Upon returning home from six weeks in Haiti this summer, many people greeted me with the question, “how was Haiti?” Not knowing what they were getting themselves into upon asking
that, some were shocked when I didn’t quickly reply with “it was good.” Don’t get me wrong- it’s not that I had a bad time while I was in Haiti, but there were a lot of things I experienced that were difficult. I saw children who weren’t sure if they were going to go to school for the following year because they couldn’t afford it. I saw children with orange-tinted hair and protruding bellies. I heard women say they were truly hopeless, not knowing what the next move to make would even be. There is so much more I could go on about, but seeing these things happen in front of your very eyes can be very hard to digest.
I particularly remember one of the hard things for me to watch was a young mother who lived in Bercy. Her name is Tikris and she is seventeen years old. I met Tikris one afternoon when she was helping around the Sant Mouvman. I loved getting to spend time with her in the afternoons doing laundry as we laughed because I was awful at it, I couldn’t make the “swish” noise! We would sing together and even though we barely got to talk because of the language barrier, we still were with each other having fun. But as our time came closer to an end, I was finally able to sit down with her and a translator and we were able to actually talk. She is currently living with family, but her parents are living in Brazil so she is fully independent regarding finances. She has to help pay rent, pay for food for both herself and her baby, and other things that can quickly add up when you do not have a job. She told me that she was not in school because she had a child and because she couldn’t afford it. She also told me that she did not have plans on going back. But the hardest part for me was when I asked, “if there was one job you could have for the rest of your life, what would it be? What is your dream job?” She laughed and said she did not have one.
Personally, I just graduated from high school and dropping out of school was never anything I would have ever considered. I’ve known for years exactly what I wanted to do with my life when I grew up and already had mapped out just how I was going to do that. It absolutely broke my heart to see that a beautiful young woman the same age as me may never get any of those opportunities and that she had never considered having a “dream job” because anything that would help support her financially was a dream come true. I will never know what it’s like to stop going to school after sixth grade, and even thinking about that as even a possibility in America just seems silly. But if anything, it was another reminder that we take our countless opportunities for granted in America. Tikris does not have the option to receive welfare or child support so that she can buy necessities and take care of her son. The only way Tikris can feed both herself and her child is if she goes out and finds work. In a culture where resources are limited and hope is low, it was incredible watching her fight the norms so she could keep moving forward. Tikris inspired me in more ways than one and I know that if it were me, I probably would have taken the easy way out.
Hannah Johnson spent six weeks in Haiti with the CPR-3 Compassion Intensive Training program. If you’re interested in more information about serving in Haiti, check out the Compassion Corp page.