In July 2011, I travelled to N.W. Haiti on a vision trip for Got Your Back. Typically, these trips are used to gather invaluable information concerning the problems, challenges & any hurdles we may potentially face in any new area we are planning to work in. I’ve been on a bunch of these types of trips before and I’d been to Haiti before, but this was my first time to the N.W. Region.
Now, typically, these trips are pretty straightforward. You visit some schools, meet headmasters & teachers, interview potential tailors, conduct various levels of community assessments, work through some logistics with the on-ground partner, meet a lot of locals, and hug a ton of kids. This trip really wasn’t any different in that regard.
I’ve been on multiple trips to 3rd World Countries and I’ve certainly been exposed to many forms of extreme poverty. There’s not too much I’m shocked by, no matter where I go. But something about this trip was different. Something got me... and no it wasn’t malaria.
As you may know, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It’s remained in a constant state of arrested development for almost two centuries. The entire country was in shambles long before the now famous earthquake and to this date many are still forced to live in tents. The earthquake not only compounded problems and added additional strain on the already struggling infrastructure, but it also did something very important. It raised the visibility of a struggling country and projected Haiti to the forefront of the public eye… even if only for a few short moments.
The N.W. Region of Haiti is the poorest part of Haiti, which makes it the poorest place this side of the planet. Many would even argue that this area is THE poorest place on earth. It’s difficult to travel throughout this region due to poorly unmarked roads or lack thereof. The whole area is somewhat isolated from access to materials, goods, and common necessities for life. Needless to say, I knew I’d be facing something new, something unique.
During my time there, I bounced all over the area. I visited numerous communities, villages and towns. I interviewed a large number of women for tailoring jobs, visited potential partner schools and never slept in the same town more than once. Our on-ground partner, Help Heal Haiti/NWHCM, has been active in the N.W. for more than 30 years and they themselves have programs in over 35 communities throughout the region. It was vital that I was exposed to a wide range of locations so I could gather as much information as possible to help establish a solid strategy for our expansion into this area.
The Haitian people are resilient and unshaken. They are predominately young, ambitious and determined. 42% are 14 years old or younger. Yet, 50% of all school-aged children are not enrolled in school. 30% of kids will never make it past the 3rd Grade and 60% will never make it past the 6th. 1 out of every 3 girls past the age of 6 years old will NEVER even attend school at all.
Any way that you look at it, those numbers are alarming.
Education is VITAL to Haiti’s economic growth & long-term sustainability. I’m excited that we have the ability to provide a life-changing opportunity for the children of Haiti. Access to school, through the provision of school uniforms, is the pathway towards a hopeful, sustainable future.
The reason this trip was different for me from many others before it, was because, for the first time, I experienced the intangible properties of an attribute I had often only read about and rarely caught mere glimpses of before. I witnessed firsthand the hope that is alive in the youth of Haiti, even amongst those in the most extreme of situations.
In N.W. Haiti, although it’s shrouded in a darkened cloud of poverty, hope lives. Hope transcends problems and lights a pathway through the darkness. Hope silences naysayers and breaks down walls. Hope perseveres in trials and thrives in despair. This hope is the light that will drive the darkness of poverty away from Haiti forever.
Our on-ground partner is the largest N.G.O. (Non-Government Organization) in all of N.W. Haiti. Alongside them, over the upcoming years, we will have the ability to affect tens of thousands of children’s lives and radically change Haiti forever.
I hope that you will join us in the movement to make education possible for every child in N.W. Haiti.
-Will Hill - Executive Director