February 24, 2011
How do you prepare yourself for an event you know is going to change your life forever?
I’ve been trying to figure out the answer to that question since Jan. 18, when I spontaneously decided to join a team of eight embarking on an eight-day journey to Haiti.
I’ve had to learn the hard way that not all life-changing events are positive and one can’t always be prepared for them, especially if we don’t see it coming. This was the case in summer 2009 when I lost my boyfriend at the age of 24 in a terrible accident.
Since then, I’ve been struggling to cope with my loss, but have slowly come to realize there are lots of people hurting in this world and I wasn’t alone. I realized the direction my life takes after this tragedy is up to me. I could easily spend the rest of my life allowing the pain to consume me or I could use it to go out and help others through their tragedies by bringing an understanding, hope and healing while maybe even finding some for myself along the way as well.
This is where my spontaneous decision to join a team and travel to Haiti came into play. I found out about the opportunity through my church (Hosanna in Lakeville). The organization we are partnering with is Lifeline Haiti, a small aid group founded by a retired member of Royal Canadian Mounted Police named Bob Davisson.
During our stay, we will be assisting in building a hospital and working at an orphanage in the village of Jacmel on the southern coast. I’ve spent the last month getting more vaccinations than I ever knew existed, purchasing a required international volunteer insurance card, attending training sessions for culture shock and being prepped on the current status of the country and relief efforts. I’ve been in and out of stores purchasing supplies for the Haitians, water bottles, medications, flashlights, toilet paper, water filters — you name it!
We just had our final team meeting before departure. I hadn’t really had much time to think about the trip and any of the dangers that may come with it until I was made fully aware of them at the meeting.
We were informed of the violence, unrest and medical crises that continue to unsettle Haiti. We heard about a team that got robbed by armed men. Our dwelling place is said to have a “security guard,” but we’re told he will be unarmed.
The cholera outbreak is still going strong and we will be working in intense heat and humidity, relying only on protein bars and our water filters to get us through the days. There are plans in place to airlift anyone who may get sick back to the states and a small plane to fly us out of the country if the violence gets bad enough where they feel we are no longer safe in the shelter.
The closer it gets to March 15, the more uneasy I get. At the same time, I can’t help but feel guilty for those feelings. At the end of those eight days, I get to board a plane and leave it all behind. I get to come back to the states and all the everyday conveniences we have that are so often overlooked and taken for granted. The fears, safety issues and poverty I have to face for eight days, many Haitians have to face for their entire lives.
I still am not quite sure how to prepare myself for this life-changing event, but I do know one thing’s for sure, I will come back with a whole new perspective on life in a positive way. I’ve been told I will want to throw everything away after seeing how much I have and how little they do. There’s no doubt it will be a big reality check. I think we all could use one of those every once in a while. I look forward to this journey with lots of fear and excitement and I’m sure I will come back with many stories to share.
We can’t always control what happens in life, but we can control our attitudes and reactions to it.
What are some positive, life-changing experiences you have had? How did you prepare for them? Do you have any advice for me?
[Photo: Students at a school in Jacmel built by Lifeline Haiti]