I’m home from Haiti, but just barely. I took a long shower, shaved my legs, breathed in my kids, and made a bacon sandwich. My house is nicer than I remembered, my car more smooth. But all day, I was only half here. I keep flashing back to the little faces running across the dirt. I keep cringing every time I think of the trash and rubble that fills the city streets, and the desolation of the mud huts in the country.
Wednesday was a 19-hour travel day. Emerging from Port-au-Prince, the Miami airport was disconcertingly shiny. The signs were all too bright. The rows of food options paralyzed me and I tried to choke down some chicken nuggets, but I ended up throwing away most of the bag, bringing a fresh wave of guilt.
I was in Haiti for 5 days. Not enough, I didn’t think, to have such a reaction returning home. Home feels normal, sure. Comfortable, yes. And yet there’s this nagging like I forgot to do something really important. I’m distracted and agitated by this thing I can’t quite catch.
I took my daughter to preschool in the morning - just a normal day, see? - and ran into a mom friend and couldn’t stop talking about Haiti. She was in a hurry, I could tell. She had her workout clothes on. But instead of asking her about her recent vacation, I just held her arm on the sidewalk and spilled out a thousand words about human trafficking.
When we were at the school in Drouin, I had on a long super-soft cotton maxi shirt. The kids couldn’t stop petting it, like it was a velvety bunny rabbit. When I stood to walk, they tripped to get to my side, holding the fabric up gently with their fingers so it wouldn’t drag in the dirt.
I was both touched and embarrassed by this. I already had misgivings about the white Westerners appearing as if saviors. That isn’t a message I want to live out. One of the things I really like about Help One Now is that it lives in the background. By partnering with Haitian leaders, locals don’t even know how schools and orphanages are coming about. It’s a quiet, empowering partnership.
But how, then, were these children seeing us? As novelties? From the outside, did we look like poverty tourists? We had translators, but how can I know how we were actually presented? As the hours slipped by with children in my lap, it ceased to matter. The only person overthinking this particular relationship between giver and receiver was me.
Now that I’m home, it’s less clear who was giving and who was receiving.
Next week I'm going to outline clearly the ways to help the Help One Now projects in Haiti: either through straight donation (designate to Ferrier Village), child sponsorship in the community of Drouin, or by hosting a garage sale with proceeds benefitting the cause. Later in the month I'll also be auctioning off one of the amazing paintings I brought home with me.
Thank you for following and supporting me on this journey.
*large photo by Scott Wade