Information for Family Members
It is natural to be concerned about the well being of a family member traveling to a developing country. These frequently asked questions provide basic information about our Haiti expeditions and the steps we take to guarantee our advocates' safety.
What is a YourStory International expedition?
Our expeditions are eight-day trips that provide our advocates the opportunity to develop professional skills, experience a unique culture, and most importantly, make a lasting difference in the lives of others. Work days either consist of field work, where advocates travel into the community to perform public health work, or clinic days, where advocates assist Haitian health care professionals to provide free primary care to patients. Each expedition also includes one leisure day for advocates to unwind at the beach.
How are the advocates picked up from the airport?
YourStory International has an extremely detailed travel protocol that can be found on our Resources page. All of our advocates are told to meet at a pre-determined spot by their Expedition Directors prior to their departure. After all of the advocates have arrived, they are taken outside the airport as a group by their Expedition Directors to immediately board the vehicle waiting for them. This is typically a standard coach or school bus. Per our travel protocol, our busses are always staffed by a driver, interpreter, and security guard. After the advocates have boarded, there is a 30-mile drive to our Pont Morel compound.
Who are the Expedition Directors?
The Expedition Directors (EDs) are highly qualified professionals selected and trained to lead large expeditions. EDs are typically members of either the YourStory International Board of Directors or our senior management team. All of our EDs have a high level of expertise regarding the area in which we operate.
What is the Pont Morel compound?
The Pont Morel compound is a large facility owned and operated by YourStory International. It is located in a small, rural village on the periphery of Léogâne, Haiti. Nestled between the Haiti’s southern mountains, sugarcane plantations, and the Gulf of Gonâve, it provides a beautiful view of the community we serve while fostering a safe and comfortable environment. More information about the Pont Morel compound can be found here.
What are the security arrangements at the Pont Morel compound?
The Pont Morel compound is a 1-acre walled facility with a large iron gate. The interior building is also protected by a large, lockable cast-iron gate. An armed security guard is present from 6 PM to 6 AM every day, and our staff has a direct number to the police commissary located 1.5 miles away. We have never had an issue with safety or security during our expeditions.
What is the local community like?
Pont Morel is a small rural community on the outskirts of Léogâne, Haiti’s 7th largest city. The inhabitants of Pont Morel, most of whom have lived in the area for generations, are tight-knit, generous, and extremely friendly. The primary industries in the area are all related to rum production, with sugarcane farming and alcohol distilling being the main sources of employment. Most of the residents of Pont Morel also have small subsistence gardens where they grow plantains and vegetables and raise goats and pigs.
Are media representations of Haiti accurate?
It is common for the family members of our advocates to be concerned about safety due to the overwhelmingly negative image of Haiti that is portrayed by the US media. One of the first things that our advocates notice is the difference between their experience and what they see in the media.
Is the food and water consumed by the advocates safe?
All of the water that is consumed by our advocates (for drinking and cooking) is factory purified by a facility that has been personally inspected by our medical director. All of our cooking staff have been trained regarding the safe preparation and presentation of food.
How is the quality of the food?
Per our post-expedition anonymous surveys, our advocates rate the quality of the food served during our expeditions at an average of 4 out of 5. Our advocates are typically served eggs and fruit in the morning, Haitian spaghetti or maize (think Haitian polenta) in the afternoon, and a large dinner of rice and beans and a meat dish in the evening. Vegetarian and vegan accommodations are available upon request.
What are the policies regarding drug and alcohol use?
Drugs and alcohol are not allowed under any circumstances at our Pont Morel compound. Any advocate found to have broken this rule is eliminated from the expedition and taken to the airport the next day. Moderate alcohol consumption is permitted when our advocates visit Le Boucanier Resort on their day off.
Is there a sexual harassment and conduct policy?
YourStory International has a zero tolerance policy regarding breaches of our sexual conduct policy. Any advocate found to be in breach of this policy is eliminated from the expedition and taken to the airport the next day. The sexual conduct policy can be viewed on our Resources page.
Have there ever been safety or security issues during an expedition?
No, we have never had a major incident regarding safety or security during our expeditions. Per our anonymous feedback surveys, advocates rated their perceived level of safety an average of 4.5 out of 5.
What precautions should be made to prevent infectious disease?
All of the water consumed by our advocates is purified by reverse osmosis at a facility that has been inspected by our medical director. All of the water used to cook the food our advocate’s food has been similarly treated. Detailed disease prevention practices can be found in our Safety Protocols Handbook, available on our Resources page.
What sorts of training and preparation is required to come on an expedition?
All of our advocates are required to complete a multi-step preparation and credentialing process. This includes attending regular meetings at their university chapter and completing training modules regarding their specific expedition responsibilities. Advocates who do not complete all required items are not allowed to join the expedition.