Friday, January 31, 2014

Haiti... my trip with the Mission of Hope

In November of last year, I traveled to Haiti on volunteer/mission trip.  This is a trip I have been thinking about for years and finally decided it was time to go.  I did a lot of research to determine which organization I felt was right for me.  My choice, Mission of Hope.  I made a good decision.  I was so impressed with their organization, efforts, and the great work they do in Haiti.  I would encourage you to visit their website!  The main campus is located in Titanyen, which is about a 45 minute ride north from the Port-au-Prince Airport.  MOH also has campuses in Bercy and Leveque.
Prior to my departure, I was sent a packet of items to pack, dress code, what to expect, etc.  I was also given a "wish list" of items MOH needed that are hard to find in Haiti.  I asked for donations from my family and was thrilled to be able to fill a good sized box with items of the wish list.  The night before my departure I double checked that I had everything I needed, had my box all packed up, and was ready to go.      

Time to travel.  Off I go with my suitcase, backpack, and this large box that was a little awkward to carry.  I caught the 3am bus from Portland to Logan airport (always fun).  When I arrived at Logan, I awkwardly carried all my "stuff" to the ticket counter to check in.  After the formal where are you going, can I see your ID and passport please, conversation, she gets that look on her face that instantly made me worried.  She looks at me and says, "You cannot take that box to Haiti."  HUH?  I asked why, of course.  Now, I had researched this ahead of time to be sure I could take the box and what the size and weight restrictions were so I would have no issues at the airport.  The answer came, "An embargo has been placed on any "boxes" coming into Haiti."  My response was of course when?  "Effective today."  Seriously????  I took a deep breath and explained what was in the box and politely said, what do I do now?  She said you can take it in a suitcase, just not in a box.  Luckily, she pointed me a store that sold suitcases.   End result, I purchased a new suitcase and sat in front of the ticket counter at 5:15 am in the morning ripping open my box and attempting to repack all the items into the new suitcase and fitting whatever I could into my other bag as well. It took a bit of shuffling, but I was successful!  After all that, the lady at the ticket counter was nice enough not to charge me for my bags!  Whew!  Glad that was done.  That was the only hiccup in my travel, thankfully.  I had a quick stop in NY and then landed on time in Haiti!

I found my driver quickly, gathered the others that were on flight also heading to MOH, and off we went.  I was so excited to finally be in Haiti.  I took in everything as we drove the 45 minutes to Titanyen.  When we arrived at the MOH campus, we unloaded and had a quick welcome from the staff, and settled in.  I already felt at home!

Over the next week, I fell in love with Haiti.  The people, the landscape, the culture.  Everything.  I toured the campuses in Bercy and Leveque.  I spent 4 days in the village of Simonette painting the local church, meeting the people, and playing with the children.  The people are so welcoming and the children will steal your heart!  I created special friendships with the people in my group, my interpreters, and the staff at MOH.   I was amazed at the bond that was created with the children in Simonette in the four days I spent there.  On my last day, when the children thanked us and said good bye, I cried.  It is hard to put in words the experience of this trip, so I will let my photos say the rest.

"My group" after finishing the church in Simonette.  

Kinsley, one of the interpreters, telling stories to the kids. 

Children in the orphanage at MOH.

Children at Simonette.

I watched the sunrise and sunset everyday from the roof of our building. 


 There is no doubt that I will be making a return trip to Haiti.