A glimpse into the life of a Haitian

On our first “real” day in Haiti, we woke up in our newly assembled bunk beds, ready to face whatever was thrown our way! Many people returning from mission trips talk about the poverty, the hunger, and the few luxuries experienced by the people in Haiti.. but what nobody tells you is that the children are tireless. We arrived at a school early in the day and immediately upon arrival we were bombarded with the excited faces of the children from both the school and surrounding homes. In unity they rushed toward us and the teens spread out and at any given time a teen would have at least two small children hanging onto our fingers and smiling up at us. It was an afternoon worth remembering. 

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We spoke to Hannah, one of our teens, about her first few impressions:

Q: What did you think about visiting the school Notre Dame?
A: It was great getting to play with the kids and go in the classrooms.  This school was very different compared to schools in the US, but that’s to be expected.  It was much more drastic than I thought it would be though.  I had a ton of fun playing soccer with the kids on the playground! 

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Q: What do you think of the village?
A: I love seeing all the people walking around, and the women with baskets on their heads.  The scenery is beautiful here as well.  This village has a certain energy to it.  People are always out doing stuff.  

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Q: What did making the food bags mean to you?

A: The first thing that popped into my mind was “feed the hungry, clothe the naked…” I have heard that Bible verse countless times in Mass, but to actually do it was amazing.  Also I love  being able to make these food bags as a team with our group.  

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Day 1!

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This is a picture of two of our girls (Sam left, Sarah right) in the airport right before we took off for Haiti! We woke up at 4 a.m in the morning (3 if you don’t count day lights savings) and we made our way to the air port for a life changing week.

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When we saw Haitian land there was a collective sigh of relief that we had made it, and the excitement in the air was palpable.. we were in Haiti!

I asked one of our girls, Alex, a few questions before we landed.

What are your expectations?
– “I don’t have any.. I’m coming in with a blank slate and since I’ve been a little nervous I’ve been trying not to think too much about what’s coming up!”

What is the one thing you want to get out of this experience?
– “I want a better worldly understanding. We’re so fortunate in America sometimes it’s really hard to imagine just what it would be like to live in other places.”

What do you want to leave behind in Haiti?
– “My materialistic views.. I admit I’m a little materialistic and I’m hoping this trip will change that for me!”

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Over the course of the week we asked most of our teens and some of our adults to share their experiences on this trip to give those of you who haven’t been to Haiti a fresh perspective on what it means to experience a third world country.  We will be sharing these stories and more pictures in the weeks to come!

T minus 30 days!

ImageOne of my favorite moments I had while in Haiti was this one. The group was walking back from a trip to a local school and on the way we saw a variety of people and the whole walk was like watching a story unfold. We saw the hardships within the community – evident in the hour to two hour walks (one-way) many kids took every day just to make it to school. In some cases they would be walking home early as their teachers were, for whatever reason, unavailable to make it to school that day and unable to warn the children about their absence. In other pockets of people we saw how the community came together to help one another carry baskets of food, laundry, and other items to various places throughout the village with smiles on their faces. The picture above depicts my favorite part of the story – The extraordinary love between many of the girls and boys.

ImageI was so taken aback when I saw all the girls and boys holding hands without a care in the world. In our own society there are certain stigmas attached to these displays of affection and we often refrain from demonstrating our love for one another in such a manner. After having been a part of the Haitian community for a mere week I realized how important these connections are. We are all human and part of a community in some way or another and it is so important to let others know how much we value and need them. I learned so much from my trip and can’t wait to go back in a month!

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Chairs!

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Over the past couple of weeks Teens for Haiti and Help Brings Hope for Haiti have seen an overwhelming amount of support! A few Saturdays ago HBHH, our local church, and TFH spread the word that we were going to be moving desks and other furniture from the church’s old portables into a container to ship to Haiti. When we arrived on Saturday morning there were tons of families, friends, and younger kids lining up to start moving things!

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In ant-like fashion, over the course of a mere 2 hours, all the volunteers trucked desks, shelves, and other supplies to the container, from the portables. We managed to fill up most of the container due to the donations of the church and the aid of our volunteers!

Sarah’s Story

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Signing up to go to Haiti was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  One week in the village of St. Suzanne changed my entire life.  Before the trip, I had no idea what to expect.  I had never been on a mission trip before, and I had only been out of the country once (unless you count the Disney Cruise to the Bahamas).  Honestly, I was scared.  I was going out of the country without my parents and without any close friends.  But I knew I was in for an incredible experience once we landed in Haiti.  We stayed in St. Suzanne for the whole week, meeting the village people, playing with the children, and helping out the community in any way that we could.  I loved every moment of it.  Every day we would go down the road to a school and play games and work with the children.  One day we brought balloons and the children had the time of their lives.  It was their first time seeing a balloon. Small things like this just shows how blessed we are to live in America. From playing games, to cleaning out the warehouse, to handing food bags out, to visiting the sick and homebound, to dancing with the schoolchildren, to bonding with everyone that was on the mission trip with me, I found the beauty and happiness that comes from their simplistic lifestyle.  We had so many laughs and good times with our team, and I made some very close friendships.  Before this trip I didn’t really know a world outside of where I lived.  This trip opened my eyes to another part of the world though, and it opened my heart to something other than me.  Starting Teens for Haiti with the other teens and really getting it up and running has been an adventure of its own.  I love running the organization with Rachel because I know exactly who our work is for.  As we start planning our trip back to Haiti, I am so excited to spend time with these people again! Haiti is where I learned that I love to serve others, and where I learned much about myself.  

One down, one to go!

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We’ve almost done it!

With the help of donors, volunteers, and supportive friends and family, Teens for Haiti has raised the money to purchase the first generator!
These past few weeks volunteers have been giving their time and energy to creating canvases and making stain glass crosses and all of their hard work has paid off. We’ve now raised over $12,000 and we’re well on our way to raising $15,000 by the end of 2012. We are so excited to see all of the hard work paid off, but even more excited to know the generator will be put to good use within the village. I am personally happy to know we are
starting to save for the second generator which will go in the clinic to perform surgeries that had been previously prevented due to lack of electricity.

We look forward to the day St. Suzanne has not one, but two generators in use!

Feeling crafty?

 Well we are! Shout-out to some of the guys and gals who made these great paintings possible – Sarah, Mia, Monica, Abby, Grace, Devin, Adam, Trevor, Delaney, Alex, Julia, Rachel H, Genna, Rachel G, and Gaby. These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of awesome events; ranging from cutting glass, soldering, and making stain glass crosses to splatter painting both the canvases and a few girls in the process. We’ve had an amazing group of volunteers who have been giving up their Saturday mornings and afternoons to come spend some time creating art to sell for several fundraising events. Armed with Publix cookies and masking tape, we spent hours choosing designs and accompanying quotes. Most girls came in with the disclaimer “I have no idea what I’m doing, and I can’t draw a straight line.” but, after being handed a paintbrush and a sponge, eventually had fun with the challenge! We were initially nervous about the paintings; What if we messed up? What if people didn’t like the quotes we chose? What if ran out of ideas? Sarah and I were especially worried for our first experiment with homemade merchandise. We had struggled to find something that we could be sure people would want to buy, but something cheap enough to produce that we could still make a profit. That’s where our awesome volunteers came in. The number of teens who signed up to get on board astounded us; we expected one or two, but instead we had over 15 kids volunteer for one project or another. This allowed us to make double the expected canvases, and produce over 100 stain glass crosses. We are proud to announce the first event that we’re selling at is at Christ the King on November 11, where there is a market event called “Winter Fest”. After that we will be taking orders and hopefully hunt down more venues to sell our goods at!

It was during one of these sessions when I looked around and saw all these teens working diligently on their canvases (tongues out, music on, and the occasional “OH NO!”) that I realized how many of us here at Teens For Haiti have benefited from working on something with others, for others. We’re so excited to move forward in our ventures to raise money for the people of Haiti, and we thank each and every one of you for showing support by liking our Facebook page and spending a couple of minutes hearing about our story. Hope everyone has a great upcoming week and checks out our art  next Sunday at Christ the King!

 

Entering the world of blogging!


Hi everyone!

 Thank you for all the support you guys have given us; we honestly can not do what we do if we     don’t have people like you encouraging us, donating, and getting involved. Our group of teens thought it was time to get more people aware of who we are and what we do, so we’re starting to blog about our efforts to raise some cash for a village in Haiti! When people ask who we are and what we’re doing, we pretty much have a shortened explanation that we’ve gotten down to 30 seconds because otherwise we would talk all day about our goals. However I hope you find these blog posts, pictures, and updates a little more informative about our project! Our current project is to raise $15,000 to replace a generator that broke down while we were in  Haiti. This generator is used for everything; lighting the village at night, providing energy for the few electronics they do have access to, and most importantly, the generator was being used to run the computer lab. Without this computer lab, the Haitians are not able to communicate with people outside their village. You can imagine the problems that come with no electricity. While we were in Haiti last March it was the week of daylight saving, it took the villagers three days to get caught up with the world clock because of how hard communication can be in such a remote area. We hope our friends in Haiti will be able to use this generator to continue their efforts to educate their children and communicate beyond their borders. This is just our first project of many to come. We hope that you’ll join us in our journey and we will be updating everyone with our progress and upcoming events!