Hiraeth for Haiti

Author: Rachel Schick

Tags: Caribbean, Semi Finalist, Volunteering

For my spring break of my senior year, I applied to go on a mission trip to Haiti. To my delight I was accepted to go, and the day we were set to go arrived quickly. The first day was water truck day, which is when we filled up a truck with water and delivered it to the poorest city in Haiti, City Soleil. We drove around in a taptap, which is sort of like a truck with a circus cage attached to the back, to ensure our safety when we were being driven around. From the inside of the cage-like truck, we could see the streets of Haiti, and the crowd of people gathering around us as they saw us coming to deliver water. The kids in the neighborhood do not often get a change to be played with or held, so they get very excited and surround the truck waiting for people to come see the. The second the doors opened, we were swarmed with kids. When I stood up to get out of the truck, I saw a little girl point at me through the cage, and the instant my feet were on the ground, she ran up to me and lept into my arms. I carried her for 2 hours while trying to carry 5 gallon water buckets, and whenever I got tired and tried to set her down, she wrapped her legs around me tighter, not wanting me to let go. Finally I just sat down and she sat in front of me, staring at my face for like a super uncomfortable period of time and I didn't know why. She started touching my face and I realized that she was comparing my face to hers, touching the differences that she saw in my face, trying to figure out how we were different. My face was red from the heat and from carrying so many things, and she disappeared into her house for a little while, then came back out with an ice cube and rubbed my face with it, using what little water she had that we had just delivered for her to try and take care of me. She pulled my bandana down from my face and I was afraid she was going to try and take it (we were not supposed to give them anything because if they had something that someone else bigger than them saw, it would give them reason to harm the kids), but instead she started wiping the sweat off my face. When I got up to start carrying water buckets again, she understood how tired I was and just took my hand, following me to the water truck and even helping me carry the water buckets, even though she was so small that she only reached my waist. After a while of carrying buckets with this little girl, I slowly had more kids walking with me, jumping up and down just excited to see me and be held by me, even though I didn't know who they were and they had no idea who I was. I acquired this little chain of munchkins, and they helped me carry water buckets for the rest of the day, delivering them to random people who they didn't know, just happy to help me out.

This experience was phenomenal for me. I haven't been able to stop thinking about Haiti since I came back, and I even lose sleep missing it so much that I can't describe it in words. I have had this feeling of homesickness for a place I have never called home, a feeling only described in a Welsh word, hiraeth. The experience of being served  and loved by someone who has next to nothing has changed my life since, and I could never be the same again.