After my weekend adventure came the typical Haiti trip, typical as any Haiti trip can be. The rest of the group flew in on Monday and we had until Friday to love on the people and make a difference in their lives.
The main goal or objective changes every trip. Sometimes, we build schools or remodel orphanages. This trip had a more relational focus as most of the team are in middle or high school.
Our big idea for this trip was to run some soccer camps for the orphanages and anyone else who wanted to come play. The kids all knew how to play better than any of us, so we didn’t do much in the realm of soccer instruction. Rather, we turned a common passion into a tool to reach the people of the communities.
Someone donated these really awesome balls for us to use. These balls have five colors on them to tell the story of salvation. Gold represented the glory of God and how great things used to be. Black, the sin in our hearts. Red for the blood of the cross. White stood for the purification from sin. Green is the new life after salvation. Throughout the time we spent playing soccer, we’d sit the kids down and explain what this ball represented and how it affects them. I really like the concept behind tools like this. The kids already have an attachment to soccer and now have a link to something so much greater – Jesus and His love for them.
We ran these camps at a couple of different places. Our first day, we set up in Montrouis, the town our hotel is at and also where David’s orphanage is. Day two, we moved to the village Oscar’s orphanage is at, Titanyen, about an hour from where stay. For our third and final day, we returned to Titanyen, and we brought David’s kids with us.
We didn’t stay out at the field that last day too long thanks to the incredibly hot weather. After we finished the games, we packed everybody up and went back to Oscar’s place. We worshiped in song, played games, and enjoyed good times with each other.
This was actually the first time the two orphanages had ever been together. Getting to be present for this first meeting was something truly special. I’ve invested a lot of time in both groups of kids. Seeing them come together for the first time, that’s something I’ll never forget.
Throughout the week, we also had the opportunity to visit three schools. Two of these are schools the kids in our orphanages attend. The third we found through one of our friends in Haiti. Seeing these schools was another eye-opener, a huge contrast to the way things are done here. At each of the schools, we broke up into smaller groups and visited all the classrooms, sharing some words of love and encouragement along the way.
The first school we visited was the one David’s kids attend. I’ve actually been to the school without knowing it – the first floor is actually the church David attends, one that I’ve been to a couple of different times. The school is actually pretty big, with two floors and a few buildings next to the school packed with kids so eager to learn. In talking with the administrator of the school, I learned that there were some 600 kids between all the grades in that school. That may not seem like a lot to some, but I graduated high school in a class of 21.
I also learned something even more incredible in talking with the administrator. Like many other institutions in Haiti, the school requires outside funding to run. Recently, one of the sponsors dropped out and didn’t really say why, from what I understand. Unfortunately, this sponsor was a major player in paying for the school. As a result, many teachers and staff at the school are being paid much less than before. The thing that amazes me is that they still come to teach, despite this drop in income. They all have such a passion for these kids and want to see them succeed. The dedication of these individuals is definitely an inspiration to me.
A day or two later, we had the opportunity to visit the school Oscar’s kids attend. The layout of this school was so different from the previous one. Some 20-30 small classrooms formed an “L” shape around a central courtyard. The school itself was also more out of the way with little else around it, while the school David’s kids attend was more in the middle of town. There was definitely a huge contrast in environment between the two.
We didn’t really have much of an opportunity to share at this school. What I’m about to say isn’t trying to shame anyone, but more of a lesson in cultural differences. This particular school has high dress standards, particularly for the ladies. Dressed more for the soccer fields, some of us didn’t meet their standards and, as a result, we got herded in a corner by the door not too long after we arrived.
So for those of you traveling to a new place, keep in mind the expected standards. It doesn’t matter if it’s outside of America or not, different groups have different beliefs. While school 2 didn’t care for the apparel of our group, school 1 didn’t seem to have as much of an issue with it, at least as far as I know. When entering into another culture, don’t just assume all your rules and customs apply. Doing so just marginalizes the people you’re trying to reach.
As I said, we found this third school through one of our friends named Johnny, an incredibly nice and well-spoken guy around my age. One of our team members, Sarah, met him on the June trip and kept in touch with him between trips. They both teach English at their respective schools and formed a connection through that. At some point, he invited us to come see his school and we obliged.
This school had a similar layout to the first one we visited, with most of the classrooms in a decent sized two-story building. Another building close by housed the preschool rooms. Something this school had that I didn’t see elsewhere was a college-like environment. On the campus, slightly removed from the other classrooms, are two or three rooms used for online college courses. While it’s far from what a college looks like in America, I still think environments like this are incredibly important. If college is important to success here, it is nigh essential in Haiti. But from what I’ve observed and inferred, it is much less accessible than it is here. So that this school is offering something for those seeking a college education is something I cannot say enough good about.
In every school or education environment I’ve visited in Haiti, I’ve seen a common trend. A trend the polar opposite of what I see in America. People in Haiti are so grateful for the opportunity to go to school. I’d say they’re even excited about it. It doesn’t matter if they’re 5, 15, or 50, they are all so incredibly eager to go learn. Contrast that to here in America where school is basically of the devil. I know I certainly grumbled more than my fair share about going to school. It’s yet another thing that we take so badly for granted. While we’re actually in school, we see it as a necessary evil at best. But in Haiti, it’s seen as a blessing of the highest degree.
If I were to be honest, I had some concerns about how our younger crew would do interacting with the people of Haiti. Some of the kids in the orphanages are actually older than some the kids who came with us. Only one of the teenagers had been to Haiti before, so I wasn’t sure how they’d handle all these drastic differences they’d have to take in.
On our way to the hotel after everyone else arrived, we stopped at Oscar’s for a quick visit. It wasn’t the greatest start, as the group and his kids kinda stuck to themselves.
But on our first full day, those concerns evaporated. When visiting David’s school and putting on our first soccer camp, our kids jumped right in. When we went back to Oscar’s they certainly made up for lost time. By the end of the trip, they had connected to the people of Haiti so strongly and so quickly. Honestly, this group may have been the best I’ve been a part of in terms of connection and involvement with the kids.
I’m not super close to any of the kids that came, but I’m still so proud of them. Going to Haiti is not super easy for anyone, but doing it when your only 18? 15? 11? That’s nothing short of incredible in my book. I know these kids have formed relationships and memories that will stick with them for the rest of their lives. Seeing such a contrast to the only life they’ve known while they’re still so young will certainly hold so many implications for the rest of their lives.But on our first full day, those concerns evaporated. When visiting David’s school and putting on our first soccer camp, our kids jumped right in. When we went back to Oscar’s they certainly made up for lost time. By the end of the trip, they had connected to the people of Haiti so strongly and so quickly. Honestly, this group may have been the best I’ve been a part of in terms of connection and involvement with the kids.
Of course, so many other things happened on this trip. Things that still sit so heavy with me or things I still haven’t fully processed. This trips certainly had lots of highs and lows for me, a true rollercoaster of an experience. But I’d gladly do it all again.
This trip has truly given me lots to think about. It’s made me question so much of what I thought I knew. So many new ideas and viewpoints and mindsets have entered my mind. As time goes on, I’m sure you’ll see some of those thoughts posted here. Others, you’ll see carried out in a different realm. Yes, that’s intentionally vague because I don’t even know what that fully means. I’m not sure exactly what the future holds for me and for Haiti, but there is one thing I do know:
Greater things are yet to come.