Reflections after two weeks in Haiti from volunteer Adrian Saiz
Haiti Partners is thrilled to have Adrian Saiz, a recent graduate of the University of Southern California, volunteering at the Children’s Academy for the month of January. Here are Adrian’s reflections after his first two weeks in Haiti.
I’ve been in Haiti for 2 weeks now. With only two more weeks to go in my stay, I haven’t fixed anything. I haven’t solved any problems. I really haven’t done anything substantial to help Haiti at all. Did I expect to? A little bit, yeah. On my plane ride over, I was hoping I could show up and throw around a few creative ideas that would instantly make a Haitian’s life better. A generator here. A water purifier there. Bing, bang, boom – standard of living goes up. Everyone would love me and I would be the hero that dropped everything to sacrifice his precious time to help those in need.
“Good one.” Reality responded as it laughed in my face.
Haiti isn’t a poorly managed small business that simply needs a better understanding of inventory management. It’s a complex nation, filled with powerful, interweaving forces. No wonder reality was laughing at me. How could anyone possibly think that a system, with over 10 million proud and intelligent people, that has been around for 200+ years, could drastically improve in one month?
I quickly threw out my naively shallow dreams and I accepted that I knew nothing. Luckily, this clarity allowed me to start working on what I should really be doing to be as helpful as possible. A timely read article on the ‘White Knight’ mentality and observing the people that have actually made a difference gave me the wise advice that I desperately needed: listen and learn. It’s so simple, yet so critical. I wasn’t here to save the day or fix anything. I was here to be supportive.
The problems within a system as complex as a nation require dedicated people that are committed for years and years, putting forth effort one day at a time. People like Haiti Partners‘ co-founder, John Engle, an American who has spent the last 25 years in Haiti. Or Merline Engle, who was born and raised in Haiti and who knows the country firsthand. Neither of them have any intention of leaving Haiti any time soon because both of them understand that helping Haiti takes both passion and commitment, with extra emphasis on commitment. They were the people I was here to help. In this short time of 30 days, my role was to make their life easier so they could continue to work on their mission. It didn’t matter how, whether it involved assisting a small entrepreneurship program or picking up their kids from school. It was John and the amazing members of his organization that had dedicated their lives to helping Haiti. They were the ones doing the “saving”, each and every day with modesty and grace. I was just there as a reminder that there are people out there that respect and admire the work being done.
And I could not be happier playing a supportive role for Haiti Partners. I was welcomed into the Bellevue la Montagne community with open arms and smiling faces. I was able to accompany John to meetings with other inspiring, courageous, and committed change makers in Haiti. I’ve had the opportunity to hear many of John and his co-workers’ developments for Haiti Partners as a sounding board with a fresh perspective. And I have been a guest of an amazingly fun and caring family. To put the icing on the cake, I’ve been able to explore a rich and loving culture in a beautiful country. The amount that I have learned in the just the last two weeks, about Haiti, and about the world and about my relationship to it, has been staggering. Haiti Partners has given me a truly wonderful experience. I can’t wait to jump into it all over again in these next two weeks.
My advice to anyone wanting to go out and make a difference: find the people like John Engle and get ready to take notes. These are people who have truly committed themselves to helping troubled countries. They are the people who understand what it takes to make a difference and are in it for the long haul. Their compassion is boundless and their spirit moves mountains and they are the best place to start your own journey towards making a difference.
Here are some other wonderful people I have met that love Haiti to its very core, and whose organizations could always use more support:
- Patrick and Christine Moynihan, of the Haitian Project
- Louino ‘Robi’ Robillard, of Haiti Communitere
- Louis-Henri Mars, of Lakou Lapè
Adrian working with entrepreneurship program students at the Children’s Academy