The organization that I joined to do volunteer work with in Limbé, Haiti was Helping Hands Noramise. The Helping Hands Noramise Organization is just getting established, but it is different than other aide organizations. The idea is that the volunteers are there to help whomever and however they can. People come and ask for help on various things, and we help to the best of our abilities.
One highlight was when a woman asked for some help planting on her farm. We went to this amazing farm on our third day, and it totally reminded me of walking around your garden. We went out into the countryside and were led down this tiny path in a thick jungle and crossed a stream holding our sacks above our heads. The trees lessened, and the view was amazing. The clear morning sky and country air, away from the burning trash, felt so relieving. At first it was really difficult to communicate with the workers about how we could help, but somehow we fell into a system and in record time got a crop of peppers transplanted and a crop of pineapples planted as well.
Another day we went to a school (a house with two rooms and a tarp covered roof filled with some desks and a few white boards) to build a garden, and when we walked into the back yard, we weren't exactly sure where to start. Brush, leaves, and fallen trees covered the ground, so no soil could be seen. Underneath the layers of leaves and brush was trash. We set about clearing all the brush, and a group of Haitian men joined us. We started singing The Lion Sleeps Tonightand I've Been Working On The Railroad, and before we finished, the men had started singing, and it lifted everyone's spirits. In a few hours we had cleared the area, made two compost piles, cleared all the trash,and had created five raised beds with trenches in between them. The transformation that day was not only in the garden, but in the way that the group of men took over our work, and by the time we left two more beds had been built without our help. If that's not progress, I don't know what is.
A part about this trip that I absolutely loved was that we were able to go into the neighborhood in partners and just walk around, meet people, get water, watch the World Cup, etc. The first time we went to get water my friend and I each had a bucket. One bucket was leaking and we were waddling down the street awkwardly, and everyone was laughing at us. After a while I noticed a woman following us, and I thought she was trying to sell us something, because she had a basket of clothes on her head. We stopped and realized she was trying to help us. This, for me, was a huge shift in our trip, because instead of acting as if we were outsiders, this woman was trying to show us how to put the 5 gallon buckets on our heads. We were unsuccessful, but it was definitely a hilarious image.
To me this trip shifted my paradigms. I realized what I want to do in the world (nursing), and I realized how it was important that we interacted with the community members instead of just handing over a check. Change is possible, and by helping each other, we help the world.
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