Kyle's personal account
Everyone is changed by Haiti.
When I heard I was getting the chance to go to Haiti, I had no idea what to expect. You see shows or commercials on TV about these third world countries, but it’s completely different to see it in person. I tried to imagine what our village would be like for weeks, but nothing prepared me for when we actually arrived at the airport in Haiti.
When we landed, I was shocked to see that their airport was about the size of a small strip mall. We got off the plane and tried to gather our luggage and make it to the vehicles to take us up the mountain to our village. The only problem was, every lane that lands in Haiti seems like the first plane these people have ever seen. You have luggage everywhere and the only one of us who can really talk to the Haitian people is Dr. Tom. Finally we find the translators and we get our luggage and are about to head out, except there’s one problem, not all of our luggage made it. They reassured us that when it came in they would immediately send it up the mountain to us.
So we walked out of the airport and were immediately greeted by Haitians trying to load our bags for us so that they can get some kind of tip. After finally making it into the car I had a chance to really look around and what I saw shocked me. There was trash everywhere, there were street vendors all on the side of the road selling everything from sunglasses to different types of medication. When we finally got underway and began driving through the city, the scene just got worse. There are no traffic rules in Haiti: everyone just drives however they feel. You have little dirt bikes squeezing in and out of cars, and cars going into the opposite lane to pass people and often narrowly missing the car that’s coming at them. The driving there definitely had me worried, but our drivers handled it with ease.
After hours of driving over the roughest roads you could ever imagine, we were almost at our village. As we got close, we began to see more and more kids and eventually noticed a little marching band in front of us. The kids played the instruments and sang in front of our cars as we drove into their village. It was so incredible to see all these kids jumping around and singing just for us. When we arrived at the clinic, we got out of the cars and were immediately surrounded by a huge cluster of school kids all wearing their uniforms. They sang and gathered all around us, holding our hands and asking what our names were.
We soon went inside to unpack our things and get settled in. My dad and I got the opportunity to sleep outside on the balcony, which sounds like it wouldn’t be the best place to sleep, but in fact it was. At night you could lie on your cot and listen to the voodoo people in the hills all around you singing their songs and playing their drums: it was really beautiful. As the next day started, our real week began. All of the doctors got themselves set up in the clinic, while my dad and I began building the medical waste incinerator. From this point on, it seemed like the days just flew by. I became extremely close with many of the local boys who helped us build the incinerator. I would let them see my phone, and it was amazing how taken aback they were just by seeing a picture of themselves, and then when they heard it playing music they would try to sing along to our American songs. They actually knew a few American rappers, which surprised me, and we even all sang one of the songs together.
One day we went down into the village to deliver some pictures Tom and Kit had taken the previous year. This was what really opened my eyes to Haiti. What these people went through on a daily basis just blew my mind. They would be wearing the shirts of championship teams that didn’t actually win, and many of the kids weren’t fully clothed. Many of the boys had on just a t shirt and nothing more, not even shoes. I can’t even begin to describe how poor they really were, but also how happy they were with what they had. I gave away a pair of shoes to a man down there who often helped my dad and me with the incinerator. When I gave him the shoes, he began to tear up and said thank you in Haitian and gave me a big hug before putting them on and wearing them around. This made me tear up because I realized the shoes that I think are now worthless they see as being brand new. It was just an incredible feeling to know you have made an impact on these people’s lives just by simply showing up and showing them that we care and have not forgotten about them. For our last night the Haitian children had prepared a little concert for us, and as we ate our food and admired the singing, it made me realize how much I am going to miss this place when I am gone.
This was the greatest trip of my life and I cannot wait to go again and see all of my friends down there. They made me promise to come back and I plan on fulfilling that promise to them.
This is a picture of the group of guys I grew closest to while I was there. Despite the language barrier, we still talked in our own ways, laughed together, listened to music, played games, and of course took a million pictures of each other. I think about these guys every day and wish they could some how understand how much I miss and think about them. I absolutely cannot wait to be back there again.