Monday, March 5, 2018

Return to Gannon!

We have officially (and safely) returned to Gannon.  Upon reflecting on the experience and new global world perspective that Haiti gifted us on this trip, we are in awe and filled with love.  After bonding and sharing in growing as individuals this week, our group is excited to take on the daunting, yet beautiful opportunity to spread the news of Just Haiti and its mission. We think it is pivotal not to just share the mission, but the why in our experiences with our peers, families, and community. After our reflections this week that were centered around the work of poverty reduction and ending injustices, our whole group now has a deeper understanding of the complexities of the world and how to go about our daily lives in a knowledgeable and understanding way. We believe all humans deserve dignity and basic rights, part of those include not being taken advantage of, especially not to the point of global poverty.

After this experience, I am able to better understand my place in the world and how to be more impactful in use of my talents and goals to help people in meaningful ways.  Instead of giving handouts and thinking that it's enough, I now realize that poverty reduction is centered around the idea of helping people help themselves. The people of Fond Tortue taught us that receiving the temporary happiness of a new house, or donations provide a world of opportunities to them; however, to provide an eternity of happiness is allowing them to provide for themselves, their families, and their communities. In most relief organizations, including the CRS, they do amazing, worthwhile work in the communities they're involved in and save lives, but they fail to have a true exit strategy. They will have to remain in Haiti forever because they aren't making Haiti an independent nation or empowering them.  We learned that when you develop a relationship in this sort of way, you're objectifying the people you're helping and they're objectifying you.  You view them as not able to help themselves and they view you as a wad of cash and resources.  However, when you build a relationship first and work together to find a solution to poverty in a community, you view each other as gifts to each other.  This is the foundation of the Just Haiti organization.

In addition, the Just Haiti organization takes no profit for themselves and the growers receive the full profits from their efforts. This allows Just Haiti to remain free from corruption because they are always working for the benefits of the Haitian community, not to pay their own salaries.  They are then free from the fear of becoming the reason for their own existence and working just for themselves because they need to pay their salaries. This ideation may not work for corporations at the moment, but the hope is to ensure no subgroup is exploited. To share the perspective, news, and true injustices it is an initial sacrifice necessary that Just Haiti decided to undergo.

In all, this trip has been an all around inspiring and invaluable experience, and I know I left a piece of my heart with the community and children of Fond Tortue. To help, please reach out to us and allow us the opportunity to share our story, to share Just Haiti’s story, to share our new home, Fond Tortue’s, story. In the meantime, you can hop over to justhaiti.org and buy some delicious coffee and take your first step to fight social injustice by taking part in the solution to poverty, not just a bandage!

With Love,
Melissa

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Empowerment through community

Learning about Just Haiti and living among the community of Fond Tortue has been inspiring to say the least. Just Haiti has a mission revolving around the empowerment of small local coffee growers to receive a fair price for their crops using a fair trade plus model.

As a junior who has gone on three ABSTs, including Haiti, I have been transformed by the three stages that the Center for Social Concerns office (CSC) embraces. First being, Reach Out, which is working with hands on service projects. I participated in the Reach Out stage through the ABST to Guatemala my freshman year. The second is Explore Within. I was a student leader on ABST to Detroit my sophomore year, which falls under the Explore Within stage. It involves diving deeper into the social justice aspect of service, while still including some hands on service. Haiti is in the final stage of the CSC, Live Among. I am one of the two student leaders on the trip and it has challenged me in so many different ways. This trip and stage of development, Live Among, focuses on the social justice aspect of service and addressing the root of the issue at hand.

My journey through these stages of development has pushed me to think in ways to address the systemic problems and social injustices at their root. Building relationships and community with the people you serve is crucial to help empower those individuals to become dependent on themselves.

Dr. Kim Lamberty, the president and co-founder of Just Haiti, accompanied our trip. Kim has written many articles about social justice. For a reflection on Wednesday, the group read her article, The art of accompaniment (it’s worth the read). During reflection, what hit home for me was building relationships or the living among idea. If relationships are built before service that creates equal valuing of both parties, leading to a relationship that supports the dignity of each individual. When you start by giving charity first you begin to objectify the both parts of the relationship. One side will be viewed as the project and the other side will be viewed as the wallet and upholding the human dignity for both sides in this situation is very difficult. To create a true global community you must be willing to building these powerful relationships.

Annmarie Rosa

Integral Human Development

Extreme desperation, hearts aching, and poverty unimaginable to our standards usually depict the story of Haiti. A place where we are unable to travel, worried about our safety, and a brewing pot of disease define the media’s perception of Haiti.

However, over this week, and these past few days, our ideation conclude that amongst all of those depictions and despite the widespread knowledge of this situation, we redefined the depiction by living among the community and people themselves. We’ve found the love of a person, of a human. Sharing, smiling, and intentionally welcoming culture grew into our ideations of Haiti in its truest form, and we’ve looked beyond defining Haiti, what we’ve concluded is we see beautiful people, hard working people, and people that love. Haiti is a country, but in conclusion people are people, and the people we’ve encountered through many blessings are essentially love.

In our group discussions, Dr. Kim Lamberty, the Co-founder of Just Haiti ( justhaiti.org - go buy their coffee! ) wrote an article on Integral Human Development and the dignity of he individual. We divulged into the process of not determining projects based on success, but that we are in accompaniment on a battle of justice. Francious, Joane, and the people of Fond Tortue, taught and exemplified the characteristics of leaders that we all should learn from in life and our goals. The children led us on journeys through the beautiful, awing hikes in the mountains that we were breathless at the halfway point and they still had yet to break a sweat as children yet to reach junior high. We saw individuals come hours to a meeting to greet us, but largely to buy in on a movement bigger than themselves and sustaining a livelihood for their familial generations to come. These are people that can change the world. They are people that change the world. They are people that deserve human dignity, not to be looked upon as the poor but to be looked upon as people. As the article mentions, no one optionally lives poor. This poor is below the global poverty line. The article points in the Catholic viewpoint, we are called in our evangelicalism to directly fight the injustices of poverty, and not just help in aid but create a global development plan to ensure that they have the right to help themselves.

In reflection of the trip, and our once in a lifetime experience of joining a community and living among them in the rural areas that are hardly accessible, I’ve realized and understood the first step to true development and not just aid is to respect the human dignity of a person. The ideations in fighting poverty is to not use a bandage by looking upon the issue as a project, but to find a solution of empowerment by looking at the dignity of the individual, of the person. Religiously, spiritually, and humanely, I find it impossible to sincerely accept the global trend in making helping the poor as an industry, and decide to join the integral human development called upon all of us as just members of society.

To the love of the people I’ve experienced this journey through, I hope you all will search, ask, and join this walk of integral human development aimed at the dignity of an individual, and end to injustice.

Kishan

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Written on 2/25

2-25-28
First full day in Haiti was a success! Today we woke up bright and early to attend Sunday mass in Les Cayes. The community was beyond welcoming and hearing the catholic mass in Haitian creole was really amazing. The vibrant community sang and danced in a way that left us all smiling:)

After that, we packed up our bags and journeyed towards our destination for the next three days- Fond Tortue. About 2 hours on the rough Haitian mountain roads was grueling but also an exciting adventure and I was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. Regardless- I will never complain about pot holes in Erie ever again.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by the friendly community and TONS of kids. After settling in, we found an open field and played soccer and tag with the areas kids and made some new pals. The kids were so excited to be with us and it has been such a blessing to be present with them today. While playing with them was fun, there were also some frustrations today about communicating. Physical presence is important but I wish we were able to talk with them more fluently so as to get to know them better.

We also got the opportunity to see one Just Haiti’s coffee bean nursery’s, and learn a little about the agriculture in the area. Kim was open to answering many questions we had today, and did an amazing job catching us up on the current problems in Haiti and how the Fair Trade Plus model is working to help the small scale coffee farmers succeed in a system designed to give them the short end of the stick. We’re excited to soon meet the growers and dive deep into the problems with coffee trade and fair trade.

The desolation in Haiti so far is very clear- especially from what we witnessed in Port-Au-Prince. But this small village has showed us such hospitality and demonstrated something so crucial: celebrating and appreciating life. The kids here don’t have much of anything, and they are so happy.

We are so excited to see what tomorrow holds in store! With the first day being so fruitful and educational, I am interested to see what else Haiti has to teach us.

Hope all is going well back home!

Sara Oros

Saturday, February 24, 2018

We made it!

We have arrived in Haiti! We have had a long day traveling on two planes and 2 long car rides. We will be posting more  about our adventure tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Welcome Friends and Family!

Thank you for checking in on the Haiti ABST blog for 2018! At this point we are forming our group and getting to know each other. I think I can speak for everyone by saying we are excited you are interested in following our experience. Our goal is to post at least once a day while we are in Haiti. However, the internet can be a bit spotty so we will try our best to get them posted. In the mean time, please explore blogs form the years past from other groups of students who have participated in the ABST. We are excited to share our stories and experiences with you!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Back to America!

"Welcome to the United States"

A bittersweet, sentimental statement as Team Haiti returned home. Excited to return to our beds, reuniting with our friends, and sharing our stories, we prepared ourselves for our layover at JFK. Finally, around 2 a.m., we returned home to Gannon, and the journey to re-immerse ourselves into our American culture with the invaluable lessons we learned in Haiti.

After a week of experiencing love, wisdom, and community our lives changed in what I thought would be a typical "service trip" but this immersion trip revealed more wisdom and gave fruit to powerful experiences has made a lasting impacting on each of our individual lifestyles.

Beyond what we learned about Haiti's culture and the love of the people present there, we learned and experienced the undeniable power of the individual, despite horrific circumstances. The history of Haiti seemed like story after story of a country taken advantage of and exploited, but the resounding characteristic of all these stories and their entire history was their perseverance. Continually, throughout the trip, we heard the same statement by Haitians in the city all the way through the mountains: "Haitians are strong. That is why we do not give up, because we are strong."

Throughout our experience, we focused upon the issues of poverty, exploration of human integral development, and, eventually, explored the possibilities we as individuals must do in our part in a solution against poverty. Immersing ourselves in Fond Tortue, hiking the mountains of Haiti, and even our long, long car rides contributed to our understanding of poverty and how to battle the fight.

Constantly reflecting on this experience for a few days, I'm still at loss of words for our trip and experiences. Our trip has inspired us to move into action mode, to make a change for our lives, our campus, and our worlds. Whether it was playing soccer with the Fond Tortue community, hiking up the mountains with the children of the village being our tour guides, or Kim sharing her wisdom and life experiences; every part of the trip brought its own, unique growing revelation.

A lesson that can definitively be said about our experience is that the issues surrounding Haiti and poverty, or even just Fond Tortue cannot be solved in a week during spring break. Instead, our experience led us to the realization the real help and impact we can make for Haiti is how we choose to live our lives here in America. The unspeakable bond created between our group must be salvaged and expanded upon so others can also share in the intimacy and solidarity through our experiences and choices. Part of the help comes from sharing, but a strong part of this trip is carrying this experience to lead us to be more aware of our decisions and fight against injustice.

As we are returning to our daily lives, stressing over exams, and being college students our team has dedicated ourselves to add in the fight against poverty as well. We aim to make change on Gannon's campus by supporting Just Haiti and their endeavors, while expanding Just Haiti's mission to our own on campus and in our individual lives. Team Haiti looks forward to working together as a group and sharing our individual experiences, stay in touch and there will be more to come!

Thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and support,
Kishan