Haiti. Oh my goodness this country has my heart. It is absolutely gorgeous with its clear blue water and breathtaking mountains right on the shore. But surprisingly enough, it is the people that make Haiti truly beautiful.
In 2010, there was a devastating 7.0 earthquake. It was reported by the New York Times that 316,000 people lost their lives. If you visit there today, you will likely still see the destruction that it caused. Where houses once stood, there are now tarps forming small shacks. Samaritan Purse did an incredible thing by providing temporary shelters for over 10,400 Haitian families. Unfortunately many families are still living in these and you can still see Samaritan Purse’s blue tarps everywhere.
I’m not an expert on Haiti. I visited once in 2014, and I’m returning this summer! (So excited!) I really got to know the village of Titanyen. But I strongly advise you to go see it for yourself. If you do, here are some things you may see:
There is no denying the poverty of this country. In the Western Hemisphere, Haiti is currently the poorest country with 80% of the population living below the poverty line. The earthquake took a massive toll on the nation’s economy, as did the two hurricanes that damaged the agricultural output. There is an airport in the capital,Port-au-Prince, that is air-conditioned and has toilets and faucets like we see in developed countries. But to really experience life as a Haitian, you need to explore the villages.
In the villages you will likely see only dirt roads with very little cars. Motorcycles are popular! Everyone mostly walks. In Titanyen, there was one community well. We would constantly see kids and mothers pumping water and then carrying it back to their homes. They relied on windows for natural light in their homes, and I did not come across anyone with electricity or plumbing. A few people had flip cell phones or a radio. Some children went to school, but many did not. Everyone was barefoot and wore minimal clothing. (It is so hot in Haiti!) They wore the same clothes every day, and were not concerned with the tears, holes or dirt smudges. Diapers were not commonly used, and many toddlers wore only a t-shirt if they were not potty-trained. Yards often reeked of feces or had a swarm of bugs attacking food. The closest thing Titanyen had to a park was a large patch of dirt with one tree for shade, two soccer (football!) nets, and a few benches.
I saw an incredible sense of community among the villagers. When we traveled to another village, we got to see the markets set up on the main, paved street. It was beautiful to watch the Haitians trade for goods and interact with one another. They were so friendly and full of life. In Titanyen, the villagers trusted their kids to be safe around strangers. So many kids were freely roaming around by themselves. Often elementary aged boys could be seen protectively babysitting their toddler siblings all day long. Kids would jump into our arms and walk with us all around the village until we went too far. Then they would turn around and find their way back home.
Even though they face all kinds of difficulties each day, the Haitians are full of life and love. The children, especially, will blow your mind with the amount of joy that they have in their tiny bodies. They love to sing and dance. They love to laugh and make silly faces. They don’t have their eyes glued to a television screen, but instead they are truly living. They are so free! It is amazing to hear them talk about the hope that they have. Their faith in God and in His protection shocked and inspired me. Most people would expect them to be bitter about all that they don’t have. (And yes some are!) But for the most part, they are content. So many of them came up to me and told me about how blessed they were. The kids were grateful for the small bowl of rice they received for the day, and I grumble if my food is lukewarm, bland, or smaller than I envisioned. When you visit Haiti, talk to the locals. Spend time loving on the children. Enjoy the warmth of their hugs and the joy that they radiate!
The mountains are beautiful. The beaches are beautiful. The people are beautiful. And even the earthquake ruins are beautiful. That’s because they reveal the bravery and resilience of a strong community.
If you’ve never visited Haiti but would like to someday, then I encourage you to sign up for my weekly newsletter because my next travel post will be about the best (in my opinion!) way to do it – through Mission of Hope!
Have you ever been to Haiti? What else could you say about the nation? Or have you been somewhere else with similar characteristics? Let me know in the comments!