A few of my family members recently returned from a mission trip to Haiti. Seeing their photos and reading their stories has left me with Haiti on the brain even more than usual, so I thought I’d share a touching story of my own.
I was blessed to be part of a team that traveled to Haiti in March of 2012. There were thirteen of us. The team was comprised of five family members, seven members from my hometown church, and myself. It was a good mix of young and old, guys and gals, the medically trained (two nurses and a doctor) and the clinically insane (my mother).
Our group was affectionately dubbed as “Team Squirt” after the majority of us were stricken with giardia and experienced severe bouts of explosive diarrhea when we returned to the States. It was pretty awesome – the trip, not the explosive diarrhea – but it was a very small price to pay in exchange for the time we spent with the beautiful Haitian people.
Team Squirt stayed at an orphanage in the city of Cap-Haitien for a week. Our primary objective was to provide food and medical relief to the needy, and to help around the orphanage where needed. At least that was the rest of the team’s objective. My objective was to introduce the orphanage kids to old school hip-hop and R&B artists, and to hold late night dance-offs, perfecting dance moves like the Moonwalk and the Cabbage Patch with the children.
One of our evening dance parties at the orphanage. I brought my wireless, bluetooth speakers and loaded my iPod with jams. The kids placed the speakers up in the rafters and we danced the night away on tables.
We took our translators and their respective families out to dinner one night at a nice restaurant. After dinner, the sun went down and the dance party fired up. We danced for well over an hour, having the time of our lives.
The youngest member of the dance crew, but don’t be fooled. This little girl was all spunk and brought some legit moves to the dance floor.
Me teaching sweet, little Jacqueline how to do the “Shimmy Shake.” He laughed at first, but after a while I think he grew concerned for my well being.
Some of the teenage members of the dance crew. They tried to teach me how to Dougie, but after six days and five nights of failed attempts, they eventually submitted to the fact that I’m white.
Mission accomplished. Both objectives were met. Team Squirt fed the hungry by day and busted a move by night. We were some real rice providing, vitamin distributing, Dougie dancing fools that week. I’m pretty sure the kids at the orphanage and the members of the surrounding community had not experienced a group like ours in quite some time, if ever. A week wasn’t nearly long enough, though. We had a tough time saying goodbye when it was time to part our separate ways.
One of the teenage girls at the orphanage especially had a tough time saying goodbye. I saw her on the last night, slinking off into the shadows, completely withdrawn to herself. She was at a loss for words, so she had her friend slip me this note that was folded up into a neat, little square with her name, Eve, scrawled on the front. I waited to read the note until I was on the plane ride home. I carefully unfolded it and here is what the note read:
I don’t see any word to say goodbye tonight
beaubecause you are a special friend for me. I want to see you next time again. I want you to know that you are in my prayer and in my mind. I want you to be my friend for ever and ever.
It was a short plane ride home but long enough for me to catch my breath and to reflect on the trip that had just taken place. The note just confirmed what I had already suspected of the Haitian people. They are just like everyone else in this world. They only want a chance to be loved and to feel special. The bags of rice, the toothbrushes, the donated clothing – that’s all nice. It helps to meet their physical needs, but what Team Squirt was able to provide went beyond that. We provided them with emotional support and a spark of hope. We made them feel loved.
The Haitian people are truly special and I’m happy that I had the chance to make some new friends. Friends that I intend to keep for ever and ever if I have it my way.