It has been over five years since a horrendous earthquake hit the island nation of Haiti. Although there has been a lot of progress, the effects are still lingering. In its aftermath, the government encouraged people to move out of the tents in the middle of the city, and into the surrounding mountains. While communities are continuously growing, expanding and improving in the nearby mountains, they still need assistance.
This summer, I had the trip of a lifetime to Haiti with four other Sturgis East students (juniors Julia Buckner and Alex White and seniors Jack Rush and Isabella Roberge), and math teacher Mr. McKay. Accompanied by several other members of Mr. McKay’s church, the group flew into the Port- au- Prince airport at the end of July. The goal of this trip was to build a medical clinic in one of these mountainous villages known as New Canaan.
Everyday, our group would ride from where we were staying in the city into the mountains on a 45 minute ride. Each day our transportation would be different: a worn down public bus all for ourselves, a school bus, a crowded (and very sweaty) van, or even the local choice of transportation, the tap tap. Our travel through Port-au-Prince, the capital of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, was truly eye-opening. I saw issues such as poor sanitation and lack of infrastructure.
Soon after, we would make it into the mountains; it was very dusty and there were not as many resources, but you could see the strong sense of community. The group we were with had built a school in New Canaan the previous summer and it was amazing for them to see how far it had come. Everyday, we would help build a medical clinic along with local construction workers, using just hand tools to construct the cement block building. Once finished, this medical clinic will replace the current facility (the midwife’s home made of sheet metal and tarps) where 3-4 babies are born each month. The goal of our trip was to build this, so the people of New Canaan have a place to go for medical help. A young nurse in Port-au-Prince will start working there once the construction is finished.
We also spent a couple mornings in the classrooms, where Vacation Bible School was going on. I made bead bracelets with a class of about sixty 3-5 year olds. Everyday more and more kids would come to the school yard to visit us. We played games like soccer and wiffle ball (until one young boy hit a homerun onto the roof of the school), sang songs in Haitian Creole and English, and thoroughly enjoyed our days interacting with such joyful children.
Every afternoon as we boarded our transportation to take back into the city, we would say “na wè pita” (see you tomorrow), and although we couldn’t say that on the last day, I know we will all remember the connections we made with locals forever. It was one of the most heartbreaking and heartwarming weeks of my life, and I think about the people of New Canaan everyday.