Our amazing intern this summer, Lauren, just went on a trip to Haiti + we wanted to give her a space to share her experience! Get to know this lovely soul of a person!
Kat + Em
"Faces become etched in your mind, and smiles will be eternally inked upon your heart.
Adjusting to life back in the Silicon Valley has been hard, because though I enjoy the clean water and amenities that only the first world can provide, my spirit aches for the joy and happiness that I discovered in Haiti. The faces are what make my heart ache, because they are inked like tattoos. My mind races when I think of them, when I juxtapose my life to theirs. Our lives are so different, yet don’t we dream of the same things? Likki, Johnson, Malyka, and Jeuna…don’t they crave family, friendship, and love? Though we were together for such a short time, in retrospect their souls have touched mine. We are intimately connected, and forever their names and faces will be imprinted upon my heart and my soul.
I was busy in Haiti, yet the busyness is most likely what kept me going. I travelled with a team of 15, all relatively young adults from my church. We helped with construction projects, provided soccer clinics and played scrimmages, and did lots of arts n’ crafts with locals from the various villages around the town of Cabaret (40 minutes north of Port-au-Prince). We worked to make the lives of these people temporarily better, but truly it is them who made my life better.
Reality hits you hard when you’re on a humanitarian trip. Sometimes it’s your firsts that will stick with you. The first village we played soccer is forever engrained in my memory. Among the banana trees that lined the village were many blue Samaritan Purse-provided shacks. Mules and emaciated cows wandered nearby, which I laugh about because in the City we worry about pigeons and feral cats. The little children crowded around us without shoes, many clad in rags, and even wearing simply a shirt. Nonetheless, many of their faces beamed with huge smiles, and their eyes held a look that can only be described as playful and happy. That day all they wanted was to play, and play we did.
Engaging with the Haitian people, young and old, brought me tremendous joy and is a cherished gift, yet grappling with our juxtaposed lives makes my heart heavy. Here, I have been brought up comfortably with a multitude of amenities. But even more so, I have been encouraged and empowered to dream big; knowing that I CAN make my dreams a reality, my destiny is limitless. In Haiti, it feels as if there is nothing that can pluck them from their circumstances. As we walked through a tent city in Port-au-Prince, the helplessness and desperation of the impoverished, which is a majority of Haiti was powerfully evident. These images weigh heavy on me, because though they may dream big, the reality of their circumstances seems to crash down on them.
On one of our last days, as we gathered at the village down the hill from where we were staying to play soccer with the locals, God gave me a wonderful little gift. As I was taking in the beautiful scene of our team joyfully engaging with all the little children and the village’s soccer team, this little girl, around 2, in a pink dress came running towards me with hands stretched to the sky wanting to be played with and loved. Her smile and laugh were infectious and full delight. She was quite the little flirt- taking in the attention from just about everyone. Yet as we started to walk home I carried her peacefully in my arms, her head resting on my shoulder. I didn’t want to let her go, and I don’t think she did either. This little barefooted, girl was full of so much joy. As I set her down- God reminded me of my childhood- of all that I had at her age and all that I had ahead of me. I can only pray that this little gem can have the ability to dream beyond her wildest dreams. That she is nurtured, educated, and most importantly empowered as a woman to dream and pursue those dreams.
Forever she is etched on my heart, just as I hope that her dreams will stay forever imprinted on her soul.
Photos from Lauren + Sam Odio