Haiti: Is it Worth the Four-Hour Plane Ride?

After three days of working, we finally got some relaxation time. This was the beach we visited on the fourth day. Although it isn’t pictured here, there were large amounts of trash floating in the ocean. (Sarah Cao/Sewickley Academy)

Sarah Cao, Guest Contributer

In January, I had the opportunity to go to Haiti with nine other students over the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. It was a chance for all of us to dive into the Haitian culture and do some service work as well. We had to meet up at the airport at 5 a.m. and we didn’t get to Haiti until 3:30 pm. We were tired after a 12 hour trip, but that didn’t stop us from sightseeing and working.

Once we arrived, we met up with the organization WORK, which was formerly known as Team Tassy. Their mission is to accompany families in Haiti out of poverty. They do this by giving families jobs and multiple life skills to help them make a living. We even got to meet one of the first families they ever helped during our trip. Throughout this trip, Haiti astounded me every minute. The buildings were always colorful and there were always people out in the streets.

The area where we spent the most time was Menelas. Menelas is the community where WORK primarily works and we had the chance to go there multiple times in a day. The people out on the streets were always nice and waved at us whenever we passed by. We even got to run to Menelas as an activity with the kids who lived there. We did have to run on a 90 degree day, but it was so much fun to see the kids running next to us.

But it wasn’t all fun and games. WORK has seen that many kids lack a sufficient education. That’s why WORK built their own classrooms. These classrooms weren’t necessarily everyday schools, but they were more like an after school program for tutoring. We even had the chance to teach kids in these classrooms English and math. One of the classrooms we went to had an open space in the back. So, WORK wanted to convert this space into a garden and we helped. The kids who went to this classroom even wanted to help us too. Since we did have to get our hands dirty, we had to bring gardening gloves, but the kids were so eager to help that they just took the gloves right out of my hand. It was kind of funny, but it was also sweet at the same time seeing that they wanted to make a change in their own community. Although we cleared more trash than actually gardened, it was still amazing to see the transformation of a space in one afternoon.

The landfill was right next to this garden space. We were allowed to go into the landfill for just a short amount of time, but it was devastating. There were so many families living there and somehow they managed to make living spaces just from the material around them. We actually even saw people going into the landfill to empty their trash in this space that is home for so many families. A lot of the people there didn’t even have proper clothes, so they weren’t even really protected. Even though seeing the Haitian kids was a joy, it was really hard seeing their living conditions.

From this trip, I realized how fortunate I am to be able to go to a school like SA and to have a roof over my head. Please check out the organization WORK and see how you can help. Haiti is an absolutely wonderful place to visit and I would highly recommend it to everyone for years to come!

WORK: https://www.dowork.org