When you consider going on a service trip, the first benefit that comes to mind is the positive impact that you and your group will have on the people you serve. However, that is not what this article is about. You may be asking yourself how shipping off to a hot, underprivileged island could possibly be beneficial to you. Well, there are many ways in which pushing your body and mind can help you grow, not only as a volunteer, but as an individual.
Your time in Haiti begins with an orientation, during which you learn how many scoops of water you may use for a shower, along with other household courtesies. At first, a bucket and four scoops of water may seem unreasonable, but after your first shower you will realize just how far they will go. That first shower will feel incredible. Your skin will relish the familiar soothing sensation of water falling over your skin, which quickly loses its acquaintance with dirt and sand. It will feel so nice to get clean and feel “normal” again, but it is amazing how quickly we adapt-- how fast “normal” can change. Before you know it, the dirt and sand will become normal. In fact, you may find comfort in it; not having to worry so much about appearances. If you sweat, it means you’re working hard.
Every morning Widens and Ti Bege, the young men who help out around the compound, put two 55-gallon blue barrel drums onto a cart and push them a few miles down the road to the nearest public well. There, they fill the drums and push them all the way back to the compound. It is by watching them do this every single morning under the hot Haitian sun that you begin to really appreciate where that shower water is coming from. Soon, you will find yourself resorting to only three scoops of water for that shower, which you now only take every other day, because that is all you really need.
Widens cuts sugar cane for Zachary Lawrence to taste.
Haiti is a place where those who are humbled by life’s circumstances will choose to limit themselves even further for the betterment of others, and you too will find yourself in this position. One scoop of well water may sound insignificant, but that scoop of water is a privilege. In fact, it took more than that scoop worth of sweat from two kind, energetic young men to get you that water.
Unfortunately, these habits quickly fade away. We so quickly forget what it was like to take a bucket shower-- to share a house with people who have only ever taken a bucket shower, who have never even seen running water. We have taken these amenities for granted for our whole lives. It takes a conscious effort to remember our time in Haiti beyond the Instagram pictures.
Traveling can be exhausting, and the Haitian sun can certainly feel draining, but it has the capacity to bring out the best in you-- to humble you and change your mindset. And, if you make an effort to remember all that it has taught you, you can allow Haiti to remain in you wherever you go, being the best person that you can be. You might start taking shorter showers, too.