Wow! Wow! Wow! 9 days after my return from Haiti and I am now posting my first blog. There is so much to say and explain about the relief trip. However, I haven’t wrote because everytime I tried, my emotions blocked the road. There is so much to say, I can’t even imagine how to sum the trip up. I can’t even explain about my experience without jumping from one subject to another. It has truly been a lifetime experience for me and I am looking forward for my next opportunity. People you can believe my stories and look at my pictures and try to understand. However, I will inform you ahead of time you can’t understand through them. You just can’t and if you say you do understand I am willing to debate the matter. I feel the only way you can truly understand what the Haitian people are going through is, if you have truly lived their life. You must visit to understand the sufferings, beauty, and greatness of the Haitian culture. Research is not the best way of finding out information about a different culture than yours. You must stop what you’re doing, get up, and go expperience it personally!
My first time out of the country was to visit Haiti. Of all the places in the world Haiti. I thought I would be touring and relaxing. That will always be my thought because that’s what I wanted. However, traveling to Haiti as a relief trip with my school Upper Iowa University has been great. I have to say I’m glad to have visited Haiti for my first time out of the country.I believe there is truly no other first time experience that can top Haiti.
My mind was completely filled with ideas of what I thought Haiti would be like. I have never been so wrong in my life so far. I thought people would be fighting each other to survive. I thought people would be stealing to get what they wanted. To be honest I thought we would be robbed coming from America to Haiti, since now they’re considered a 4th World Country after the earthquake. I was expecting to communicate with people who were down 24/7, not having faith and not believing they would make it out of hard times.I expected Haiti to be completely slums. Man how the mind and media works. They always mislead you to negative thoughts. People travel to Haiti ASAP. I took away personal lessons.
Haiti is not what you think. We as Americans must wake up, pay attention and grow up. Whether or not we consider Haiti the poorest of the poor, their is true beauty there. I have learned valuable lessons. We as Americans have things that the Haitian culture doesn’t have and may never get. But yet, we complain more than they do. We complain about not having jobs, benefits, healthcare, education, homes, assistance, and a bad government. We complain about more than those issues. Yes, I understand we are suffering but we must say compared to other countries we have the best life style anyone could ever ask for. The percentage in Haiti for unemployment is beyond the percentage in the US. We still continue to survive without jobs though. That’s because we have benefits, we have plenty of programs to assist us, unemployment checks for those who receive, public aid, social security, child support, alimony and more. We might not have the healthcare we want but try living in Haiti without having healthcare or an actual hospital building. Try having a hospital in a tent and not being able to enter in 95 degree weather everday unless its a critical emergency. We have a public education system as well as private. Haitian children struggle to attend school because it isn’t free and they can’t afford it. They can’t even afford food and a decent place to stay. Compared to Haiti Government, the US Government is the best. Try not having a government visible. Not having a government official speaking on the issues the country faces. Not having someone to try and rebuild the country. That’s the time where you complain!
Haiti is just like some of the cities, towns, or neighborhoods we have here in the United States. I must say, it’s always a blessing to be able to help people less fortunate than we are; even though we come from humble backgrounds ourselves. I have never met a group of people or someone from a different culture so grateful than the Haitians. The were very pleased at the work PID (Partners In Development) were doing. They were grateful for the work our relief team and other relief teams were assisting with. They were proud to know we came to live there lives. They were very eager to know about our life back home. Many of the Haitians biggest dream is to visit and stay in the US.
There is so much to say, but even after a week I can’t put my in words. My head is bouncing all over the place with stories and memories from Haiti. How it’s too many to tell so I suggest you visit for yourself. I had three main highlights during my week travel to Haiti.
1.) The majority of Haitians I communicated with asked was I Haitian. I said no and then they asked were my parents Haitian. However, that was a interesting connection I had with the Haitians. I felt like I was Haitian for a week. Especially, taking my bucket baths in the PID made shower house. Very interesting.
2.) During the process of taking down a home, I was singing gospel songs to worship the LORD. And when I would stop singing Maxim our translator would start singing the songs in creole. I was amazed. Then he taught me a song and I taught him a song. It was awesome and I can’t wait to go back and learn more.
3.) Jude helps out at the clinic. he explained to me he was upset that we don’t see the true beauty of Haiti becuase the buildings and statues are destroyed. I explained to him I didn’t visit Haiti for the buildings and statues. I visited Haiti for the experience, and especially for the people. We talked and further during the conversation I expressed, Haiti is beautiful and not becuase of statues and building, but because of the people. The faith, courage, respect, honesty, and belief and many more characteristics of the people makes Haiti beautiful.
I love HAITI for more experiences add us on FACEBOOK: HAITI-UIU. or email me at email@example.com
We reached the campus on May 18th late at night around 11:00. We all reached home safe except for Alex, who took a different flight from Miami, to go see his family in Seattle. The next day the whole team met to exchange photos that we took. After that we all went for lunch. Reality hit me when i entered the cafeteria. The food i saw in abundance made me sick to my stomache. The only images i had in my mind was the people of Haiti living in tents, suffering from lack of nutrition. And here i was sitting in a comfortable chair, with my plate full and a cool drink in my hands. This made me realize my blessings and appreciate the strength of the people of Haiti even more. I looked around the cafeteria and saw all the people sitting and eating, laughing and joking with friends, oblivious to what’s happening in some parts of the world. I asked myself the same question i had in my mind when i was in Haiti “does this experience mean that i should give up what i have”. I tried to think some sense and the only rational thing i came up with was to be thankful that i have a plate full and be strong so that i can go again and help those who are less fortunate. Which is why i am planning to go back on July so that i can use my summer vacation for something worthwhile.
It is hard, so very hard to adjust. When people see us in campus and elsewhere, they ask us “how was Haiti, did you have fun?”. The first day i didn’t know what to say. I just said Haiti is “OK”. Only the second day i had the strength to even explain what i saw. After telling each one who asks about Haiti, i go to bathroom or my room and cry before i get the strength to come and meet people. There’s a tightness in my throat which won’t go away.
One thing that cheered me up was the birth of a beatiful baby boy, whose mother i helped when she was in labor. She came to the clinic in the morning and i went with her in the afternoon when she was sent to hospital, ready with clean sheets, a syringe, gloves, betadine and a clip just in case i have to help with an emergency delivery. Luckily, we reached the hospital in time. We didn’t know how long it would take as there was protest going on in the roads because Haitian President was coming to that area. When we reached the hospital, the guards won’t let us in. He said i have to be family to go in with her and that they would not let her go in unless she had a family member. Her husband was stuck in the city because of the protests on the road. It was crazy hot outside, and the mother was in pain, loosing it, her eyes kept rolling up. I made her lean on the wall and gave her my cap. There was a Haitian guy who came with us, he works in the clinic. I told him to tell the guard to let us in, tell them that i am a doctor (i lied, sorry). So a guy who was speaking French, he was white but not American, came and asked me what was going on. I told him she has been in labor since this morning and she needs to be seen by a doctor. He asked me where did i come from and i told him i work for PID and i’m a medical professional but the only reason why we came here is because we do not have the resources to deliver a baby in the clinic. (But believe me, the nurse in PID, (Gena) is i’m sure qualified to deliver a baby and me, Joe, Marthe and Debby from our team was there to help but there was another pregnant lady in the clinic that day, and just like any other day, the clinic was full with patients and it was best to take the lady in labor to a hospital). By that time we were inside the gates but not quite inside the hospital. The guy said he will talk to someone and be back. I held the lady who was in pain in my arms and prayed that she and the baby make it through. I would say it is faith that i was the one to go with her to the hospital because that morning before i went to construction site for work, i saw her standing outside the clinic, i went and talked to her and touched her tummy and felt the baby kick. Now the guy came back and told us to go inside and fill some forms. The lady was weighted before she was let in. To my surprise, she weighted only 58.6 kg. I weigh 57 kg. She was pregnant and there was no difference in her weight and mine. This shows how less the people eat. I felt so sad at that time.
We went inside and i saw to my left and right sick people, on the ground, sitting on benches, with injuries, some even probably unconscious. There is so much an organization can do to help. I guess they ran out of room and people who had done surgeries and who had wounds were in temporary wards in tents. The Haitian who was with us went twice to find a doctor to fill the form and came back unsuccessful. I was both angry and sad. My eyes were like coconuts and i asked him, why can’t you sign this piece of paper. I took the lady to the maternity ward and the people at the desk asked us to go away and get the peice of paper stamped. In that situation, with lack of resources and space, the strict rules are understandable but for gods sake, this is a hospital and she was in labor, don’t they have a duty to serve their own people. I guess you understand now why i was angry. The hot sun and the irony of the situation was getting me.
After the third try, he was able to get the piece of paper stamped and we went in. The ladies just took the paper and asked the mother to sit outside as there was no room, and that they would let her in when she is in hard labor. My heart cried for her. I had to leave her there as her husband was on his way and the vehicle was already outside with a diabetic patient, who had to be taken to clinic. I didn’t want to leave, but remembered what Miss Kit and Dr Eller told us the first day, to listen to what Haitians say as they know the situation and place better than us. The Haitian guy who was inside with us kept saying it is dangerous, i must leave. I told him i am not going anywhere unless the husband comes here or they give her a bed. The guy pulled me out of the hospital and i told the lady on my way out, “i’ll be back in a minute”. I kept seeing her face and cried all the way back to the clinic. I kept checking on her husband every 30 minutes to see that he was with her. I was able to relax only when he made it to the hospital.
The baby was born on 5/18/10, his name is Lunge Alcide Ted Sebostien, wighted 6 pounds and is healthy. I am sponsoring him, by paying for his food and clothing, and when he grows up for his education. I’m not married and don’t have children. This is my first son. And i’m lucky to be his sponsorer.
Those who read the blog, you can help in many different ways by going to http://www.pidonline.org/ we worked with them and every single member of the team can assure you that this organization is respectable and is practically helping Haitians, not just saying so. You can also join our facebook group http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=111368948886094&ref=ts where you can find interactions among team members and photos of the group. May God bless you all and those who are less fortunate. Amen!
It will take more than a blog or pictures to describe what’s going on in Haiti. One has to be there, see and feel the sufferings of the people of Haiti, to even come close to sensing what they are going through. When I left for Haiti, I thought I knew a lot about the people, knew exactly what the situation is and how bad it is. But I was so wrong. From the moment I stepped off the plane, until the moment I boarded the flight to come back home, I have learned much more about the people and about Haiti.
The people of Haiti are beautiful. Their faith in God even in this situation and their innocence amazes me. They are well behaved and respectful. Every single Haitian greets us with a smile, either Bonjour (morning greeting) or Bonswa (afternoon greeting). There were no feelings of hostility or anger on their faces as I thought I would see. Just simple innocence and a Hope to make their lives better. I’ve never seen such courageous people. They are loving and caring and it is common to be greeted with a hug and a peck on the cheek which I found very welcoming. The kids are adorable and so playful. They do not have real toys as any other kid would and as Agnieta (our team member from UK) once mentioned, the children make toys with whatever they can find, creative and entertaining. I have never seen the kids fighting although they do not have all the necessities a human being needs. If one kid is wearing shoes, the other is not, if one has pants on, the other might be fully or waist down naked. But no sign of jealousy or superiority. They are just kids growing up together, hand in hand, looking after for one another. There were several times when I wanted to give them my shoes, my pants but stopped as it won’t fit them. So many times I felt helpless and ashamed at myself that I couldn’t help them. A feeling of guilt kept nagging me as I saw how unfair life is for some people. I’m not from a rich family, but I had food, clothing and a good education, thanks to my loving parents and siblings. The children of Haiti are growing up with nothing but the minimum water and food their parents or caretakers can afford to and only the few lucky children have clothing and a chance to go to school. One day in the clinic (PID) where we were staying, we had lunch and played games with Haitian people to get to know them and their culture better. I talked to a 17 year old boy who was lucky enough to go to school. He brought along his school book, one book which he used for his Mathematics, Chemistry and English courses. He had better knowledge of Chemistry than me and I was surprised at how good he was at explaining how chemistry worked. These kids have so much potential, it is a shame that they do not have a chance for a better future. He told me “if I go to America to study, I will always be number one in the class”. It was said with such confidence and hope, I wanted to help him go to a better school. Another moment among several, where I felt helpless.
Before leaving, the whole team was warned about the not very convenient stay with limited food and water, sleeping in tents and cold showers. In the end, even with all the mosquitoes, the falling mangoes on our tents at night, the barking dogs, the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch and one bucket of water a day to shower, I felt we lived a luxurious life by Haitian standard. Although we had sandwiches for lunch, PID provided us with a good dinner every day, and believe it or not, I ate so much better during that one week, compared to the past year. Although our loved ones were worried about us having to stay in such difficult conditions in Haiti, I assure parents and loved ones of the team that we were treated very well by Haitians and not a single member of the team had a complain about anything. Well almost lol. Except for second degree burns, dehydration, diarrhea, fever, few scratches and swollen ankles, and of course, me picking on everyone , the whole team worked hard and gave their maximum every single day. Group dynamics and team work was a big part of the trip. Each one looked after the other as if we were siblings.
This is just a very small part of what I experienced. I’ll try to post something each day from now as there is so much to write. Each day I experienced and saw many different things and felt strong emotions. I will bring the news bit by bit. Thank you to all the readers of this blog for being patient.
My name is Stephen Gordon and i’m student from Chicago, Illinois, currently doing undergraduate studies in Upper Iowa University in Business Administration. I recently just completed my first year of college at the UIU Fayette, Iowa campus. This will be my first time out of the country. I find this to be a lifetime experience and the beginning to a new chapter in my life. I love to read and learn about new cultures. Also, I love to network and meet new people.
I try to be involved as much as possible on campus. That’s not an easy task with class in session. However, I am a member of the Student Development Team and I was on the Housing Committee here at the Upper Iowa Fayette Campus. Also, this past school year I was a member of International Student Association, ISA. I was recently elected by my peers in ISA to a leading role as Secretary of Internationa Student Association, ISA.
I am attending this trip because I have a passion for learning about other cultures. I have a passion for helping others and bettering other communities if possible. My passion came about years ago, because I come from a community that needs help. So therefore I feel this is a start to help better my community and jumpstart part of my career as a community activist/politician someday.
At this point i am very excited. We are leaving campus in 2 hours which is 3:00 in the morning of Tuesday, May 11th, here in Fayette, Iowa. It’s raining right now and the weather is cold but where we are going to (Haiti), the weather is going to be pretty warm except for rain in the evening as this is the rainy season in Haiti. Our trip is from Cedar Rapids to Dulles-Texas to Miami and to our destination Haiti.
The last few days have been hectic with final exams, assignments and packing for the trip including spending quality time with friends and loved ones. I’m gonna miss my family back at home. They are very supportive and they have been and will be my inspiration. They have always been there for me. My parents, my siblings, my friends and my colleagues. I love you all.
I remember when Tsunami hit my country, Maldives, in 2004 we recieved help from many different countries. I feel this is my time to do my part. This includes all the members of our team. We all are trying to do our part in this hard times the Haitians are facing. I see messages from former US Presidents William J. Clinton and George W. Bush, and the current First Lady Michelle Obama in CNN everyday, regarding the heartbreaking situation in Haiti, asking for help in whichever way each and every individual can. I am proud as a UIU student (Go peacocks ) and as a Maldivian to be a part of this team.
I have been keeping up to date with the situation in Haiti and it’s devastating. It’s as if all the emotions unleashed from pendora’s box is in Haiti right now. Me being a pessimist, what i see in this situation is Hope, that made it’s way through what came from pendora’s box. Thanks to our leaders Miss Kit and Dr Eller, we are in good hands. We will be working in liaison with an organization called Partners in Development (PID) who has been in Haiti for the past few years, helping less fortunate Haitians even before the earthquake hit them. For recent news and ways you can help, please visit http://www.pidonline.org/ . There is a great need for medical supplies and helping hands and if anyone reading this blog has the desire to help the relief effort in the form of donations and so on, you can visit the above site and look for ways you can contribue. We also have a facebook group http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=1036167&id=1502234543#!/group.php?gid=111368948886094&ref=ts where the team members communicate, which is an open group and you are most welcome to join.
I am writing this post between packing my hand luggage, a cup noodles and a 101 different things i still want to do lol. But believe me, i am so ready yeyyyy! Since i started the blog, i have been getting words of support and love from family, friends and colleagues here in USA and back at home. Thank you all for the love.
Alright then! I will wrap up now and get back to check on last minute details before we leave the campus. I will write about the situation in Haiti if i have the chance to get online. So stay tuned! Meanwhile, take care and be safe.
Today, let me introduce our team and also give some details about our preparations for the trip.
First of all, we have a very international and diverse group and i’m sure each member brings unique experiences and great contributions. I will introduce them from left to right, as you see in the group picture above.
Back row – Stephen Gordon, Joe Lownik, Dr Eric Eller, Sargunan Raj, Agnieta Sharpe and Nathan Wagner
Front row – Hoang Dang Nhat (AKA-Alex), Miss Kit Klepinger, Aishath Zeena ( me ), Wern Cheen Chang, Caitlyn Finger and Maria Drilling.
Stephen, Joe, Dr Eller, Miss Kit, Nathan, Caitlyn and Maria are Americans. Wern and Raj are from Malaysia (truly Aisa ). Agnieta is from Cambridge, UK. Alex is from Vietnam. And as u all already know, I am from Maldives (the sunny side of life :D ). Dr Eller and Miss Kit are faculty members and the rest are students at Upper Iowa University.
Although we are leaving for Haiti on May 11th early morning at 3:00am, we have started taking weekly classes prior 1 month. We started the first class by writing why we were going on this trip, what we can contribute and what we can gain from the trip. Miss Kit and Dr Eller gave us information regarding the cost, time and date, living conditions, food etc. We also brainstormed for ideas on how to raise funds for the trip so that our expenses would be low (as we are paying for the trip which was around $1200/- in the beginning). Good news is, because of the fund raising efforts, donations from different sources and help from UIU, our trip expenses now, I would say is, next to nothing. This was the effort of all the members of the team and help from well wishers.
At our first meeting, Miss Kit conducted an ice-breaking session where she made us identify different behaviors as cultural, universal or personal and grouped us with things we either liked or disliked. I thought this was rather helpful as we saw what we did and did not have in common. It was fun yeyyyyyy ! One thing everyone should know about me is that i am NOT a morning person, i love to sleep
The rest of the classes were rather informative and educational. For each class, the team was divided into groups so that we would be in different groups for every class. The groups were then assigned topics such as History, Culture, Geography, Government, Current Political System, Economy and the Earthquake (immediate response and current crisis) of Haiti.
Meanwhile, we were all visiting travel clinics and making sure that we had our vaccines up to date. We had to get Hep A, Hep B, Typhoid, Tetanus shots and Malaria pills. I was given four shots on the same day, two on each arm. Believe me, it’s not fun at all. The travel nurse told me “don’t worry, you will be fine!”. I’m not sure whether I was fine or not but I slept for three days like a hibernating bear and my arms were stiff. Well! It was an experience just like the rest of the experiences I’m looking forward to. The whole team took malaria pills on May 4th, which we are supposed to take one week before the trip, during the trip and continue for three weeks after we are back from the trip. So guys, don’t worry about us. We are going with a strong defense system haha
In the last class, we all wrapped up on final details about the trip. We have our ID’s ready and required documents signed. We also collected items we would be taking such as medicines and bandages to be donated, sleeping bags for us and so on.
I’m pretty psyched right now as the departure day is coming closer. And I can feel the excitement when I see any of the members of the team. I still remember in the first class Miss Kit came and hugged me and shouted “we will be one big family”, which is really true. During this week in Haiti, we will see ourselves at our best and our worst and i believe the experiences we have in Haiti while working, reconstructing, cleaning and helping the victims will forever change us in a very humane way.
I will write one more post before we leave. To be continued………….
Feel free to leave a comment or well wishes. Thanx for the love.
My name is Aishath Zeena and i’m an international student from Republic of Maldives, currently doing undergraduate studies in Upper Iowa University in Psychology and Management. I did my first two years in a UIU campus in Malaysia and i’m in UIU-Iowa now on a scholarship to finish my degree. I love to travel and so far i have been to 10 different countries. One of my hobbies is, i would say, to observe people. I love to watch the dynamics of human interaction and the qualities of each individual. I guess that’s where my interest in Psychology is.
In UIU, i’m a member of International Students Association, ISA. Currently i am the Treasurer and we already have our Executive Board elected for next year. I was elected as the President for ISA for the next academic year. As a member of ISA, i try to take part in as many cultural events as possible, which is a requirement as well for my scholarship.
As my first priority in UIU is my studies, i make sure all my school work is done before i do anything else I am a friendly person and spend my free time with my friends here. I read a lot and simply love music and dancing. I love life and always try to make the most of every situation i am in. I’m not a perfectionist but i always try to do my best in everything i do.
This May (2010), me and 9 other students plus 2 faculty members from UIU, are going to Haiti to help with the earthquake relief effort. My country was hit by Tsunami on 2004 and i worked in a relief camp for 2 weeks with about 200 victims. I have a passion to help people in need and social work is one area i would be working on once i graduate.
I am thankful for UIU for arranging this trip. I will be writing about the trip before we leave for Haiti and after we come back as while we are in Haiti, we might not have the chance to blog. If it is possible, i will be writing about what’s going on in Haiti while we are there.
I will try to bring news home through this blog about the trip. Stay tuned guys!