Lessons from Haiti
BY JORDAN KING
On the Fourth of July, I traveled with my father to Haiti, where we would shoot video footage to be used in a fundraising film by the Haitian People’s Support Project, a non-profit organization based in Woodstock, New York, that support nutrition and educational programs in orphanages, schools, and shelters throughout Haiti.
As we prepared for our trip to the small island nation, which had been devastated by an earthquake just six months prior, my father told me that my somewhat luxurious lifestyle full of television and video games would be a thing in the past.
I shook my head in aggravation each time he reminded me, tired of hearing the same old phrase:
“You don’t know how good you have it.”
Just 10 days in Haiti would completely change my outlook on life and teach me the biggest lesson I learned, which was to never take what I have for granted.
A different world
My first glimpse of Haiti came as we descended into Port-Au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. What I saw through the plane’s window stopped my heart for a minute. Instead of cement-paved highways and city skyscrapers, I saw roads in ruin and houses with roofs made out of scrap metal and tin.
I was prepared for things to be completely different from home. I knew there would be no Internet or flat screen TVs, but Haiti was nothing like I had anticipated. When I turned to my father in a state of disbelief, I think he just knew what I was thinking.
“I told you,” he quietly but directly said to me.
When we left the airport in Port-Au-Prince, there was a giant fence protecting all the travelers from Haitian beggars, some belonging to children no older than five, who were desperate for money. Hands reached out through the fence to us.
I was truly scared—not of getting mugged or anything, I was just frightened of being so out of my element. After a short time in the airport, we flew to Cap Haitien, the second largest city in Haiti. Though the city was one of a few places unaffected by the January 12 earthquake, it still felt like we were in a whole new world.
If we walked just up the street from the house where we stayed, my father and I found ourselves in an impoverished neighborhood. As we made our way through the streets, I saw children who looked like they hadn’t eaten in days, houses that appeared to be a gust-of-wind-away from collapsing—images that I thought only existed in movies.
Back in the United States, I was used to seeing big, brick houses surrounded by huge green lawns. These people didn’t even have indoor plumbing! It was so surreal, and a hard concept to believe, even as these images became recurring themes during my visit.
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