Early 2016 will see a new wave of support and fellowship on the ground in Haiti
By Kristian Partington
On the evening of March 9, 2014, a large group gathered around tables under the high steel roof in the Haiti Communitere workshop in a compound not far from the airport in Port-au-Prince – the only place large enough to host the Schlegel Villages farewell dinner.
For 10 days, the compound had been home to 25 ambassadors, all of whom had arrived knowing little of what to expect but were leaving with a deep appreciation for a country they’d grown to love in a short time. That evening they toasted a deep respect for the efforts of so many Haitian people who were working alongside friends from around the world to help seed renewal in a land that has faced many challenges, and they committed to sharing their experience with others back home in Canada.
Now the hunt is on for a new team of ambassadors to make a similar trip to Haiti in early 2016 where it is hoped the team can offer greater contributions to the work of Fonkoze’s Chemen Lavi Miyo (CLM) program, which Schlegel Villages has supported through fundraising during the past five years.
Ask any of those who sat around the table that March night last year, and they’d admit that the laughs were as plentiful over the trip as the tears, and none would trade their time there. There was something deep within that shared experience that bound them all together throughout their various roles, and of those there were many. They volunteered at a hospice and an orphanage, and they helped organize shipping containers of medical supplies. Some supported nurses and doctors at an HIV/tuberculosis clinic, while others helped dismantle a massive geo-dome, to be used again should a need arise in the face of a natural disaster. They spent a bit of time exploring the culture of Port-au-Prince, ate a meal or two at the UN compound adjacent the airstrip, and managed to find an afternoon to splash in the Caribbean Sea.
Through it all, the group forged a bond that remains tight to this day, and that March evening last year as they told stories around the table, they each shared a small thought about what they were thankful for as they reflected on the past ten days.
“I’m so grateful that I was chosen as part of the group in the selection process,” said Dianne McQuiggan. “It was a wonderful experience meeting new friends and sharing time with old friends.”
The friendships were a common theme among the ambassadors, as was the gratitude they felt for what they’d learned about resiliency, hope and determination – three common characteristics among the Haitian friends they’d met.
“I’m thankful for this beautiful country, everything that I’ve seen and learned from it,” said Erin Seldon. “I’m thankful for the people I came with, the people I met and all the experience that I gained.”
This was no mission trip, nor a trip designed to “help” Haiti, the team quickly learned. Instead it was an opportunity to offer what skills could be offered and come alongside Haitian neighbours in the spirit of renewal. The experience is one that none shall forget, and a similar opportunity awaits the next team of ambassadors.