Volunteering in Haiti: A life changing experience.

Last year I decided that I wanted to start doing rather than talking. The ‘bucket’ list was long and ranged from learning, health, love and life challenges. I was given a wonderful opportunity in December 2016 by my uncle Maurice Healy of The Healy Foundation, he offered to sponsor me on the ‘build it week’ program run by Haven.

The Haitian people I met have very little yet wear a smile that makes each and every one of them beautiful. Haiti for me was the most truly rewarding thing I have ever done and a once in a lifetime experience!

Volunteering in Haiti 2017

Haven’s mission is to build strong and sustainable communities by facilitating the construction of shelter and the provision of water and sanitation solutions, and providing training and community development to ensure sustainable livelihoods. All I needed to do was get some time off work. Strata3 lived up to the request as they always do and even went so far as to give me 2 days at their expense.

Hard work

It’s hard to explain the feeling I had at 3.30pm on Friday the 28th April 2017. After spending 6 days working in extreme conditions you forget and just get on with the job. At the end of the day 240 children are depending on you and the team to have their new school ready. We arrived onsite Sunday the 23rd April to what I would describe as a building site. We were quickly put into teams (I was on the painting team), we grabbed our supplies and off we set. We pulled furniture out and back into classrooms, painted interiors and exteriors of the buildings and railings, swept out flooded classrooms, dug holes, moved stones, painted and varnished tables and chairs. I worked harder than I ever thought I possibly could. We started on a building site and finished with a school fit for greatness.

An experience like no other

Haiti was the most challenging yet rewarding experience of my life to date. I never thought I could spend a full 8 days with 40 people all eating, working, and socialising together and think I could stay sane. I have never worked as hard under extreme conditions, felt as much pride or shared as much of myself in my 35 years. I met some extremely wonderful people and I am lucky to now call some of them friends. I laughed and appreciated things on a level that I never thought possible. Haiti is an extremely poor country and from what I learnt corrupt like no other. We travelled everywhere with a bodyguard and were not allowed to leave the enclosed community of Chirstenville alone. Although we were in an unsafe part of the world I never felt unsafe.

The Haitian people I met were warm, friendly and extremely proud and the children I met smiled bigger smiles than I have ever seen and they have nothing only each other. The pride they took in getting into their uniforms for the opening of the school was amazing, I have never seen clothes that white or smiles that big.

Haiti remains one of the most unequal countries in the world: the richest 20% of its population holds more than 64% of its total wealth, while the poorest 20% hold hardly 1%. Employment is extremely vulnerable: over two-thirds of the labour force do not have formal jobs. The adult literacy rate in Haiti is just 49%; people aged 25 or over received, on average, just 4.9 years of education.

A new perspective

It’s hard to put into words what a truly amazing experience my 10 days in Haiti have been. My life will continue as normal and I will still buy too much and give out about things that aren’t important but my memories and pride of all that I experienced in Christenville, the friends I made and the kids I met will last a lifetime. People really are amazing and I would urge everyone to do something that scares them once in their lifetime. For me I learnt I am stronger that I ever thought I was and that behind every person is a story waiting to be told, imperfections are normal and live within us all; it’s how we priorities them is what’s important. I will no more give too much air time to weight or appearance. The Haitian people I met have very little yet wear a smile that makes each and every one of them beautiful. Haiti for me was the most truly rewarding thing I have ever done and a once in a lifetime experience!

If you wish to also take part in this wonderful experience the volunteer programme 2018 is now open.

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