Some people may say they are forever stricken with bad luck, and I try and tell people that you make your own luck. The harder you work, the luckier you’ll be. It just makes sense. But, is it possible for an entire country to be stricken with bad luck? It’s hard to think not when you look at the past couple years of Haiti.
In 2004, Tropical Storm Jeanne hit the north coast of Haiti, causing floods and mudslides that would eventually leave 3,006 people dead. Four years later, Haiti was hit again with a string of tropical storms in late August and early September. Known as Tropical Storm Fay, Hurricane Gustav, Hurricane Hanna and Hurricane Ike would leave 331 dead and 800,000 in need of humanitarian aid. Amongst all these hurricanes, the country still stuck together and managed to pull through. Then on January 12, 2010, Haiti was hit with a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. It was reported as Haiti’s biggest earthquake in over 200 years. About a month after the quake, the final death toll was released. 230,000 people dead because of this earthquake.
After two years of picking up the pieces and moving on, it was time to rebuild again. The situation reminds me of New Orleans. They get hit with devastating storms, and have to rebuild and start all over, again and again. It almost seems like; what’s the point? Just pack up and move. But a house is a home for a reason.
It’s amazing the drive and determination that Haitians have. Their ‘never give up’ attitude is something that I strongly admire and try to emulate.
In November 2010, I went down to Haiti with a group called The Joy and Hope of Haiti, to assist wherever needed.
What is The Joy and Hope of Haiti?
Taken from www.joyandhopeofhaiti.ca
The Joy and Hope of Haiti is comprised of a group of individuals who volunteer their time and energy to help the children and people of Haiti.
The Haiti Projects run under The Joy and Hope of Haiti are blessed by our many generous workers, all of whom give of their time, talents and energy voluntarily. No one is paid; everyone who travels to Haiti as part of a work team pays his/her own way – and because of this, there are no administration costs. That means that every donation of goods or money made to the Haiti Project truly finds its way to the people we want to help – the Haitians.
I had initially signed up to assist with building schools but when they found out I was a photographer, they asked me to do some photo work which I immediately jumped at the chance. If you follow along with my person blogs on jayperry.ca, you’ll know that I posted a couple blogs about my Haiti experience. As some content might be similar, I wanted to take a different approach with these posts and also spread the word to the MvM readers who may have not viewed my blogs.
So the question that everyone always asks; The country is in such a state of poverty and destruction, do you really think you can fix the problem?
I agree that anyone who thinks they can go down to Haiti and solely fix all their problems is the same as thinking that Mark Hamill was going to be successful after Star Wars. It’s just not going to happen. (I mean, he WAS the voice of Buzz Buzzard on The New Woody Woodpecker Show last year but that’s a far stretch from Luke Skywalker).
Sure, one person won’t fix all their problems, but that one person is a small piece of the puzzle that will. Some might say differently, but I don’t think I ‘fixed’ any problems during my time in Haiti. Everyone has their role in this puzzle and I believe that mine was to go down to Haiti, develop friendships, learn their culture and most importantly spread the word about the good thats in Haiti that the media likes to ignore. This is a country that has had to deal with so much devastation over the past couple years, yet I never once met a Haitian who didn’t have a smile on their face. It’s crazy to think that if we spill a glass of milk in the morning, the rest of our day is ruined. How can it be that something as small as spilling a glass of milk can do that to us when there is a country who doesn’t even have an opportunity to spill that glass and yet can be so cheerful.
To answer that question… yes I really do think that we can make a difference. I am from Canada and have been extremely privileged to live in a great country, have a home, a job and the opportunity to chase my dream. I believe that I owe it to help out the less fortunate people in this world. When I say the term ‘less fortunate’, this is a phrase and a vision that the media has drilled into our minds. No Haitian person would ever consider themselves amongst the less fortunate of this world. There’s a million ways to help out. I would definitely recommend to everyone to go down and experience a mission trip like this. Even if it’s not in Haiti, but somewhere else will still have the same outcome. You can donate your time, you can donate your money or even play the messenger role like I am. As I don’t have deep money pockets, I can’t really afford to always donate money to Haiti, but I can definitely afford to donate my time.
“If you think you’re too small to be effective, you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito” – Betty Reese
While in Haiti, I was also shooting for an organization called Starfish Kids. They are a group throughout North America which sponsors Haitian children and sends them to school. The donations will pay a child’s tuition and as well as feed that child and two others at school. It’s an amazing program and the money goes directly to that child rather than just to the organization. Check out their website as maybe you might be interested in helping out: www.starfishkids.org
During my time in Haiti, I met so many amazing people that I still keep in touch with today. I had to stop doing photography because of riots that were breaking out so I started helping the rest of the team build a school. (You can read more about these riots on my blog at www.jayperry.ca/blog). During this time is when I met a very inspirational man named Urlick. Urlick was about 5’4″, wore the remains as to what looked like running shoes, and was probably the best painter I have ever seen……. and oh ya… he was on crutches. Amazing! Here was a man who didn’t care about what he had on his feet, or how hard the work would be with being on crutches. All he cared about was working and earning money for his family. Think about that for a second… a man on crutches, still going to work, and being efficient. Sometimes people here stub their toe, and that warrants for them to call in sick. At the end of the trip, I pulled Urlick aside, and thanked him for being such an inspiration to me. I also gave him $10 and told him to buy a new pair of shoes with it. He didn’t really want to accept the money but I made him. He was almost brought to tears. He told me that not only will the $10 buy him a pair of shoes, but it would feed his family for a week. Think about this the next time you say you can’t make a difference because I know I did for Urlick.
Never think that you are too small to make a difference. You may be too small to solve a nation wide problem, but the solution always starts with one person’s determination to figure it out.
Again, I believe that my role is to play the messenger. I have the social media resources to spread the word about Haiti and am doing so the best I can. Just think, you probably never knew about the Starfish Kids organization before reading this post. This is my way of giving back from Canada, although I can’t wait to go back to Haiti.
Over the next couple weeks I’ll be talking about my experience in Haiti and the lessons that I learned from the Haitian people.
Next week: Even though I went down to help, I think it was the Haitian people who ended up helping me.
Below are a couple photos and videos that I took while in haiti.
The above photo is Urlick’s family who I mentioned in the post. We got to tour his house and met everyone.
Every week I’ll be adding more photos and videos to each Haiti posting and you can see more personal details about this trip and more photos on my person blogs at www.jayperry.ca/blog