Name: Caroline Mountain
School: UMass Amherst
Majors: Psychology and Education
Class year: 2019
When and how did you get involved with YSI?
I got involved in YSI this past winter. I saw a Facebook post about a meeting for a trip to Haiti that night. After the meeting, the program seemed so warm and truly involved in helping the community in Pont Morel that my heart was set on going from there. The inclusivity of the UMass chapter of YSI pushed me to stick with the program all the way to the trip. The leaders made it less intimidating to put down that first deposit.
Which expeditions have you gone on?
Just one so far [this past January], but I am returning in June 2016.
What are your future plans with YSI?
I would like to eventually take over a leadership position within the organization and continue my travels to and from Pont Morel. I hope to go into a career involving social work, so staying involved with YSI not only allows me to follow my passion, but also helps further my career.
What is your favorite memory from your trip(s) to Haiti?
My favorite memory from my trip to Haiti was with a few other advocates and a member of the community named Oscar. Oscar is a wonderful piano player and has a keyboard in his home. We all sat around the piano singing gospel music, and it was an inexplicably touching moment in my life. That memory stands out so much to me when I look back on my trip to Haiti. The feeling I receive from close bonds created in Haiti is something I have never experienced prior to my trip. I am able to connect with the Haitians and the wonderful people I travel with there on an entirely different level than I am able to in the United States.
How has your trip with YSI made a lasting impact on you?
My first trip to Haiti changed me in a lot more ways than I was expecting, but to be completely honest it was the little things that changed that surprised me the most. I'm not grateful just to speak the same language as the people around me—something that never even crossed my mind prior to my trip. I also never really thought about my water consumption before, but now my showers are as short as possible and still feel wasteful. Most of all, I learned to be simply grateful and happy. The people of Pont Morel have the most simplistic and beautiful way of living life that I strive every day to adopt.
What was the most surprising thing about Haiti? What did you learn from that?
The most surprising thing about Haiti to me was how beautiful the entire country is—especially the people. Before I traveled to Haiti I had so many negative words associated with it such as “poverty” and “third world.” However cliché it is, many of the people there are the richest I've ever met. Not in money, but in the way they appreciate family, community, and their surroundings.