For some of the KORE Haiti team members, Saturday was the beginning of a familiar journey to Haiti: Wake up early, drive to Ft Lauderdale airport, board the flight, land, and get started on changing a part of the world. For others, it was a new experience to arrive in the land where their roots began. The first day of KORE’s 4th annual mission trip was full of variety of team-bonding activities – from sitting on a bus chatting away with new friends, to going for a swim in the turquoise waters of Kaliko Beach. The day ended with the team listening to Mayor/Pastor Gueillant‘s inspirational words, and sharing with one another our individual hopes for this mission. There were several things that the group shared: hopes to empower, expand knowledge, make meaningful contributions, assess needs, and many more. However, there was one common theme that seemed to emulate from every individual – the desire to make a positive change.
Whether it be impacting the community to create new sustainable healthcare, or instilling confidence in the people to advocate for their own health, bringing a positive change was the unifying hope of KORE Haiti’s team.
I arrived at the airport at what felt like the crack of dawn, with nervousness, excitement, and a dash of sleepiness dancing in my eyes. Soon, all other 25 participants arrived at the airport, and I was mildly relieved to see many other pairs of eyes mirroring my exact feelings. It was day one of the highly awaited medical mission trip with Kore Haiti, and from the veterans down to the newbies, everyone felt the anticipation in the air. After the tedious yet necessary processes of bag checking and security checks, we were all strapped in the plane, and ready to go.
This was Kore Haiti’s 4th medical mission trip, and this year was expected to be bigger and better than the trips before. This is exactly what was wanted, for one of the founders Stevenson said it best: “we want to grow bigger and better each year”. What marked this year different from the rest? The expansion of providers, services and tools for the community, as well as the addition to a stop at a resort for leisure time for the volunteers. Everyone would definitely be benefitting from this trip.
And so we arrived at the airport, and made our way onto our mode of transportation for the duration of the mission trip: the bright, big, yellow school bus. Feelings of nostalgia ran through me, as I found a seat, and chatted it up with my newfound friend. Now, from the first-time-in-Haiti visitors all the way down to the frequent flyers, we were all shooketh (literally!) by the driving in Haiti (because no matter how many times you come to Haiti, you never get used to the driving), but the veterans weren’t worried; it seemed as if our driver Ti Frere always got Kore volunteers safely to their destination. And thankfully, this time was no different. We safely arrived at our first destination stop: Kaliko Beach Resort. And this resort put those who often speak ill of Haiti’s appearance to shame. Beautiful isn’t the word to describe it. From the alluring ombre ocean water lightly kissing the shores, to the open bar that put a wide smile on all our faces and even the wide array of food served during lunch, buffet style, we all truly had a great time at the resort. It was comforting to get a relaxing start to our trip before the real work began.
Our yellow “limousine” safely took us to our shelter for the weekend: Pricilla’s Guest House in St. Michel. The many rooms with beds, the homecooked meals and the promises of cell phone internet access were all the amenities we would need for this trip; in fact, it was more than I expected: I was truly fine with just a roof over my head, food and a place to lay my head. We formally introduced ourselves to each other, and shared our expectations of the trip. Though they all varied, we could tell we shared the same mindset: we were there for others. The amount of servitude and selflessness was truly heart-warming; even our house host, who tripled as a mayor, pastor and doctor of theology was filled with so much gratitude for us volunteers, and Kore Haiti as a whole. We received our room assignments, and trickled away to shower, process the day, and get some much-needed rest.
Props to Day One, and I couldn’t wait to see what Day Two had in store.
An entire year’s worth of planning and correspondence all culminated on this ultimate Saturday morning with 26 strangers and some familiar faces meeting at Fort Lauderdale airport. No one seemed to notice or mind that they were at the airport at 3am! The intimidating job we were about to undertake reflected on most of our sleep-deprived faces. But the pure happiness to be among each other could still be palpated in the airport lobby. After the hassle of checking in equipment and supplies, we were on our way to Port-au-Prince.
At Port-au-Prince airport, the team was greeted by the bus driver, his wife, two volunteering Haitian dentists in Haiti and KORE Haiti’s very first intern, Nancy. We were not in Kansas anymore. You can tell who the new individuals on the trip are by their reaction to the welcoming local culture. Their beaming face of confusion and excitement could not be concealed. This year, the long drive to rural Saint-Michel de L’Attalaye was shrunken down to a manageable 5 hours by the recent paving of most of the road. The day incorporated a traditional cultural excursion/ relaxation activity that was always done in the past. This year, we decided to visit and have lunch at Kaliko beach, a resort that erased the conventional perspective of Haiti as the poorest country in the western hemisphere. The majestic undulating wave form of mountain figures in the background of clear blue skies reflecting on glistening beach water removed all the fatigue of being sleep deprived
From Kaliko beach, we still had 4 more hours to reach Priscilla’s guest house in St. Michel de L’Attalaye. Many slept on the remaining drive, not seeming to mind the constant honking of a bustling Haitian city or the constant interference of a jerking school bus trying to survive the gravel road. Perhaps they needed the rest to process the impending task they agreed to actuate as its looming view merged into existence with each rotation of the wheels on the bus.
The day ended with a group meeting reflecting on what we hoped to gain from the trip. The underlying theme was to bring a positive change to the community and inspire others to do the same.