My favorite reflection activity took place on the last night of the expedition. Led by Niamh, UMass Chapter President, the advocates were asked to write a letter to a friend, telling them about the time they had spent in Haiti. We were then asked to either sign them or leave them anonymous and crinkle them up into “snowballs”. We passed the snowballs around the circle until Niamh told us to stop. We read the letters we had received and were asked to share our favorite lines. We repeated the process multiple times, allowing everybody to read multiple letters. This activity taught us that while we all participated in similar activities during the expedition, we each observed them differently and took away many unique lessons from them.
I enjoyed this activity so much that I hunted down my own snowball after the activity had concluded and kept the last snowball that had been passed to me. I am going to share both of them with you.
“Dear Friend, Family, or another individual,
When I embarked on the YSI expedition to Haiti, I had every intention on focusing on the availability and quality of healthcare services to the Haitian people in contrast with those commonly received in the states. While I noticed a pointed difference between the facilities and services available to the Haitian people, as well as, affordability of critical care, what was far more striking was the contrast in quality of life before and after the earthquake. All my life, I have been aware of Haiti as an impoverished country, not a place that once had a beautiful capitol building, electricity, trash disposal, and running water. I did not realize that the earthquake was an apocalyptic event within the Haitians’ world, forcing all efforts and energy towards survival.
I am newly aware of the state of Haiti, as well as, the complexity of its current problems stemming from government corruption and overall poverty. I have learned that to really make an impact we must do more than build a few houses. I am not quite sure how to approach these issues, but I have a renewed interest in learning how.
When I told you I wanted to go to Haiti you asked why. On the days before I departed you said good luck and told me you’d try not to worry. When I was on the way here, an old woman pointed out of our plane’s window and smiled, telling me “bienvenue!” over and over again. It was then that I began to realize how much love is shared between the people of Haiti.
You asked why I wanted to come here, and it was to help others, however, never in my life have I felt so accepted by a group of strangers, never have I been awoken by laughter as a pig squealed for its breakfast, and never have I been blessed by the simple greetings of people I pass by as I walk down the road. I love the energy here. If you stop to listen, it is peaceful and quiet, but people are always moving: children are running up to strangers with open arms, and oddly, that’s okay, because we love their little smiles. Women who have seen more hardships in 25 years of life than I will in my entire lifetime, spend their food budget on schooling for their children and spend two hours a day walking them to and from that very same school. Nobody complains. In fact, they smile and laugh together.
You told me good luck, but I didn’t need it. Here, I am loved and at peace. The sunrises are beautiful, the pigs crack me up, and the curiosity of children is contagious. You said you’d try not to worry, and I hope you didn’t, because I’ll be back for sure.
Thanks for supporting my adventure,