My love affair with Haiti began nearly 30 years ago as a volunteer for my church. At that time, there were just 22 of us serving in the entire country, spread out from Cap Haitian to Carrefoure. There was a choice to either be homesick, or immerse oneself in the culture and the people. I believe that this was the beginning of my desire to visit new places and learn about the people.
Walking around the town of Cap Haitian, I had the chance to talk with kids, adults, shop owners, military personnel and an occasional tourist. Because I was there for several months, people from all walks of life became my friends. I was able to laugh with them and cry with them. I explored the countryside with some of my friends. Haiti is a place where I experienced sincere smiles from young and old alike.
Haiti felt like home.
Fast forward 30 years. The population has increased by nearly five million people. Port-au-Prince is almost unrecognizable (from what I knew.) Haiti has experienced a devastating earthquake and begun to rebuild slowly. Service groups (NGO????????s) have proliferated in Haiti. And life goes on for the rest of us.
I have kept in touch with a close friend for the past 25 years and he and his family have allowed me to stay close to my love for Haiti. As circumstances dictate, I have only been able to return one time to Haiti, and that was in the aftermath of the earthquake. In my mind, it was an honor to return and serve the Haitian people once again, if only for a short time.
Ten years ago, my friend, Illens Dort, founded a non-profit group called International Aid Serving Kids which visits Haiti and the Dominican Republic a couple of times each year to provide necessary medical services to children and their caregivers. IASK4Kids is a small organization and completely volunteer, which means that anything donated goes to supplies and services. There are no full-time, or part-time employees and the groups that travel to Haiti and the Dominican Republic are small (15-24 people).
I wanted to share this video that was recently put together to introduce the group and what they do for the Haitian children.
If you have an interest in participating with International Aid Serving Kids, you should contact them through their website for further information.
Back to my Haiti love affair. Often, I ask myself how my love affair has endured through nearly 30 years. Is it the beauty of the country with pristine beaches? The countryside filled with les figues et les plaintains? Is it the smell of life as you walk down the side streets? Is it the beat of the drums disturbing the thick nights? Is it the fresh produce grown just outside of town? Is it the friendliness of the people? Is it the incredible smiles of the young and old alike? Or, is it my mind combining all of these into one incredible journey?
What I do know, is that my Haiti love affair is as strong as ever and only a few of you reading this will ever understand.