From Despair to Hope: On the Ground in Haiti
UUSC is excited to be partnering with the Unitarian Universalist Association on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti, December 3–10. In the post below, participant Bradley Korb describes the trip from Port-au-Prince to the training center of the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP) and the transition from despair to hope.
We're in Haiti and making excellent progress with our work at MPP's eco-village near Papaye in the Central Plateau! Today is our second day working at MPP, and it has been an experience that I will never forget. I have experienced a range of emotions during these first few days, from sadness to hopefulness.
We spent the first night in Port-au-Prince on Sunday before driving up to the MPP training compound in Papaye. In Port-au-Prince, we saw the impoverished conditions in which the Haitian people live and also the vast destruction that occurred from last year's earthquake. I don't know what Port-au-Prince was like before the earthquake, but the city looks like a war zone now in some areas, and many people are struggling to meet their basic human needs of safe food and water that we Americans take for granted. But at the same time, we saw many people attempting to resume a normal lifestyle by buying essential items from street vendors, which helped others in their attempts to make a living.
While driving the 2.5 hours from Port-au-Prince to Papaye, we continued to see impoverished people going on with their daily activities along the highway while people zoomed by on their way to other destinations. While it was clear that the people we passed were very disadvantaged, I did see a few signs of hope along the way. One image that stuck with me was of a man walking home from church wearing a suit and carrying a trumpet. I imagined that this man had played his trumpet at his church service and that many people enjoyed his music. This gave me hope that the human spirit is resilient and continues to insist that life be enjoyed even if you live in the nation with the fewest resources in the Western Hemisphere. Even with this sign of hope, I arrived in Papaye feeling a sense of despair for the abject poverty that I saw on our drive.
However, our first day of work at MPP's eco-village turned my sense of despair into hope. During our first day, we worked alongside residents of the 10-home village, helping them build the foundation for their community building. It was gratifying to experience the community that these former residents of Port-au-Prince have developed and the ownership that they have taken in their new village and their new neighbors. We experienced a sense of community that we don't typically have in the United States. Even though these people have next to nothing, they have each other and are dedicated to helping each other make the best of their lives. That experience was both gratifying and reassuring.
It is with hope for this impoverished community in Haiti and hope in the future of humanity that I look forward to my remaining experiences of our visit to Haiti.