Ask any advocate who has visited Haiti with YSI to think of the most humbling moment they had on the trip. Each advocate can describe one event that stands out above the rest, including myself.
Toward the end of our week-long expedition last January, our community development group made a final push to visit as many families in the area as we could. Our goal was to survey members of the community about how likely they would be to send their children to a hypothetical YSI-run school. We visited a family who resided deep in the woods, which required us to travel through a muddy path along a polluted river, past emaciated cows and horses, and over a bridge haphazardly built with hundreds of dead sugar cane leaves and stalks. A family of seven, they all lived together in two small, humble homes, along with the malnourished livestock they kept. In the struggling Haitian economy, this was possibly the poorest of all the families we visited.
Despite their living conditions, upon seeing they had visitors, the mother and father shot up and greeted us wholeheartedly. They brought our large group their battered and worn chairs and insisted that we sit, as we were their guests. We quickly learned that they had been previously unable to send their two children to school due to financial strain. However, YSI began paying for their children to go to school. They felt that a less-expensive school delivering higher quality education would make a huge difference to them. They then allowed us to play with their goats and thanked us for visiting as we left.
Of all the things I saw during the week, I was most taken aback by this family offering us their chairs. Even though they had next to nothing besides their homes, livestock, and each other, they offered what were likely their nicest possessions to several people from another country who stopped by unannounced. YSI’s mission of helping the people in the area has grown markedly in the past three years, and the reaction of this family towards us is a sign that the work we’ve done and will continue to do is not only appreciated, but revered.