My Haiti Experience
How did I end up in Haiti, one of the poorest country in the world?
Well, I was starting my third year of studies and I really wanted to travel. I had to choose between a three-week traditional internship and a personal project that I could envision and pursue by myself. Of course, I chose to do something on my own.
I am sensitive to all kind of natural catastrophes and I love traveling in places that are not touristic. I was looking for many projects that could need me in some kind of way. One day, my mom told me she had a friend building a school in Jacmel after the earthquake. I contacted her and she was very interested in doing something together. And.. this is pretty much how I ended up in Haiti.
Of course, my project had to be approved by my school and I could not fly there by myself. So I posted a message on my Facebook’s school page and I found two nice guys, Jacques and Quentin, very interested in the project. We talked a lot about the whole trip and decided to focus on the two most important things in Haiti: culture & education.
All the project planning went very fast: we had one month to present the project to the school’s direction, to buy plane tickets ($$), and to raise 1000 euros and give it away to local people. We also had to think about a problematic for the movie and to rent the right equipment in order to make something good out of this project (luckily, our school does that for free).
So there we were, arriving in Haiti, end of November. It was a long journey, we arrived very late in Port-au-Prince and spent the night in a hotel.
And then we woke up, the next day and we waited for a guy to pick us up and to take us to Jacmel, located 40 km from the capital. And that was a shock. We were driving in the center of Port-au-Prince, realizing that even 5 years after the earthquake, Haiti is still vulnerable. House residues, dirty streets, mountain of garbages. We looked at each other and thought for a second: “What the f*** are we doing here?!”.
But after the 4 hour ride to Jacmel (yes, 4 hours to cross 40km), we arrived and.. the adventure really started. The driver drove us to an old lady house where we were supposed to sleep for the next three weeks with no electricity during the day and no hot water. But who cares? We weren’t here on vacation. Haiti welcomed us with a big storm on the first night in Jacmel. Water was flowing on the walls and on the floor. We had to put all of our stuff in the middle of the room. What an experience!
Anyway, the next three weeks we were going to the IDEPH school every morning to speak and exchange with the students, see how they work, how they live and so on. We learned a lot about the way they live and the way they went through the earthquake in 2011. We were interviewing the students that were willing to talk about what happend and how they started to rebuild themselves after the catastrophy.
What I liked the most about those young students and about the school? First, I loved listening to the traditional hymn every morning before school started. The National Haiti Anthem is really beautiful. So imagine two hundred young students singing it every single morning! What I also really appreciated is their curiosity. Some of the days we were entering class rooms and exchanging our cultural habits with each other. And I was surprised to see how curious they were about Belgium, about Poland.
So that was about mornings. When classes were over (around 1 p.m.) we were taking the “taximotos” to the city center. We were usually eating lunch at the Alliance Francaise where there was this belgian guy owning a bar. We were talking about the project and making contacts with locals while drinking a local beer. Then, we were wandering around the city, looking for inspirations. We met so many different artists, singers, painters, sculptors. It was just great how they were sharing their love for art in general. We were just drinking beers, talking to each other with the camera filming. But it was like the camera didn’t exist.
We were actually tired of waking up every morning at 6 a.m., eating fries or spaguetti bolognese for breakfast, eating ries with beans for lunch, and going to bed so late because the camera wouldn’t charge. But at the same time, we were living the life, meeting people, discovering new places and we couldn’t be happier to be there.
Of course, we had a lot of issues but who cares? Everything ended up well and we created a great project. Unfortunetely I cannot share the short movie with you for now, because we want to make some changes but I can tell you that everytime I watch it, I am so proud that I was able to experience that.
What I will always remember of Haiti? The happiness of the Haitian people, Karolina (a Polish architect that really helped us), all of the students of the IDEPH school and Polyanna, a woman that’s fighting to educate people about the environment.