One of the most valuable aspects of a journey to Haiti is recognizing that it is challenging, it will surpass your expectations in many ways, and it is a gift. It is essential to take note of all of the experiences that you have along the way so you can retain the lessons you learn from the people, the town, and yourself. You may find that you are the best version of yourself while in Haiti, as I did. Nightly reflections and journaling will help you to remember that version of yourself long after you have settled back into your usual routine at home.
Each night, an officer or two leads a reflection activity. Some of my favorites were the Privilege Walk, the Privilege Shuffle, and the “Letter to a Friend” Snowball activity.
The Privilege Walk begins with all advocates and officers standing on a line across the front yard. This starting line has all participants on an equal plane, reminding us that because we all came from the United States, it is easy to assume we are of equal privilege. The leader of the activity then reads off a series of statements, such as “Step forward if you have food to eat everyday.” These statements range from basic needs to more rare luxuries. For example, “Step forward if you go on vacation with your family often.” If the participant agrees, he or she takes a step forward, if they do not, they stay in place. There are also negative statements, such as “Step backward if you have felt racially profiled.” If the participant agrees, he or she takes a step backward. As the activity progresses, participants become staggered across the lawn. Theoretically, those standing the furthest forward have been faced with the least adversity, while those furthest back have faced the most hardship. Of course, this activity has a limited range of questions and cannot truly represent a person’s entire life. While it gives only mere snapshot, the message is clear. The Privilege Walk reminds us that although we all live in the USA and attend the same few universities, we all come from very different households and personal lives.
We come to Haiti, assuming that our lives are easier than many of those we see around us. However, it is important to be reminded that you cannot make assumptions about anyone’s life or their state of happiness. At the end of the activity, you can look around and not only see where you fall among your peers, but also how far the range stretches. There is so much that we do not know about each other, and this activity gives us the opportunity to learn some of these things from our fellow advocates.
The Privilege Shuffle similarly begins with all participants on a center-line, which represents neutrality. The leader once again reads statements ranging in intimacy from “I like my school,” to “I feel loved.” If you agree 100% you step as far forward as possible. If you disagree 100% you step as far back as possible. If you feel neutral or would prefer not to answer, you return to the center-line. This activity puts our lives in perspective, as each statement spreads the advocates across the yard. The statements cover categories such as school, family, and health. You will notice trends within each category and come to see that each person has weaknesses and strengths. It is all about gaining perspective, being honest, and trusting your fellow advocates as you open up together. It can be a raw, powerful, and emotional experience, but so is being in Haiti. Collectively acknowledging those feelings helps us to grow individually and as an organization.
The "Letter to a Friend" Snowball activity will be described in Nightly Reflections, Part 2.