A group of high schoolers from Erie, CO packed their bags and headed to Haiti this summer to love on kids in one of our newest projects. Below is senior Meg T.’s reflection and wisdom on what she brought back to the US with her.
The Haitian sun beat down on my face, the air thick with unfamiliar scents, the low buzz of nearby construction, and the fast babble of the Creole that I was still training my ears to understand. It warmed the air around me, turning it into a blanket that engulfed my body, but my heart was engulfed by something else entirely; the smiling children around me, pulling at my hands, begging me to play just one more round of schoolyard games with them. Their beautiful eyes, rich and dark, provided a sharp juxtaposition to my surroundings- a mesmerizing mix of both destruction and hope.
The only one in my group proficient in French, and lacking enough translators to go around, I felt the pressure to be everywhere at once… not so different from my life back home. However, here at this little church turned school, I felt like I could. All of the traits that I possessed in Colorado were amplified in Haïti. My patience increased tenfold, and my natural love of laughing and joking shined through the otherwise darkness I was experiencing around me. I got to sing with the kids at the top of my lungs, and my lifelong love of music broke down the cultural barriers between us. I was wholly consumed by the intense desire I had to help the people around me; the broken families with broken pasts that nobody before had bothered to care about.
The smiles are what got to me. Radiant; those kids loved to laugh so much. Joy formed their smiles, but hope, intense and passionate hope, is what kept them there. Many of the children I met were more grown up than I’ll ever be.
Before I went to Haiti, I was selfish. I didn’t realize it before, but America really is the land of opportunity. There are so many reasons and ways to take our lives for granted. But looking around Port-au-Prince, I knew something in my heart was changed. I couldn’t pretend anymore that poverty was a simple issue, because it’s not. I couldn’t stand back and just let life happen to me, knowing that somebody, somewhere was praying for the very things that I took for granted. Before I went to Haïti, I never believed that I had a voice, not one that mattered anyway. But as I stood in front of a group of Haitian girls my age explaining how they are so much more than their society tells them they are, so much more precious than they believed, I realized that this was a lie.
My voice did matter and I needed to use it to stand up for myself, and for the people that didn’t have one. I kept thinking of the words of a rendition of “Africa” that my church performed during Easter, “time now stops, let’s bring it back to you…now that you’ve seen it through their eyes, what are you going to do?” In that moment, I became aware of just how much responsibility I now had after coming here. It was my job to tell these children’s stories to the people back home. I had to get word out that poverty and suffering was real, and that these people needed our help. I was a child before the trip, and I came back more grown up than I could have ever imagined. I know now that I need to fight for the powerless, and use my skills and talents to benefit the community, country, and world around me.