For those that do not know, I went to Haiti nearly four weeks ago. I’ve been putting off writing about my adventure because I have no idea how to form coherent phrases that describe what I witnessed and experienced. None of it were bad, on the contrary, I would like to say the perspective I carry are different. I am still Bianca but now I am more passionate.
While I can probably write an entire book, I will only share with you a letter I wrote to the donors that assisted me on this amazing service trip to Haiti:
To everyone from the Global Service Foundation,
My name is Bianca. Before the trip, I was a Sociology major and Spanish minor. But after the trip, I have also acquired a minor in Social Justice and Civic Engagement.
Before I begin with the story about my decision and journey to Haiti, I want to start off this letter by thanking each and every single person in this great organization. You have opened my eyes and essentially opened my mind and heart. The relationships that I built, the lives that we touched and touched us personally, I will never forget. Haiti, my first travel abroad trip, I will never regret, but rather cherish in my heart and be my motivation for other service that I plan to do throughout the course of my life.
During the fall semester, I had intentions of traveling to Cuba with Dominican University. But just as soon as I got accepted into the program, the program got canceled. I remember I had talked to my English professor during a session that I was upset about this. I essentially told her that I had desires of traveling and although Cuba wasn’t a service trip, service was something that I wanted to experience as a part of Dominican. That day, she recommended to me to think about and apply to the Haiti trip. A couple of days later, I found myself in the office of the trip coordinator, talking to her about the trip. And the next thing I knew, I was signing the agreement and assuring my seat on the plane Haiti bound.
You might be asking yourselves, why I ended up traveling to Haiti, out of all places. I know that I got endless calls from my family members asking me this question when I told them that I would be spending my first college spring break in Haiti doing service. But it’s quite simple: I wanted to go beyond the walls of tourism. I wanted to know Haitians by their true nature. I wanted to get first hand experiences to the daily lives of the people there. And I got more than I bargained for.
The following weeks, were not so much a blur, but they were hectic in preparation for the trip to Haiti. We read the book, Haiti After the Earthquake by Paul Farmer, gathered donations, and got our passports, transportations and suitcases ready. I had not been on a plane for over six years and not really been outside the United States, besides Mexico for family, so this was a big deal.
In Haiti we went to the Iron Market, where I learned to bargain with people and saw so many beautiful things that Haitians had created. I learned that a large amount of the population dedicate their lives being street vendors. During the trip, we familiarized ourselves with an organization called ASAPH. The girls that attended this school taught us to dance some traditional folk music, and most of them braided our hair. Well excluding me, my hair is too short to do anything to it. Then we held malnourished babies at Mother Teresa’s Home for the Babies and that was when it was hard for me to do service. The cries of the kids that wanted to be held and fed, the confused expressions that their faces held when their parents left after visiting their children, it was unbearable. I wanted to care for all of them and I realized quickly that I couldn’t. I think this was the moment that I realized that my service in Haiti was limited. I can only help so much. But the little I had to give was enough to change their beautiful lives even if it were for a mere hours. After this, we worked in Wings of Hope where I saw only God’s grace and love working in each and every single one of their lives. This organization represented hope.
As I describe to you all the big events that we as a group were able to participate in, I begin to realize that words fall short in describing what I experienced in Haiti. And one of the several things that I have learned during this trip is that people have to come and see for themselves what Haiti is all about. Only that way will all the misconceptions of Haiti drift away and be replaced by all the hope and love that these places and people have shown us.
What are my plans after this? I have a strong desire to go back to Haiti. If for some reason returning becomes impossible, then I want to continue serving. Whether that is in a different country or in my community here in Chicago, I want to continue working in service for others. Long term goals of mine are to get my master’s degree in Social Work so that I become specialized in helping people. But I know with certainty now that this is the career path that I want to pursue.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you because I am now a part of the Haitian family.
Bianca I. Mena