This may be my last post in Haiti; I leave on Monday for the States. As some may remember, I was supposed to fly out in August but things here are getting hairier as we get closer to the election date (fun fact: my original flight had me leaving the same day as the election, August 9th). I can’t miss school, which starts in just three weeks now, so it is best to leave now before I can’t leave at all.
Thus here I am, going into my final weekend and I’m still working to tie up all my loose ends. We have two big meetings the day before I leave to discuss the water system and the marketplace. I expect them to relatively heated so I am happy that my boss is flying in to help us handle them. Needless to say, most of my packing will need to take place today or the morning that I leave.
It’s hard to believe that my time is coming to a close. My description for this blog included the classic ‘Who What When Where’ but I neglected to put a ‘Why.’ Honestly, before coming down I didn’t really have a great answer for why I was doing this work. I wanted to make a difference where it matters most but honestly I didn’t really know what that meant. Now, after almost 7 months here in Haiti, I just hope that the hours and hours of work that I put in will help these wonderful, generous, and kind people in some way, no matter what way that is.
If anything I did made just a single person’s life a little easier—saving them a long trip to find clean water or providing light to study or improving the quality of their school building—I can truthfully say that everything was worth my time. And in my opinion, I know that I got a lot more out of this experience than any Haitian did.
I want to thank everyone who made this experience possible. Here in Haiti, Colon and Greg were two of my most loyal employees and best friends. I know I will keep in touch with them and advise them on their future endeavors (maybe they will even visit the US this winter). In the United States, David Vaughn, Jeff Plumblee, and Jennifer Ogle were my advisors for all our projects, did all the logistics, and are the main reason why this program exists in the first place. None of this could have happened without them. My parents were also incredibly supportive of me throughout this experience and were amazing to vent to when things got frustrating. In addition, my grandmother Harriet Smith is probably the most loyal follower of this blog and I want to thank her for her thoughts and prayers. To all my other family members and friends, thank you for your support and I look forward to seeing everyone again soon!
For those interested, I made a little FAQ below and am attaching some of my favorite pictures to this post. If you have any more questions about my experience or how to contribute to the work that we do, please email me at email@example.com or visit www.clemsonengineers.com.
What was your favorite experience?
My most memorable experience by far was the Morne Michel project. I loved living up there with only Haitians and getting to see what living in a completely different culture is really like. People up there have little to no exposure to white people or Americans so they just treated me like a Haitian. No one begged me for food, asked me for money, or judged me by the color of my skin the whole time.
While no electricity, running water, or proper housing may sound like a nightmare to some, I relished it and didn’t want to come back. Life was simpler there and our project brought the whole community together. I will never forget my time there.
What was the hardest thing you did?
The most difficult part of this experience was the loneliness. When you don’t have power or internet for days on end, you lose touch with your friends and family. One of the major things I am taking away from this experience is the incredible impacts that close friends and family have on your life. I’m not craving a hot shower, air conditioning, or food; I’m looking forward to spending time with the people I love.
What do you regret most?
What will you miss most in Haiti?
I am going to miss the work most. While this was definitely a job, I never felt like I was working as I enjoyed every day so much. I loved the projects and the feeling of making progress.
What is the biggest take-away for you?
Before coming down, I used to read a lot of literature concerning the developing world, global health, and international aid. These books constantly hit you with statistics about how many people lack access to water/sanitation and healthcare, how many families live in ‘extreme poverty’ and how many children go hungry every night. After living in the Global South for this long, these numbers are not just numbers anymore. I have met, talked to, and befriended people that contribute to these numbers. They have faces; they have names; they have stories. All that the statistics have done is dehumanize the development process. My biggest take-away is that in order for these development projects to succeed, you need to look beyond the economics of the situation and engage with the community. I believe that is the only way to tackle some of these pressing issues.
Will you return?
Yes. I’d love to.
So what’s next?
Great question. I’ve been planning this experience for so long that I haven’t really thought about what I am going to do now. I still have to finish school and will be serving as the head of all CEDC in the Fall. Next summer I’ll be looking for internships or research experiences that could build off what I have done here but I hope that I will never stop trying to help the people of Haiti and the destitute around in the world in any way I can.
In my first post I talked about my name and how it is difficult to pronounce here due to it's many vowels. I responded to many names in Haiti including Neg Morne Michel (Son of Morne Michel) and Ayitian (as opposed to blan) but my favorite nickname, and the nickname that stuck, is enjenye la.
It means 'The Engineer.'