Today is the conclusion of New Story’s four-day vision trip to Haiti. As we prepare to leave, we all ask ourselves, “What did we learn? What are we going to take away from our days here and bring back to our everyday lives?”
Because honestly, you can’t leave a place like Haiti without your story being changed in some way.
We played with the most angelic cherubs, painted New Story-funded houses, took hundreds (thousands!) of pictures, and sweated streams in blue-tarp tents.
Here are some of the things I learned while in Haiti.
1. Everyone knows each other.
Relationships are important in Haiti. Whether it be as neighbors, family, or just friends.
They value these relationships above all else — relationships are why parents leave their kids during the day to work in the sweltering heat in order to provide. They are why Haitians desire stable and secure homes in order to protect.
2. Pants are optional, but tanks are a no-no.
We learned after we arrived that all the tanks we had packed for the Haitian heat were not recommended. Traveling with us into Leveque were two North-Americans who had lived in Haiti an extended period of time. Rachel and Janeil provided such insight into the Haitian culture, one of which being the dress code. For American girls, baring your shoulders was not recommended. Which left Kristi, one of the members on the team, in a predicament because all she brought was tanks.
As far as the pants, many of the kids wandering Leveque weren’t wearing any. Or any underwear. The phrase, “Pants are optional,” became a running joke with our group.
3. Greater than fear is hope.
I once tried to ask a village champion, a leader in the community, what his greatest fear was.
“No!” Rosamund firmly told me. “We don’t talk about fear. We have hope.”
I thought it was odd — doesn’t everyone have fears? And you shouldn’t suppress them, right?
But then I realized this: it’s not that they don’t have the fears, but choose to instead focus on hope.
4. This kid is a superhero.
Truly. Though he’s in third grade, Olvitch says he’s 18 (held back due to illness), and he runs a little business that provides food and education for his family.
His dad passed away a few years ago, leaving his mom to provide for the family, until Olvitch stepped in.
Once his family moved into their house 2 years ago, Olvitch started a business selling handmade bracelets.
How many of us can say that we did that for our families when we were in third grade?
Olvitch’s goal is to one day become a doctor, so he can take care of patients.
We all thought he had earned the title ‘Superhero,’ but he told us that his mom is his hero, and that he loves her very much.
5. Houses don’t change the person, but they change the life.
The people I met in the tarp tents and the people I met in the houses reflected the same joy, responsibility, and graciousness.
Wherever they live, they work hard, pursue opportunity, and fight for a better future.
In some way, I thought providing homes would change them. Make them happier. Less stressed. Maybe transform them into a better person.
But homes simply provide safety, security and opportunity — things that Haitians have been striving and praying for a long time before New Story ever entered the picture.
And we simply get to step in, recognize a need, and provide — become an answer to prayer.
We don’t see them go from sad to happy. We see Haitians go from joy to more joy.
To find out more about the work New Story is doing in Haiti, visit www.newstorycharity.org.