Our company supports an orphan care and prevention center there called myLIFEspeaks. For the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel with a handful of coworkers, to a small village in Haiti called Neply (about 30 miles outside of Port Au Prince). Upon arrival, we’re immediately immersed in the village’s daily life and spend the next 7 days serving the community; connecting with everyone from infants to endangered teens and village elders.
One of the best parts of this trip for me is seeing the impact it has on new team members. On the way home from our most recent trip, I asked them if they viewed the city of Port Au Prince differently coming home than they did when they first arrived. Their answer surprised me. They said that the trip through the city streets was much harder to digest on the way BACK to the airport, than it was when they first arrived. I thought that the biggest shock would be coming from the United States to a city like Port Au Prince. I was wrong.
The team knew what to expect going in to Port Au Prince, as much as anyone can. All of the pictures in the world of rotting garbage, fresh fruit, small fires burning, and animals rummaging for food – within inches of each other – cannot do the city justice. Pictures are sanitary. Pictures can’t convey the smell of waste and disease, the air so clouded that you literally breathe dirt, or that within 10 minutes your fun “travel outfit” is completely saturated in sweat. The initial shock of Port Au Prince is a big one, no matter how well prepared everyone feels.
But after about 90 minutes, you’re surrounded by sugar cane fields and palm trees. The garbage seems to fade into the background (though it’s never really gone), and the air clears. You can breathe again, and you realize you’re in paradise. It’s still hot, but there are trees here. You see kids playing and having fun. You have the next 6 days to live life with the mission staff and local families in a way you didn’t expect, and you see the joy and love that this community has for not only its members, but for you.
So why is the trip back to the airport so much harder? Once you know the amazing environment that exists in Neply, it’s hard to see Port Au Prince the same way again. You travel from a place where, out of love, people will share the last of their food with strangers, to the over-crowded city streets where the main concern is what those strangers will do for them. The impact of that is astonishing. It’s easy to take America for granted. What shocked our team on this trip was how easy it was to feel just as privileged after spending a week in a humble village 30 miles away. MyLIFEspeaks and their partners, teaches Neply and surrounding villages how to pull together. The ever-expanding work going on there impacts the entire country for the better, and by doing so, they are changing the world.