by Rogier Ducloo March 02, 2017
Experience the Haitian culture, landscape, industry, and most importantly, the people and children that make up this unique and inspiring country. Haiti’s rich history of discovery by Columbus, being a slave colony of the French, being the first slave colony to win their independence, and the political turmoil, economic struggles, and massive natural disasters that have left the land and it’s people working hard to rebuild and create their place in our ever-developing world.
Haiti is only 500 miles off the Florida coast and easily accessible from the US with direct flights from Atlanta, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and JFK. As come in over the large island, you’ll notice how the rich rainforests and sandy beaches of the Dominican Republic (which shares the same island of Hispaniola with Haiti) contrasts with the arid climate and brown soil of Haitian countryside. Hundreds of years of over-farming have stripped the landscape, followed by Caribbean rains and hurricanes that have washed all the topsoil and silt into the ocean, forcing away the once rich Caribbean fish population and making it extremely difficult to farm the land. On final approach to the Port Au Prince airport you’ll notice the mass amounts of brick huts/houses that smash into the densely populated city. Almost 30% of Haiti’s 10+ million people live in this area of the country. Most burn their trash and that is one thing you’ll noticed as your plane lands, piles and piles of burning trash and smoke rising into the air throughout the city.
On the plane You will receive a green form (immigration) and a white form (customs). Here are details: You will be asked for “Address in Haiti.” Fill that in: “Jumecourt Guest House, Croix des Bouquets” On the white form, there will be nothing to declare. When we de-board, we will all go through immigration. Each person will have to pay $10 for an entry visa.
The immigration officer will take the green card, and tear off and give to you the bottom stub on the green card. Put that stub in your passport and hang on to it. You’ll need to give that stub to immigration when you depart. Make sure to keep handy your sticker(s) for all checked bags. We will need the stickers when we exit.
After going through immigration, you will go downstairs to the baggage area. There will be two bag carousels, and it’ll be obvious which one is active / yours. Attendants working down in that area will ask you (again and again) if you need help. Just say, “No merci.” Handle your own bags. It’s the simplest way.
If you don’t see your bag on the carousel, go to the area next to the carousel that is roped off. Airport employees often pull off bags and place them in that area, rather than have them go round and round. They may be waiting for you there. When all bags are collected, as a group we will head out through customs. Each person will need his/her (1) white form, and (2) bag sticker for each checked bag. The attendant will verify that your bag sticker matches your bag. Then you’ll head out and the customs worker will take your white form.
When you go past that customs worker towards the outside of the airport, we will have our attendant there waiting for you with an “Allmade” sign. He will take you to our vehicle. Don’t worry about tipping him. We got that covered.
Although after spending time in Haiti we do think it is relatively safe, the Global Orphan Project does not take any chances with our guests. They have a full security detail at their complex and for transportation, Mackenson has been our Haitian body guard on both trips thus far, he’s a good guy and makes you feel much safer, especially if it is your first time visiting the country.
From the airport we will drive easy to GO Project’s headquarters in Haiti, Jumecourt Guest House, Croix des Bouquets. They established this a few years after the earthquake and this is a safe place to sleep, eat, and hub out of over the course of the trip. Accommodations in Haiti are also nothing to write home about, a 4-5 star hotel in Haiti is the equivalent to maybe a Super 8 or a Best Western (not plus) here in the states. There is AC in the rooms and even wifi. Food is good and safe and there is clean water to drink. Don’t drink the water in the rooms or use tap water to brush your teeth.
GO Project has a dual mission in Haiti: orphan care and orphan prevention. In their orphan care work, they essentially set up and support a local church-centered foster care system for kids who’ve suffered catastrophic family failure, and provide school access for kids on the brink. Each of their local church partners has “safe homes” for kids who need full time residential care, and schools for those children and hundreds of other children in the community whose parents are struggling and cannot afford to educate their kids. The physical infrastructure and community care emphasize Haitian cultural relevance, not Americanization. The idea is to have children spiritually adopted by their own people, in a manner common to the community, all through the local church.
In their orphan prevention work, they do two things…
First, by law, at age 18 youth in residential care must leave the local church’s care setting (like foster care here). Many are still little children inside, though they are in big bodies. We operate a Pathways Academy, in which youth aging out learn: (1) character development; (2) life skills; and (3) vocational skills.
Second, they emphasize jobs. They have helped start and grow multiple businesses in Haiti to create living wage jobs. Our primary business (now and for the future) is the GOEX living wage apparel production facility, which here in Haiti is called “LIFE.” They hire young men and women, and struggling parents – often single moms – to help them keep their families together through the work of their own hands. From school teachers, to care providers, to farmers, to artisans, to apparel workers, they help employ, directly and indirectly, more than 700 workers in Haiti. There are currently 91 employees at LIFE, and the foundation exists for this to explode to hundreds – even thousands – in the coming years with your help.
At the center of all of this activity is the orphan. The children at the center of our service are special, powerful. There is such a strong presence of love in and through them. We do not view them as helpless kids with nothing to offer us; we view them as spiritual missionaries who are being sent to us as much as we are all being sent to them.
The hope of this short trip is to dive deep into the heart of the orphan care / orphan prevention circuit. Specifically:
Morning: We will stop by LIFE and get an opening view and tour of the production facility.
Afternoon: We will visit one of our local partners in a place called Dargout to see what local church community care of kids looks and acts like. We will spend time playing with kids, and just soaking in the true heart of why we do what we do.
Late Afternoon / Early Evening: We will go to Jumecourt Inn in Croix des Bouquets, a hotel that we own. We will have more kid time with another partner, who is right next door. This is where we will eat and spend the night.
We will get out to see more of the country of Haiti and other social enterprises we work with and who are building living wage sustainable models. One example is Papillon Enterprises (papillon-enterprise.com) who has been able to create over 300 living wage jobs over the past 5+ years by creating handcrafted goods, including a small screen printing operation which we help bring supplies to and have trained. It’s a great opportunity to experience more of the people and landscape of the country, and understand it’s complexities and opportunities. At night we end at Jumecourt for a great meal, time to reflect, and if you so desire a cold Prestige (locally brewed Haitian beer similar to Red Stripe) on the room looking over the Hattian mountainside
Morning: We will visit another local partner, Pastor Claude Mondesir, at a place called La Tramblay – about 15 mins away. We will then go back to Jumecourt and spend some time learning about Pathways. We will also visit with some special guests: we are doing teacher training for some of our schools around the country. We’ll meet some of them and just let life happen.
Afternoon: We will go back to LIFE, now with a totally complete and different view of the importance of the jobs that we create together. We will have time to dig into more strategic details of how we can work in partnership. We can go deep into the production details, supply chain, etc…
Flight Home: Depending on your travel schedule, flights typically leave mid to late afternoon, we will allow plenty of time to get to the airport and get checked in for your trip home.
As you enter back onto US soil we hope that you take some time to reflect on what you experienced and how you can help share the stories you heard and the opportunity you have to make an impact.