Am I ready for this? This is the question I found myself asking repeatedly as I prepared for my departure to Haiti. Am I ready to see poverty up close and personal, poverty that I never knew existed? Am I ready to see people in a world of hurt, homeless and helpless children, animals with no food or water. Am I truly ready for this?
As humble as I try to remain in life, I am not blinded to the fact that I grew up a privileged American. I know that the basic amenities that I take for granted each and every day, are a luxury for many people. I knew this trip was not going to be easy. I knew it was going to be different than any destination I’d been to before. The only way I knew how to prepare was to educate myself. I began read blogs, books, and newspaper articles, and watched heart wrenching videos and documentaries. I did everything I could to prepare myself for what I was about to endure.
Traveling to Haiti
I remember taking a step off the plane, feeling the hot, muggy breeze and feeling a rush of excitement and nerves. This is the moment I had been waiting for.
Our first stop was Pastor Kesnel’s Orphanage, or what I like to call, my community. The word Orphanage has such a negative connotation. All In One Orphanage was started in 2010 by our partners, The Global Orphan Project, after the earthquake that left the country in absolute shambles. Together, they created a community of love for these children to grow up in.
The older kids were just getting out of school when we arrived, so we got to see them all dressed up in their uniforms, cute matching socks, the girl’s with lace around the tops, matching scrunchies and barrettes in their hair, and backpacks full of homework.
They were ecstatic that they had visitors. The moment we stepped off the bus, we were overwhelming greeted by 30-40 little ones. We spent a few hours playing soccer, braiding hair, swinging, rocking babies to sleep, playing with guitars and drums, singing, and just soaking up their pure joy and happiness. Happiness that I would have never imagined was possible in their living conditions.
Next stop was LifeSA, which is the factory where the Allmade magic happens today. On this trip, the brand ‘Allmade’ didn’t exist yet. This trip was the deciding factor to say, are we really going to do this or not? We walked into a pristine, well lit, clean air, fast moving factory. We watched as their team members worked at rapid speeds, cutting and sewing garments but all while having fun. They were visiting and laughing. They were eating lunch together on picnic tables. They had charging stations for their phones and a safe, clean space for their belongings while they worked. Today, we are proud to say that 95% of our garments are cut and sewn at LifeSA.
We spent the next few days driving around the country and experiencing their culture. We had a few more stops with orphan communities. We went to a Haitian Bakery, where we indulged on delectable gingerbread. We spent an entire afternoon at Papillon Café, where we toured their facility, met the creators behind the impeccable art, and purchased enough souvenirs to fill the last breath of air that my suitcase was hanging on to. We sat on the rooftop terrace and enjoyed crisp salads, juicy hamburgers, fresh fruit smoothies and Haitian coffee.
Each night we gathered on the rooftop of our hotel and talked about the things that we observed and experienced that day. It was incredible to hear each person’s views and perspectives and how they differed greatly from the next. I found myself quiet on this trip, which is very uncharacteristic. I was in culture shock. I was disgusted with my first world complaints that I lived my entire life sharing and crying about. I was embarrassed that I didn’t learn even three words of Haitian Creole before jumping on the plane. I was inspired by their happiness, encouraged by their work ethic and enveloped in their arms of love.
Those six days were packed with incredible people, views, places, laughter, food, conversations and tears. Those next six days changed my life, forever.
So, to answer my first question, ‘Am I ready for this?”. No, I was not. I was not ready to fall enormously in love with the astonishing country and it’s beautiful people.
Over the last 16 months, Haiti has been a saving grace. A wakeup call. A place that I feel at peace. A place where I share endless love. Where I can close my eyes and enjoy the sounds of the countryside. Where I enjoy countless memories. A place that I can call home.
Haiti, my love.