Fall 2009, I was chosen to be on the leadership team at my high school. I was put in charge of a Christmas shoebox drive for Haiti. I was excited to help collect shoeboxes filled with miscellaneous hygiene items and small toys that would be sent to children in Haiti. I was even more thrilled to find out five other students and myself would actually get to go to Haiti and pass out the shoeboxes personally!
We landed in the capital of Port-au-Prince, January 2010, and as soon as we got there, Haiti was already different than I expected. We were met with a hundred pairs of eyes, people were just staring at us as we exited the airport. Driving through the city was hilarious and absolutely terrifying and the same time. There were no rules! And you shared the road with pigs, dogs, bicycles, people walking, and many colorful tap-taps (similar to a city bus- just “tap-tap” the side of the vehicle when you wanted to get off). It was extremely chaotic! It was heartbreaking seeing everything though. There was garbage everywhere, lining the streets. Children ran around half clothed, and not many people wore shoes that fit properly or were not broken. My stomach was in knots when I saw someone lean down and wash their face with “water” the color of chocolate milk, from a puddle. Finally we arrived at the New Missions compound in Leogane Plain.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
Its amazing how much joy the children receive from a simple spoon. They were all giggles and smiles as the patiently waited in line for their turn to receive their own shoebox. After getting it, they would sit with their friends and carefully open their boxes. When it was time for them to leave, they placed all of their gifts exactly the way they were when they opened it. It was amazing to see how grateful they were over the littlest things.
The evening of January 12, I was sitting outside with some other members of the group. We heard something loud that sounded like thunder off in the distance. Almost instantly the ground began shaking severely. Everything happened so quickly, I didn’t know what was going on until someone yelled, “Earthquake!” I ran from the tree we were under and was thrown to the ground. There I watched the earth roll like waves in the ocean, and split under me. I heard the cries of terror from the people in the nearby village as we watched the earth. That was the longest 30 seconds of my life.
Since we were staying on the coast we were evacuated further inland after the earthquake in fear of a tsunami. Traveling into complete darkness in a foreign country and not knowing whats going to happen next was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever been through. We spent the night outside on a tarp and in the back of trucks. The next three days were a complete nightmare.
Rumors went around about our evacuation. How would we get back home? Boat to Guantanamo Bay? Helicopter to the Dominican Republic? Would we have to wait for the airport to reopen? WHEN would we get back into the states? Many times we got our hopes up only to be let down. Finally, after being disappointed when ANOTHER helicopter landed and flew away, we looked up to see three military black hawk helicopters coming to get us.
This experience changed my outlook on life. I left Haiti with a strong desire to make an impact on the lives of those in need.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.