As soon as we walked through the gate of Haiti Deaf Academy, each one of us were hugged and greeted with huge smiles. We only worked with the children for a few days, but I’m sure the impact they have had on my view of the world will stay with me for the rest of my life. I am surprised by how many of the little details I can remember about each child. Rose taught me my first words in sign language, Albert allowed us into his world by painting beautiful pictures for us. Beu even taught me a new way to style my hair! It is amazing how kids can just pull on your heartstrings, allowing you to just love them instantly.
I came on this trip fully expecting a life changing experience. What I didn’t expect was that the similarities between our worlds would affect me as much as the differences.
Earlier this week, the team agreed that we were here to work (and we have!). In addition to testing for hearing loss, fitting, and follow-up of the children at the Haiti Deaf Academy, we were compelled to do more than that, and we provided other services for other at-risk groups for hearing loss, as time permitted. One of these extra projects came when we were invited to do hearing screenings for students of The Respire Haiti Christian School.
Day 3: Today was an amazing and wonderful day in Haiti. We got up early and enjoyed a delicious breakfast prepared by the stellar staff at New Life Children’s house, then after a pep talk from Cathy we drove out to the Deaf Academy in Leveque.
Honestly, I have never been so warmly welcomed anywhere in my life. The children swarmed out to meet us, with joyful smiles and hugs aplenty. Truly, I have never known children so eager to laugh, so generous with affection and so grateful for help. In particular, Mike (our on-site hearing aid technician) was a big hit with the young boys, who smothered him with hugs. Every time I looked at him, he had one boy in each arm, one boy clinging to each leg, and sometimes even a fifth one on his back! It was easy to see how pleased they were to have us and how hopeful they were that we could help them.
Although it was only our first full day, it was one of the most exhausting and rewarding days I’ve ever had.
We went for a drive today, and it was an adventure in itself! The roads themselves are dirt, with potholes – craters, actually – sometimes full of water, sometimes not. There are no lines on the road, no traffic lights, and no stop signs. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of rules or regulations about driving, either. And sometimes chickens run in front of the cars. It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen before, or likely will again.
We started our morning by going to MetalWorks – this amazing little artist community where the majority of the crafts were made with scrap metal. They were unbelievably beautiful, and the artists were the most talented group of people who took so much pride in their work. I even bought several pieces to take home.
From there, we went somewhere that actually had me in complete awe. There’s a small school on the outskirts of Cité Soleil. From the outside of Anacias’ Capva School, there is a guarded metal gate. The inside has a medical center on the right, and a school on the left. Inside the school, there is one room for the smaller children, and four pods for the older ones. They were just finishing classes as we arrived, and many of them ran outside when they saw our vans pull in. We were greeted with more smiles and waves and happiness than I ever have been. I truly felt like a celebrity.
Getting involved in charity work raises a lot of questions on what the right way to do things is. I have the privilege of being a member of the Hear the World Foundation since it was initiated in 2006. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to help. But spending the money wisely is not as easy as it sounds. What kind of projects should we support? How do we define sustainability? There are so many deserving projects out there, how do you choose?
One learning has been the importance of visiting projects personally. It’s been a mere week since I returned from Haiti. I cannot stop thinking about what I have seen there. You can say it has truly gotten under my skin.
Ever since I’ve returned home from my trip to Haiti with our Hear the World Foundation, seemingly everyone I’ve come into contact with has asked me the inevitable question, “How was Haiti?” My answer to this question has always been some variation of “I can’t possibly put it into words,” yet here I am again trying to put my entire Haitian experience into words.
If I get nothing else across about my Haitian excursion, I want everyone to understand that it was a profound experience in so many ways and has changed my life. I’d like to think that I’m self-aware enough to realize exactly all the ways in which this experience enriched me, but I’d be giving myself entirely too much credit if I thought that I had realized everything there is to realize.
Greetings from Haiti! We are Samantha McKendrick and Marisa Breslin, blogging from the brightly colored picnic table at New Life Children’s Home in Port au Prince.
We were invited by Hear the World to participate in this amazing project known as Hear Haiti. Sam works for Phonak Canada in the Inside Sales Department and Marisa works for Phonak US as a Technical Support Audiologist. We are very excited to work alongside many other Sonova employees representing North America in this inspiring project.