09 March 2017
Tagged in: Audience
Standing with Haiti
We spoke with Paul, our infamous payroll hero, to hear about his experience last year visiting the projects and initiatives PGC support in Haiti through Compassion. It was a pretty impacting trip as he explained:
Paul, how was your time in Haiti last year, was it very different to what you expected?
Yes, and no, I had a relatively accurate image in my mind about what the situation would be but being one on one with it was not what I expected. It was so much more.
I knew that Haiti had a lot of financial issues, it’s a poverty stricken nation, has had multiple natural disasters, political aid, political turmoil. So I had this idea in my mind (of what to expect) however going there and seeing people actually enduring and living in those circumstances and being so spirited despite it, it unraveled me.
How would you explain what it was like to experience being there after having only heard about it?
The circumstances that people in Haiti live under, it’s textbook versus experience. Just stepping foot into a village and understanding the minutiae of their day was so real. For example I was drinking a bottle of spring water, and standing next to a woman who had just walked four hours to get ‘fresh’ water for her kids. That contrast, you don’t feel that, until you’re standing right there.
And then you drive around and the roads are completely in shambles, there’s no rules on the roads. And you can start focusing in on all this negative, but you look around and you see all these happy people. Their spirit is so remarkable, these people are celebrating life in whatever way they can. They’re happy – it’s amazing, they objectively have nothing in their lives in terms of goods, possessions, valuable objects and yet they’ll give you everything they have because their hearts are so generous, everybody was very joyful, it’s as if they just wanted to give you their soul, they wanted to bare it to you. It’s unreal. When you leave Haiti you take a part of that spirit with you. The Haitian people are remarkable people.
Was there any specifically impacting conversations you had with locals during your time there?
We talked to one girl who had gone through the NGO’s children’s program and was now in college. Her life was such a shattering reality check and inspiration. She has achieved more with so little than all of us there had, she was so outgoing and her ambitions were not limited by her difficult situation. She knew she had challenges in life. She knew that she had to do way better at those challenges than someone who had the easy way. She had a lot of darkness and sadness in her life that she talked about but she was not demotivated. She was learning multiple languages. She was going to make it no matter what. Just wow, the character of this girl.
What impact did this time in Haiti have on you?
I know it humbled me, I went in there pretty jaded, thinking it’s going to be sad. I left, I came home, I looked around my apartment and realized, I don’t care about any of this, not my T.V., my possessions. None of this really matters in the long run, in the big picture. You realize what desires you actually need.
Before going to Haiti last year I didn’t think that it was going to break down the walls of my callous heart, but it did. This year I’m expecting to be thrown back into that mix of emotions, and re-realizations. It’s almost like re-centering yourself internally, and re-prioritizing what you feel is important, necessary. I don’t know if returning will have that first initial impact that it had, because I carry that with me still, it’s not faded, it just the day to day of life has piled on top of it, but if I sit there and meditate and reflect on that trip that wellspring of feelings will be right back in full force. So I’m assuming I’ll be right there again, it just won’t be a shock this time. It definitely makes you question how you weave your way in and out of the world.
What were your thoughts on the computer lab PGC were able to build in the school community there?
I felt like I wasn’t doing my share, we are getting this tour of all this hard work that these people have put together with the limited resources we have been able to give them. It’s not like we dropped a crate of money, and knowledge, and resources, and people to do this. These people banded together to take the limited amount of resources we were able to provide them and to make something remarkable out of it.
That computer lab, it is going to be profound for them. These people don’t have a way to elevate themselves in many ways. And being part of the internet world, being connected to outside their little village, it may not empower everybody, but it will give more people the ability to go beyond their situation and beyond their circumstances. Any one of those kids could be the next global business genius and the sheer fact that they can go online and self study and see what the world beyond their location is can give them global perspective. It could be the reason the change starts. And I know that’s idealistic thinking. Maybe that will happen, maybe it won’t, but now they have opportunity where they didn’t. The fact that the training is there for them to get on the internet, to learn to use technology and then to be connected to the world automatically sets the stage for something great to happen!
So I felt a lot of pride of what was going on there, to be part of an organization that is willing to go beyond their bottom line to reach out and do this, not for social responsibility slash tax write off but because this is their true desire, just to do something great, some sort of good for people. It’s wonderful, it felt wonderful to be a part of that.
What would you like to see in Haiti’s future?
Haiti has had natural disaster after natural disaster, they don’t have an economy to speak of. They have been taking in so much global aid that if they were to roll back any of it they’d just collapse. They’re in such desperate need for infrastructure, a true governing body that can create positive change, and education.
You want to believe that every little bit helps, but its’ going to take a lot more to get that country in a good way. It’s tricky, I just hope that more people pay attention, and take action.