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Lessons from Haiti

jordan-king-80AN ASPIRING JOURNALIST’S VISIT TO HAITI TAUGHT HIM TO BE GRATEFUL FOR WHAT HE HAS.

BY JORDAN KING

photo-galleryOn 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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6 Comments

  1. Dear Jordan,

    I am Pierre Leroy’s wife Terry and a co-founder of the Haitian People’s Support Project. Thank you for your inspiring article. I do believe life’s experiences are a great source of education. I also believe the future of our planet rests with your generation. As you carry on, please continue to talk to people about Haiti. Celebrate their rich culture, their determination and resilience. It is not about charity but respect and lending a helping hand.

    Looking forward to seeing you and Dad soon.

    With much appreciation,

    Terry Leroy

  2. Dear Terry… My son’s article is but a small expression of appreciation to you and your wonderful husband, Pierre. Be assured that you have marked me with this once-in-a-lifetime experience in going to Haiti. But know as well that you have marked the next generation and the generation after that in exposing my son to this wonderful semi-island nation and its incredible people. Jordan knows he carries that responsibility, and he has you and Pierre to thank for giving that to him. Kudo, Respect and much love to you both… Clennon L. King

  3. Dear Jordan,

    We are friends of Pierre and Terry and were members of HPSP when we lived up north. We have since moved to Florida, but are still in touch with them.

    We visited Haiti, representing HPSP, in 1996, and were moved, much as you were. At that time there had been no earthquake, but the extreme poverty was evident. One of the things that impressed us most was a visit to one of the schools. Students were crowded into a small classroom and had to bring their younger siblings with them, since their parents were working; they learned from a teacher writing on a blackboard–there were no books and no paper and pencils/pens. And in spite of there being no closed sewer system or running water in the homes, and women washing their families’ clothes in a river or stream and drying them in the sun, the children wore sparkling white clothes to school.

    We also came across a small community in northern Haiti, where a column of young people was walking down the road. They were celebrating a high school graduation. It appeared that everyone living in that community came out for the graduation, and the graduates ran down the dirt road as it started to rain, running into the Church, where a service was held for them. We were welcomed into the Church and felt privileged to witness this event.

    We have so many fond memories of our trip and are so glad we were able to go. It was a time of relative peace in Haiti, with Aristide in power, yet most of the people were poor and hungry. It really moves your heart to see people so happy and loving when they have so little.

    Thank you for your article. We really enjoyed reading it.

    God bless you on your journey,

    Will and Linda Gifford

  4. Dear Jordan

    I saw all the wonderful pictures from your trip with your dad. Reading your article put commentary to the visual story. You write so well, young man…you should think about investing in this skill as a career:-)

  5. I actually really liked this article. Especially when you described the beautiful parts of Haiti. Every place has it’s own beauties. I loved your style of writing and I hope you write more pieces like this one.

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