UUSC was excited to partner with the Unitarian Universalist Association on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti for youth and young adults, August 20-27. In the post below, participant Rebecca Burns reflects on her time in Haiti – why she didn’t want to leave and what she is taking home with her.
Saturday morning we left Haiti to return to home. It was an emotionally charged day, mainly because I really did not want to leave. I feel an incredibly strong connection to the country and to the people I met. The landscapes we saw were gorgeous — green fields lined by a continuous chain of mountains in the distance, posing a contrast to the bright blue sky that would quickly turn to gray and fill with clouds as a rainstorm approached. On the morning of our departure, I saw the most beautiful sunrise over the mountains — the first sunrise I had seen while there. The nights were no less spectacular as the sky filled with stars — more than I’ve ever seen before — as though someone literally threw glitter into the air, and it stuck. I loved the morning drives to the eco-village site, as we bumped along the deeply rutted and washed-out roads to a soundtrack of compasmusic that fit the scenes perfectly.
Not only were we witnessing a spectacular landscape, we were also watching scenes of daily life in rural Haiti: women carrying large bundles on their heads; young boys riding donkeys strapped down with firewood; young girls filling water jugs at a nearby spigot; people selling fruits and vegetables along the road; the lotto stands that lined the roads with their bright colors; goats and cows tied to shrubbery; three people piled onto a motorcycle as we sped past in typical Haitian-style driving; and more than anything the faces we saw, some smiling, all looking at us with curiosity.
Each day we would arrive at the work site to more curious faces that would smile and beam “Bon jou!” as we greeted one another. The work, though simple, was rewarding. We moved rocks in an assembly line to the men who were building the foundations of the homes. Often the children would join alongside us in the lines. The location of the village was phenomenal – lush banana and mango trees, views of the surrounding mountains and a nearby river.
The families that will be living there were advocates of elderly rights in Port-au-Prince and were arrested because of that. Chavannes, the founder of the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP) and an inspiration to all of us, heard about this injustice and, when they were left homeless after the earthquake, invited them to move to Papaye. One of the men told Wendy, one of our trip leaders, that they feel as though they are in paradise because they can grow their own food and will never go hungry again. I felt so happy to be a part of making that dream come true for them.
That is in essence why I did not want to leave. I wanted to continue working with them in solidarity. I wanted to continue to learn from Chavannes and all of the groups we met through MPP. I wanted to continue to experience the simplicity of life there. While I am still adjusting back to normal life, I am comforted by the realization that I can share my experience of a hopeful and inspiring Haiti with others and continue to learn about and support this country that made such an impression on me. As I saw the same sun setting as my plane landed back home I thought about how we are all one people, regardless of our nationality, race, or gender — and despite the distance I felt from the people I met, I understood how deep our connections to each other and our earth truly are.