Have you ever fallen in love with a place? Not just the physical beauty of the location, but the soul; the profound feeling you get inside, the overwhelming need to stay. The aching need to make that place part of you, and you part of it. January 2009 in Haiti I experienced just that feeling. Haiti continues to have a deeply profound affect on me. A third world country that on the surface appears to have very little in common with my life style here, grabbed my heart and soul. On My first trip to Haiti, I experienced culture shock: no running water, no electricity, and extreme poverty. Slowly I began to see Haiti in a different light. My two worlds began to merge, and surprisingly have much in common.
I bought your ticket, sit beside me and join me on my trips to Haiti. Trips full of merging worlds, survival, and joy marked with sadness.
It wasn’t until my third trip into Haiti that I figured out why the 2 hour, 20 mile trip from Port Au Prince to Bercy is so enjoyable, why I feel stronger and more sure of myself the further we go. Route 1 National, is crowded. I ride in a tap tap, a pickup truck with benches lengthways along the bed of the truck, topped by a high arch made of steel and metal sheeting. The tap taps are very noisy, everything rattles as you drive. You spend your ride holding on, trying not to hit your head on the ceiling or land in your neighbor’s lap! There are large school buses with names of schools from Maine to Florida running the roads at a break neck pace. A majority of the vehicles in Haiti run on diesel fuel. The exhaust at times takes over the air, mixing with a choking dust. There it is, the key to my joy and strength, the smell of diesel exhaust. Lingering in that smell, (surrounded by treeless mountains, livestock eating along the roads, and the brown faces of strangers), are memories of my childhood. Memories centered around my Dad’s dump trucks and heavy equipment. My Dad who wouldn’t dream of coming to Haiti, comes with me every trip. My skills to figure out how to make something from nothing, or see another way things can be done, come from him, his ability to listen, ask questions, and to think through things before moving on what he has heard, his perseverance in doing what needs to be done and working at it until the job is done. Here on Route 1 National he comes to me through a smell, a smell that merges my two worlds together.
I can hear you asking me “why Haiti?” It started with a trip to visit friends, and led to helping people through ‘a hand up not a hand out.’ I help people start micro businesses, businesses that allow a family to become self-sufficient. Think of the saying “give a man a fish he’ll eat for a day, teach him to fish he’ll eat for a life time”. I am giving families the chance to support themselves, send their children to school, and afford medical care. I also try to give them hope, through their own hard work. I return to Haiti January 12 for my 7th trip, returning February 5th.