• Thomas Plas

Traveling Far, But Learning From Within

In the days following my trip to Haiti, I was thrown headfirst back into the bustle of work and school. Fortunately, each friend and classmate I reconnected with gave me another opportunity to reflect on my trip.

Our group was fortunate enough to be in Haiti from January 12 - 20, in an effort to improve the community of Pont Morel. We spent our days walking through the village, spreading basic health education and staffing a medical clinic. At the clinic, Dr. Tony, who is originally from Haiti, practiced medicine with just as much grace as his western counterparts--with only a fraction of the resources!

My experience on this trip was shaped entirely by the people I interacted with. As a 28-year-old nurse, I was unsure of what to expect from the group of college students I would spend the week with. After some initial awkwardness, we transformed into a flexible team that spoke Creole, a language we only just started to learn, with strangers and squeezed fun out of every spare moment. Our six translators were the reason we accomplished anything, matching our youthful energy in treks through the community and operating as professional conduits in any of four languages (Creole, French, English, and Spanish). The people of Pont Morel were the foundation of our trip, and their readiness to accept us into their homes and share the intimate details of their lives were expressions of trust that affirmed our goals.

While the perspectives of the various people I interacted with seemed disparate at first, I was repeatedly struck by how readily YSI and the Pont Morel community related to one another. I assumed I had little in common with a Haitian mother, but we certainly both want her child to be free of parasites, and we both find it adorable when his eyes bulge at a pill as it approaches his mouth. Laughter and smiles need no translators!

As we left Pont Morel at five in the morning, our bus passed by two oxen pulling a cart piled high with sugar cane, a reminder of the common lifestyle in Haiti. Soon after, the members of our expedition had all returned to their respective universities, a world of advanced smartphones and free two-day shipping. Life in Haiti is so contrasting to life in America, and it is sometimes hard to reconcile. My personal way of facing this challenge is by continuing to seek personal involvement with people who are less fortunate than I. If my future experiences are half as rewarding and joyful as my first trip to Haiti, I will be completely satisfied.


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