As always, every good thing comes to an end. That was my last day of work in Haiti, January 19th. I was up bright and early, to watch Jacmel waking up. Before heading to breakfast, I went to the roof of our guest house. I wrote a couple sentences in my journal, but before long I had to go downstairs to join everybody else in the day’s activities. We spent the morning finishing up the house we had helped build for Gerald, a man who survived the earthquake despite being suffering serious injuries. His wife passed away, but fortunately their children survived. Gerald was observing us while we were doing the topcoat of the painting on the walls, door, and ceiling. I cannot put into words how special those moments were to me.
During that morning I felt accomplished. Before coming to Haiti, I had I was worried if we would be able to actually change something during our short ten-day trip to Jacmel. Certainly there were many moments that I simply felt overwhelmed by a deep sentiment of hopelessness. Every day we saw the tents along the roads, the garbage scattered on the streets, the sewage running along the sidewalks.
However, it did not take me not even one afternoon to be delighted by Haiti. Then I started realizing that we could definitely contribute to Haiti. Jacmel proved to be a lively small city in the south of the country. There were several motorcycles, street vendors and pedestrians who all somehow managed to share the narrow roads and alleys of Jacmel.
Every morning, I watched the same scene take place in front of our guest house: parents, or an old sibling, taking the young ones to school. It’s amazing how they are always dressed in neat and very clean uniforms. They know that education is one of the greatest privileges one can have in life, and they valorize it.
Their education gave me hope that the youth in Haiti are willing to change the sad records of the history of their nation. They have the energy, the creativity and willingness to create a better Haiti. And now, in light of the massive foreign aid in their country, they see themselves in a complicated situation. I know that they are not interested in becoming a colony again, in which foreigners run everything in the country. They are confident that they are capable of running their own country. They need a serious and honest government to coordinate their nation. They may lack all the resources imaginable, but they I am sure that they have in abundance the most important things to move forward, such as dedication and pride.
I’m confident that this ASB experience was a watershed in my life. After ten days of hard work and intense experiences, I was so exhausted by the time we came back to the US. During these days I couldn’t help but to think about countless projects and ideas after every new encounter with different people. If I had to sum up my whole experience in one word, I guess it would be life. I believe that everybody’s purpose before boarding a plane to Port-au-Prince was to truly contribute to the improvement of lives of people in Haiti. Now, looking back it is great to realize how much we managed to do in such a short period of time. More than helping build a house, installing surgical lights, or interacting with children at several orphanages, we met people who taught us a new way to understand them – and also ourselves. After this unforgettable experience in Haiti, I’m convinced that the key to a brighter future rests in empowering the Haitians. Now, I believe that our most important task is to help other people understand that Haiti does not simply need money or mercy. Rather, Haiti asks for understanding and cooperation. This certainly was a lesson that I will forever take with me.