I just returned from a five day trip to Haiti. This was the fourth time I went, and I always come back a different person. Yes, I am exhausted. Yes, I am torn between hope and despair when I think of all that has been done and yet still needs to be done in Haiti. But most of all, I am grateful.
My school has a partner school in the Central Plateau in Haiti, and each year, I bring 10-12 students down for a visit. We spend most of our time at the partner school, interacting with students and teachers. We spend time with the students, we are privileged to be part of a Haitian Christian Church service, we visit a rural Haitian market (about as far away from Whole Foods as you can get), and we meet a number of fascinating people.
I wish I could explain properly how impressed I have been with the students that we bring on these trips. This trip is challenging, both physically and mentally, and still, our students were friendly, good-natured, compassionate, and engaging. I will never forget the memory of our students making friends with their Haitian counterparts. Despite the language barrier, they managed to find common ground, whether it be in the form of arm wrestling (mostly the boys) or simple Creole/English lessons.
On the last evening, as we were sitting in the Hotel Olofsson in Port-au-Prince, we had a few minutes to reflect. Unprompted, one of our students said the most profound thing. I cannot quote her verbatim, but these were her sentiments: “We make all these plans to teach all these lessons, or to build all these things at their school, but really, all they [the Haitian students] want is to get to know us. They are just like us, though they happen to live in a very different environment. They just want a new friend.”
I cannot tell you how happy I was to hear that. We try to tell our students that the primary purpose of this trip is to make connections. However, sometimes that is easier said than done. Language and cultural barriers are difficult to overcome, and yet, somehow, our students managed. They understood that despite our differences, we are all humans, longing for connection.
Yes, I am tired. But, I am also incredibly proud to have had the opportunity to take this trip and to work with the students that I do. They are amazing young people.