My name is Melia Gasbarre, and I am a freshman participant on the Haiti ABST.
At 2 AM Saturday morning, Team Haiti met under the Gannon Arch in a big yellow school bus headed to the Buffalo Airport. Excitement, nervousness, and tiredness were just a few of the emotions felt by the group at the time. However, everyone began to get excited as we boarded our first plane to JFK airport after getting some breakfast and coffee. Before we knew it, we were in New York City waiting to meet with our community partner, Kim.
After we went over the serious business of posting a group picture on Just Haiti’s Facebook page, Kim told us some useful information for our time in Haiti. She informed us that there is currently a water shortage in Haiti of which we need to be aware. We noticed this lack of water during our road trip from the Port-au-Prince Airport to Les Cayes, as many of the river beds were very shallow!
Our four hour flight from JFK to Port-au-Prince seemed to pass quickly as many of us spent that time sleeping! I befriended the lady sitting next to me on the flight because she was going to be participating in a volunteer trip as well! She had a book to help her learn Haitian Creole that she offered to let me look at during the flight. Learning the phrases, “mési,” “bonswa,” and “pa gen probleme,” proved to be very useful!
When we landed in Haiti, the first thing I noticed was the mountains and the warm temperatures! Evan joked, “I can feel my Seasonal Effective Disorder going away.” After passing through customs, we were greeted by a band playing cheerful music. We met with Joan on the way out of the airport. She welcomed us and led us to the cars that would take us to Les Cayes. Our four hour car ride was the perfect way to see the Haitian landscape. We also got the chance to see many towns and villages along the way.
The sights that we saw during our car ride from Port-au-Prince to Les Cayes hinted at some of the challenges Haitians face in daily life, and that we’ll be exposed to this week. We noticed how inadequate sanitation systems contribute to Haiti’s lack of potable water, and how lack of formal institutions have led to Haiti’s ‘informal’ economy.
Most importantly, a large theme of this trip is about learning the differences between development programs that empower communities economically and politically, and ones that only solve short term problems. Tomorrow, we’ll continue our journey in Baraderes with JustHaiti, whose fair trade coffee practices put special emphasis on sustainable development. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers!