Heading to Haiti again!

There are some things that I have figure out over the years about my self, i love lacrosse and being involved in competition, I will do just about anything to learn something new, and most importantly I am never really satisfied.  When a friend was talking to me about ASB I knew I had to get involved and when I read the Haiti program description, I knew that this would not be something that would end  when I walked off the plane. Immediately after I filled out my application I began researching Haiti, looking at pictures reading articles about the earthquake. A few issues seemed to continue to keep resurfacing, the lack of infrastructure on the island, the lack of food and price of education; then I came across some information on the cholera crisis.  I began to read fact after fact about the lack of access to clean water and its effect on the community. I knew I had to do something and with my background in engineering and filtration I knew just what it was. I applied to Lafayette’s Grand Challenges program to build a water filtration system for people in Haiti with a few of my friends. After being accepted into the ASB program, then awarded a grant to build my system I was ready to go.

When we boarded the plane I felt prepared. Between my GCSP research and the preparation through ASB I thought I had a good mental image of what I was getting into but really, I had no idea. All of the photos you see on the internet when you google Haiti are not far off. Even a year out from the earth quake people were still living in tents. There were no traffic lights, houses and structures were still deformed from the earth quake, people everywhere carrying water or piled on trucks going about their daily tasks, even in our compound we had a limited water source that had to be trucked in. Everything that people said about a third world country came to life but no one really warns you about what is the truly amazing part about Haiti- the people. The optimisim and hapiness that these people have is just inspiring. They are pleased with the simplest things. One of my most fond memories of the trip was visiting a boys orphanage one afternoon. Somtimes getting motiviated to  visit the orphanages in the afternoon was difficult after a morning of hard labor in the sun and on this particular day it was especially hard. A few of us grunted and got on the truck, it went normally we taught a lesson on how to say colors in english, then we went outside and played with soccer and kick balls we had brought with us. The boys were so excited and they were having an amazing time until the soccer ball got kicked on the roof-the boys were pretty upset since there was aboslutely no access to the roof unless you scaled the building-which is exactly  of course what I did, i climbed the side of the wall and got the ball. When I threw the ball down just seeing the faces of the children made the terrifying attempts of getting of the roof worth it. Just a soccer ball made them smile from ear to ear. This is the kind of spirit and simplicity you never see in the states- and man was it amazing.

I had a lot of eye opening experiences when I visited Haiti. I have  brought the cause home by collecting cleats for an organization called “Goals Beyond the Net” from our athletic department  and  have been continuously raising awareness about the realities of the water conditions through my GCSP project. As I soon will embark on my second trip to Haiti, I can never express the amount that the ASB program has done for me and its role in inspriring me to just keep helping.


For more informtion on my project please email me or visit this link:  http://sites.lafayette.edu/grandchallenges/this-years-winners/


It has been over a month since my team and I have arrived home from Haiti. The eleven day trip was very enriching. I now have a better sense of how fortunate I am to have a plethora of opportunities and resources at my disposal in comparison to the Haitian community. Furthermore, I feel as if I am now an even more understanding person having had this experience.

The trip was overall very emotional for me. I felt immense joy when the house that we built was completed and while participating in the ceremony that dedicated the home to the homeowner. Hearing the struggles that the homeowner endured over the last two years made all the hard work, sweat, and muscle-aches worth it! To give the man, who previously felt helpless, a home was very gratifying. I am fortunate enough to have been a part of that moment when a new and positive chapter began in his life.

While there were many instances in which I felt satisfaction and bliss while I was in Haiti, there were many instances when I felt the opposite. Sorrow was often what I felt when I looked around and saw the unhealthy living conditions of many of the people living in Jacmel. People would be bathing in a river while others, only a few meters away, would be washing their cars and urinating in the water. Similarly, their was little consideration for trash disposal and trash could be seen everywhere, often with pigs digging through it for a meal. Having an interest in the medical field, it seemed like almost everywhere I looked, I could see the negative medical implications that could potentially result from the conditions.

Haiti, looking past the rubble/garbage, is a beautiful country. I have never seen such natural blue water like I saw when we hiked into the mountains. For the sake of preserving the country’s beautiful surroundings and protecting the welcoming Haitian people, it is my sincere hope that the country can manage itself more effectively in the future.

I went into this experience realizing that I would not be able to help every single Haitian. My goal, instead, was to make a positive difference in the life of at least one individual. Looking back, I realize I have exceeded my goal. My team and I have not only made a difference in the life of the homeowner, but for all of the children we played with at the four orphanages we visited and the individuals that received our water filtration systems. My team and I made an undeniable difference in the lives of many that we encountered in Haiti. What more could we have asked for?

Haiti: M’ale, n’a wè pi ta

As always, every good thing comes to an end. That was my last day of work in Haiti, January 19th. I was up bright and early, to watch Jacmel waking up. Before heading to breakfast, I went to the roof of our guest house. I wrote a couple sentences in my journal, but before long I had to go downstairs to join everybody else in the day’s activities. We spent the morning finishing up the house we had helped build for Gerald, a man who survived the earthquake despite being suffering serious injuries. His wife passed away, but fortunately their children survived. Gerald was observing us while we were doing the topcoat of the painting on the walls, door, and ceiling. I cannot put into words how special those moments were to me.

During that morning I felt accomplished. Before coming to Haiti, I had I was worried if we would be able to actually change something during our short ten-day trip to Jacmel. Certainly there were many moments that I simply felt overwhelmed by a deep sentiment of hopelessness. Every day we saw the tents along the roads, the garbage scattered on the streets, the sewage running along the sidewalks.

However, it did not take me not even one afternoon to be delighted by Haiti. Then I started realizing that we could definitely contribute to Haiti. Jacmel proved to be a lively small city in the south of the country. There were several motorcycles, street vendors and pedestrians who all somehow managed to share the narrow roads and alleys of Jacmel.

Every morning, I watched the same scene take place in front of our guest house: parents, or an old sibling, taking the young ones to school. It’s amazing how they are always dressed in neat and very clean uniforms. They know that education is one of the greatest privileges one can have in life, and they valorize it.

Their education gave me hope that the youth in Haiti are willing to change the sad records of the history of their nation. They have the energy, the creativity and willingness to create a better Haiti. And now, in light of the massive foreign aid in their country, they see themselves in a complicated situation. I know that they are not interested in becoming a colony again, in which foreigners run everything in the country. They are confident that they are capable of running their own country. They need a serious and honest government to coordinate their nation. They may lack all the resources imaginable, but they I am sure that they have in abundance the most important things to move forward, such as dedication and pride.

I’m confident that this ASB experience was a watershed in my life. After ten days of hard work and intense experiences, I was so exhausted by the time we came back to the US. During these days I couldn’t help but to think about countless projects and ideas after every new encounter with different people. If I had to sum up my whole experience in one word, I guess it would be life. I believe that everybody’s purpose before boarding a plane to Port-au-Prince was to truly contribute to the improvement of lives of people in Haiti. Now, looking back it is great to realize how much we managed to do in such a short period of time. More than helping build a house, installing surgical lights, or interacting with children at several orphanages, we met people who taught us a new way to understand them – and also ourselves. After this unforgettable experience in Haiti, I’m convinced that the key to a brighter future rests in empowering the Haitians.  Now, I believe that our most important task is to help other people understand that Haiti does not simply need money or mercy. Rather, Haiti asks for understanding and cooperation. This certainly was a lesson that I will forever take with me.

Interactions in Haiti

After being a little over a month removed from my trip to Haiti, I have told numerous stories to friends and family.  Each story is new in its own way, depending on what I can remember at the time of the telling.  With so many details, experiences, and emotions it’s difficult to summarize the trip in a way that does it justice.

In brief, our main project in Jacmel was to finish a house for a widower that lost his leg in the earthquake.  We painted it, put in all the doors and windows along with trim, and we built the roof.  We also did several orphanage visits in which we did learning activities with the kids and played with them.  There was also a water filtration system distribution day.

The best part of the trip for me was the interactions and relationships we all developed with everyone we worked with and met.  Everyone was so eager to share the Haitian culture with us and to learn about us.  One of the guards at the facility that we stayed at always practiced his English with me and taught me Creole.  Despite a big language barrier he was always excited to tell me about himself and his plans for the future.  At the one orphanage, I made a little friend that was the goalie for my soccer team.  I taught him several games that he showed the other kids and he also helped me paint.  During our work on the house, we helped several deaf boys put the roof on.  Even though I do not know sign language, we were still able to communicate and joke through different gestures.  In each case there was no obvious means of communicating, however, in the end I was able to form relationships that I will never forget.


I am about to leave for JFK Airport with Jacmel, Haiti as my final destination.  This will be my third ASB trip and my first time as a team leader.  My first two trips were to Ecuador and to a small town in Appalachia, Virginia.  What I learned from both trips was that each one had a significant and profound, yet different affect on me.  Ecuador opened my eyes culturally, while Appalachia had a more personal connection to the family that we helped.  Although I do not know what Haiti holds for me, I am confident that it while have a much larger affect on my life than any other ASB trip I have done.  Our work promises to led to cultural and personal interactions with the people of Haiti.  Despite the nerves that have been building as the trip has drawn closer, I know that they are a result of the challenges that my team and I will encounter and overcome together, while also rising to our own struggles.

Off to Haiti

In the true spirit of procrastination, I’m posting my pre-trip reflection the day we fly out to Haiti. I don’t think the fact that I’m going to Haiti has hit me yet. When I’ve traveled out of the country in the past, I usually don’t get the “wow, I’m going to be in another country” feeling until the plane is close to landing. I am confident, though, that I will experience that moment later today when we approach the landing strip in Haiti.

Nonetheless, I’m incredibly excited to actually get started on our service work. Our team was unsure of what exactly we were going to be doing up until about a month ago. I can’t wait to make our impact in Jacmel, Haiti by working on a home to house those still homeless from the January 2010 earthquake. While I’ve done my fair share of traveling, I have never been on a service trip before. I look forward to being able to make an impact in the Jacmel community and help Haitians. Other than leaving a physical mark, I’m excited to interact with people throughout the ten days, from just having a conversation with a local to visiting an orphanage. The fact that the country we’re doing service in is Haiti does not really phase me at all. When it comes to traveling, I have very few reservations, probably due to the fact that the first time I went to India was when I was three years old. To me, Haiti is just another country in need of help from compassionate people like each member of our group.

Well, I am all packed and ready to head to JFK tomorrow. Though I’ll miss being at home for the remainder of the break, I consider myself so lucky to have the opportunity to participate in this ASB trip to Jacmel and I cannot think of a better way to spend time off from school.

Who’s really helping Haiti?

Tomorrow my team and I will be on a plane bound for Port-au-Prince. Probably the only country in the world which has a notorious last name: the poorest country in the western hemisphere. If in the past Haiti was the glory of the French colonies and the first independent nation in Latin America in 1804, nowadays the country faces the challenge of rebuilding a shattered and impoverished nation.

We can all remember how the response to the January 2010 earthquake was sluggish, chaotic and insufficient. Since then many countries around the world have pledged to assist Haiti, but the lack of coordination has so far halted the so-called transformation of the country and the establishment of a functioning and efficient government.

It has been two years since the earthquake, but I feel that little has changed in Haiti for the better although I’ve never been there. As I read and learn more about the history of the country, I realize that by no means this is the first tragedy that the country has ever faced. I was astonished to know that for almost 30 years, until 1986, the Haitian population suffered under a brutal dictatorship which greatly contributed to the impoverishment of Haiti. On top of that, I realized that the rampant poverty of Haiti has been one of the best funding sources of its elite and corrupt government.  They transformed the misery of the slums of Port-au-Prince into their best exporting product, managing to get millions of dollars from several governments around the word. This happened in the past and certainly is happening right now, in the aftermath of the earthquake. I believe that the government has not done much with all the money it got, and it seems that Haiti is solely run by the hundreds and hundreds of NGOs scattered all over the country. Sometimes, they might be no better than the government: there is corruption, and lack of coordination and planning.

Realizing this harsh reality, I wonder:  so, after all, is it worth donating money to Haii? Traveling there? Is it possible to change anything at all? The only answer I can find is yes, it is indeed possible to change something if we decide to do our best to make a difference. NGOs might not be perfect organizations, but I’m sure that right now there are thousands of people honestly concerned about the harsh reality of the Haitian population. They are willing to sacrifice and work hard not to teach Haiti what it should do, but instead temporarily assist its development to strengthen the self-empowerment of Haiti’s government, public institutions, and above all, its people. This is how I see our trip to Haiti: more than building houses, this is a unique opportunity to meet and interact with Haitians, forming bonds of friendship, cooperation and learning. I’m really looking forward to travelling to Haiti on Wednesday, and I have been doing my best to get there prepared: besides studying French, I’ve been trying to learn a few sentences in Haitian Creole. A great start to an unforgettable experience down in Jacmel, Haiti!!

Pre-Trip Post

Hey everyone! It’s saturday night and we have three days until we depart! While I finished packing a couple of hours ago, I am now so excited to finally get there. Last year, I was on the Ecuador ASB trip, where we learned about sustainable living and built a botanical garden in the jungle. This was my first time out of the country, for a reason other than vacation, and I learned so much more than I could have imagined. What was interesting about this service experience however was that we were there to learn their way of living, with intentions of bringing these ways to the United States, instead of helping a village in need. Applying for the Haiti trip this year, I knew that I was in for a completely different type of trip, as this is more about helping the people of Haiti who have suffered tremendous losses from the earthquake. I look forward to helping as much as I can, coming away with new perspectives and also new friends. As you all know I have been in contact with Lafayette alumni, Alan Griffith and his wonderful wife, Penny. They have sent me many cards in the mail, which included pictures of the land and people there, as well as a book about Haiti after the earthquake, which I have started to read. I bring them up because they invested much of their time in Haiti prior to the earthquake. I look forward to gaining knowledge of the progress there and sharing incredible stories with the Griffiths, as they have shared their gratitude with us through a generous donation and it will be nice to give back this way. Can’t wait for an awesome week and a half!

Let The Countdown Begin!!

We have finally approached the one week mark! In exactly seven days my team and I will touchdown in Haiti. I’ve had my bag packed since before Christmas, so I think it’s safe to say that I’m extremely excited!!  As many of my fellow teammates have said, I am also excited to get away from these “Arctic winds” and cold temperatures in New York, but most importantly, I am excited to help make a difference in the life of people who lost so much.  I’m anxious about getting out there and learning how to build home.  I’m also ready to make some strong connections with the CCH community leaders  as well as the residents we will interact with.  I’m not sure what to expect, but I know that I will learn so much about myself, the rest of my team, and the Haitian culture.  I’m looking forward to a life changing yet eye opening experience.

Haiti 2012

Hey Everyone!

Haiti in one week! Can you believe it? I am not sure if it really has set in for me as it has for some of my fellow Haiti travelers. I mention the travel plans at least briefly to all I come by, but despite me talking about it quite frequently, it still feels as if the trip is months away. To help prepare for the trip, I took anti-malarial medicine today. I also stopped by a local hunting store and purchased insect repellent with a 98.1% DEET concentration. If that does not keep the mosquitoes away from me, I do not know what will! I still have lots to do, including running to the bank to exchange twenties for singles and buying work gloves. Like Jiselle, I am excited to escape this cold weather we have in Pennsylvania at the moment, even if it means being hot, sticky, and exhausted from a long day of rebuilding homes. From this trip, I hope, foremost, to give back to a community that has had many things taken from them by mother nature. I also hope to be a more well-rounded, knowledgable, and appreciative person when I arrive home. I hope this service trip goes smoothly and that it is the positive experience that I anticipate it to be for all.

See you all in a week!