned lessons that my University professors will never be able to teach me. I have been put into situations that were extremely uncomfortable, scary, and down right unimaginable, but they have allowed me to grow as an individual. I have learned to speak a new language within six short months as I had no one to translate or tell me what my children wanted. I have dealt with loss, sorrow, corruption, violence, abuse, disease, and severe suffering. It has taught me patience, persistence, strength, and most of all - love. At the age of nineteen, I not only became a mother but also a teacher, a nurse, a tutor, a handy-woman, 24/7 on call support system, patient transporter, translator, affection giver, piggy bank, spokesperson, advocate, host for volunteers, and a cater to whatever needs arise with those that surround me. What more could I ask for ? I am still learning more and more with each day that passes- even without being directly in the country. My kids teach me the greatest lessons of all. I went to Haiti hoping to change their lives, but in totality- they are the ones that are changing mine.
We have had our fair share of our ups and our downs. Usually being one extreme or the other. We have been tested to our limits. There were so many nights that I would lay awake in my bed wondering how I would feed the kids that week, how we would continue to pay the school, how I would pay the nanny, how we would stick together and fight this government... I wondered a lot about the kids futures and who they would become. I was constantly worried about them falling ill or something happening to them. I still do. Sleep has become a rare gift to me.
As I write this today, my mind is being flooded with endless memories. I look back to that first day with my kids and have tears in my eyes... as every obstacle we over came, every illness we faced, every heart-wrenching event that crossed our paths, we made it- together- as a family. And I would not have it any other way. We have developed something so rare and so special. We have developed complete utter trust in one another. We have developed a love that is boundless and limitless- no matter how many thousands of miles may separate us- we know that we are always thinking of each other. These children have inspired me in so many ways. I look up to them and strive to be like them- their strength, their courage, their resilience, it leaves me absolutely awestruck.
It is astounding looking back to two years ago when we first began this journey and the way that we survived with such little. I still remember using the bucket as a toilet (or a pringles can at times). I still remember ONLY being able to have bucket showers and getting so frustrated because I couldn't get the shampoo out of my hair. I remember laying in bed with my BB gun and shooting all of the tarantulas and cockroaches that appeared from every crevice. I remember tires flying off big transport trucks into our front yard where our kids were playing soccer. I remember the humiliation the kids felt when our water basin dried up and they had to go to school or church without bathing. I remember throwing mangoes at my friends for fun. I remember that when dark hit at 6:30 pm we would rush to the rooms to find the flash lights and continue to have dance offs, domino matches, or play hide n go seek. I remember walking to the beach every day and becoming so bonded with a donkey and he became one of my only friends in our town - he liked the blan (probably because I coached him with apples). I remember the rare occasions (once every two weeks) when they would give us electricity and a huge celebration would take place in our village- you didn't even have to see a light come on, you knew it was on just from the cheering in the streets. I remember struggling every day and worrying where we would come up with the funds to continue feeding the children. I remember being stuck on the top of a bunk bed paralyzed from the waist down and hallucinating from the Malaria that was rummaging through my body and not having anyone to transport me to a hospital. I remember when the hurricane that hit and huddling together with a family that I had fallen so deeply in love with on the top of a mountain and embracing the winds and rain together as their house fell to the ground around us. I remember being at peace with all of these things as well. I remember not realizing how bad it was until being removed from the situation. We made due with what we had. We lived simply and though we did not have materialistic items, we did have each other. And that was always enough.
If I could give any advice to young people out there - it is to travel. Go searching for something more, experience different cultures, engage in new ways of living, learn something about our world. Sit there with locals and hear their stories- play dominos in the streets with old men, feel their pain- witness their struggles- struggle yourself. Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. It will allow you to grow and help you to find out things about yourself you may have never known. I have so many young people, as well as adults, message me on a daily basis saying they wish they could do what I'm doing, they wish they could travel, they wish they could help people. Folks, YOU ARE THE CREATOR OF YOUR OWN OBSTACLES. You are the only ones holding yourselves back. Stop making excuses and JUST DO IT !!!! Take a chance. Take a risk. Leave your daily hell- experience someone else's- you will return with a whole new perspective. And most of all... follow your heart.
I wrote this song last week about my time spent overseas - focusing mostly on Haiti, but also Ghana and the Philippines. All stories within the song are true and all photos are my own.
I would like to thank everyone who has supported, fundraised, volunteered, and shared our stories. We couldn't keep things going without all of you.
We have an upcoming fundraiser on March 29th @ Bob N Buoys in Mitchell's Bay Ontario, would love to see you all there !!! It will be all you can eat perch and live entertainment. We will also have door prizes and 50/50 raffle.
If you are unable to attend but would still like to donate please visit our website www.himeforhelp.org and hit the "donate now" button at the top of our page. Thank you !!