One of our agents, Matt Gray, traveled recently to Haiti on an immersion trip. We asked him to share his experience in his own words with us as well as all of you.
The final week of September, I traveled with two others to Haiti for an immersion trip to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. We didn’t go to “do” anything or to try to build or “fix” anything. We simply went to see, to listen, to try to understand…
There was a strong spiritual dimension to our time in Haiti. The trip itself was affiliated with the Maryknoll order of priests and nuns. A priest showed us his work with churches, schools and clinics. He took us to a health clinic run by the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order founded by Mother Teresa. I will never forget this experience: Inside is a room that contains 44 cribs and in each crib is an infant malnourished. The infants’ mothers bring their babies to the clinic because they have no food for them and their tiny bodies show signs of starvation. I spent two hours holding and feeding these babies.
Most of the week, we spent in the capital city of Port au Prince, home to one-third the country’s 11 million people. The population density is overwhelming – so much traffic and so many people in such a small space. It seems like every street is lined with people selling their wares, literally on the margins, living from one day to the next.
We also spent time with three nuns in a rural area of Haiti. These nuns showed us a school where tuition is less than $10 a year. We also saw two orphanages: one which houses and schools 53 girls; the other, an orphanage that focuses on orphans with mental illnesses and special needs. To say that we saw some heartbreaking stuff would be an understatement.
Throughout our week, we saw people very proud of their history, hardworking. Haitians display their dignity through neatness of dress, shoes that are shined, children in school uniforms. By appearance alone, one would never know the depth of their struggle with poverty. In Haiti, it is easy to see that the poor haven’t been dealt a fair hand. Certainly, life isn’t always fair and sometimes the best that we can do is to admit that we don’t understand. We don’t have all the answers.
We are connected to a global community. I believe that part of what it means to be fully human is to live with a greater awareness of those in need, whether they are in Haiti or in our own neighborhoods in the United States.