Wow. This is the only word that I can think of to properly begin this letter. It is so unbelievable to me that the summer has already come to end. It seems like just yesterday that Mark and I were picking up each of you – confused faces and all – from the airport. You guys were our first group of the summer and we absolutely could not have asked for a better group of humans.
Whether or not you knew it, your group – you eleven, empowered and motivated young women who I am so proud to know – played a pivotal role in not only determining how our service projects went this summer, but also in setting a precedent for operations of GLA and 7 Elements as a whole in Haiti. On top of being our first group of the summer, you girls were the first group of high school students to ever embark on a GLA and 7 Elements trip to Haiti. You eleven were our pioneers.
From heat rashes to constipation to diarrhea to culture shock to language barriers to homesickness, there were many challenges along the way. Some of these challenges played out in laughter, such as Annie R’s confusion with the pastor’s toilet in Limonade. While other challenges, such as learning to say no to individual requests for handouts of food and water to children, played out in long discussion and painful reflections. However, regardless of the challenge, you all met each of them in stride. Alongside every moment of frustration or confusion, Mark and I had the privilege of seeing your “Aha” moments – the moments of clarity and purpose where you realize the complexities of the world, where you better understand humanity, and, most importantly, where you see yourself in a clearer lens than ever before.
Everyday, we pushed you all physically, mentally, and emotionally. Before you all arrived, we estimated the amount of work that your group would get done in the vocational school – our estimations were tripled. The two groups following yours had over double the attendees, but (and shhhh!, don’t tell the other groups I am saying this), neither of them came close to accomplishing the amount of work that your group did. That said, if we learned anything from the social justice presentation and discussions, it is to never underestimate the power of women on mission.
There are too many amazing memories for me to mention them all, but here are some that I will always cherish… some are serious, some are silly, and some are simple, but they are each pretty darn special to me:
-Watching you all process your day at the citadel – both the beauty and history of the site, as well as learning about effective development the negative effects of handing out money
-Seeing you all work alongside and bond with the masons at the vocational school
-Listening to you all discuss HIV/AIDS stigma after visiting the local hospital
-Looking at everyone face DROP at the supposed-to-be “pickup” soccer game when we saw the team of Haitian – not girls, but WOMEN – come around the corner in full uniforms and cleats
-Dance party at the lodge with Betsy as a special guest
-Discussions on racial issues following the documentary, An Island Divided
-Seeing you all challenge yourself to be culturally competent and mature beyond your years during our clinic days
-The Pooper Scooper incident (you all know what I am talking about)
-Talking about social justice issues both abroad and at home
-Riding to Bookayne in the motor tricycles
-Dance party at Bookanye Restaurant
-Watching the sunset over the zinc roof at the lodge
Your group was one of the deciding factors in why I chose accept a full time position living and working in Haiti for the next few years – you guys helped remind me of my purpose. I would go on and on about more memories I have from your trip, but I will save talking about those for when I see each of you again in Haiti one day.
Until we meet again,