Reflecting on our time in Haiti

This post is the final post from Tufts Hillel's trip to Haiti in May.

Today (Monday) was our last full day in Haiti. We're all feeling a little sad about our trip coming to a close, but we still had a great day!

We spent a full day at Zamni Beni, a Partners in Health-run home for children in Port-au-Prince. Zamni Beni houses about 60 children and has a staff of 100, meaning each child is given a caretaker who functions as a parent. Zamni Beni is working towards complete self-sustainability through running a tilapia farm and a bakery, each of which provides an income for the program.

Some of the children at the home have mental and/or physical disabilities: most have experienced trauma prior to arriving there. Zamni Beni is equipped with PIH staff that do physical therapy, special education, and social work to help the kids succeed.

Our work at Zamni Beni involved painting a fence and bench, and sorting the books in their library by level and language. We all had a great time looking through their collection, which included a French version of Harry Potter and a TI-83 calculator manual.

If anything, though, the takeaway lesson of the day was one of flexibility. Let me explain. When we arrived, our group of 15 was divided into two: one group to organize the library and one to restore and reinforce the wooden barriers that outlined the center's soccer field. I (Eitan)was in the latter group - the group that quickly learned the tools necessary to work on the barriers wouldn't arrive for the next three to four hours.  Haitians, like Jews, tend to run on their own fine time aka not really fine time at all.  Though disgruntled at first, I and many others found the inconvenience to be a blessing in disguise. Not one of us had travelled to the poorest country in the world to sit around and do nothing, so we elected to use our free time to interact with the disabled children at the facility. Hands down, it was one of the most gratifying experience this trip had to offer. Brining smiles to the faces of children with no parents, no means, and no chance of healing was a sobering yet intense reality - a very human experience to say the least. True, we could do the same in the States, but there's something to be said about these efforts in Haiti, language barrier and all.

We later learned that some - and I hesitate to say fortunate - children would receive life-changing operations in the States in the coming years. I certainly hope they receive the treatment they need, free of complications. Unfortunately for many of the children, they're fated to remain at Zamni Beni for the rest of their lives. Bringing them happiness is the best we, or anyone else, could do. And so we did, to the best of our abilities.  Some ensconced themselves in their wheelchairs at first, but their timidness soon faded. We laughed and played with the children for the remainder of our time there.  But none of it would have been possible had we not exercised an ability to adapt to the current situation. From our flexibility came a mutually beneficial experience.

-Kayla and Eitan

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July 19, 2013 at 3:05 PM




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