Last weekend, Shannon Miller flew down to Cap Haiten, Haiti along with 2 companions – Jay Owen and Chris Kamienski. Neither Jay nor Chris had ever travelled to Haiti before.
Although Shannon is staying in Haiti for 2 more weeks, Jay and Chris returned after a weekend immersion trip. FPSM sat down with them after they returned home to ask a few questions…
What were your expectations going into the trip?
JO: I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. This was the first time I’ve been to a country in the condition of Haiti and didn’t know how bad things might be.
CK: I didn’t really have any expectations. I really tried not to think about it too much so that I could take it all in and see it through my own eyes.
What surprised you the most during your time in Haiti?
JO: The sheer volume of trash and sewage in the cities was pretty surprising. They have no cetral trash system, so they just dump trash on the streets and use the bathroom in the rivers. The sight and smell was extremely overwhelming at first.
CK: I agree with Jay – I think the most surprising things were the amount of garbage in the streets and water ways and the lack of electricity in almost all locations, especially out of the city. Just experiencing the darkness after 6:30 in places where there were no streetlights and seeing how that plays itself out in every day life was really impactful.
How were you most deeply impacted by the people and the lives that you experienced there?
JO: The joy of the children in even the worst of conditions was something that really sticks with you. They had nothing, but yet they would laugh and smile and play like any of our kids would. Their apparent joy in the midst of great poverty was deeply humbling.
CK: Again, I agree – I think I was most impacted by seeing the children still have a lot of joy regardless of their circumstances. They had little, yet they seemed very content and full of joy no matter what they were doing. I was also amazed at the work and effort that was put in by so many people. Even though they did not necessarily have much to show for their efforts, the Haitians work really hard to survive and to provide for their families and one another. The amount of toil, effort, and energy it takes to live day to day is staggering especially when considering the results and the return.
What were the strongest takeaways from your trip?
JO: There were so many takeaways that I’m not sure where to start, but the two biggest that come to mind are… First, that there is a real and serious need for things we, as Americans, consider to be basic — clean water, simple bathrooms, and basic education. And second, that even in the midst of very challenging situations, it is possible to be joyful. Joy does not have to be restricted to those with money, power, and things.
What do you wish you would have known before you left?
JO: I’m not sure there’s anything I’d want to know before I went. I appreciated the impact of the raw environment.
CK: I think knowing more about the political history would have been interesting before going to help explain some of the key differences between what we know in the US and what they experience in Haiti. The lack of governmental involvement and support is hard to grasp without a history lesson! Otherwise, I think going in blind is a great way to experience it.
What would you say to someone thinking of going to Haiti?
JO: Go. If you have the resources to make the trip with an organization or people who can provide a good plan for the visit, going will change your outlook on the world and your life. My short trip there has been deeply impactful on my thoughts and actions.
CK: If you have the resources to travel to Haiti, it is a must. The experience will be so worth the time and money spent. It will open your eyes and create a perspective that everyone should encounter.
Did your time in Milot change your impression of FPSM and the ministry at all?
CK: My time in Milot added a good perspective of the life that exists outside the city in the rural areas of Haiti. Canvassing the area, talking to families, and seeing the needs was extremely helpful in trying to cast the vision for going forward.
Who, in your opinion, should actually go to Haiti?
JO: I’d recommend the trip for individuals and families looking to expand their vision of the world.
CK: I think anyone should go to Haiti who has the resources and the desire to learn about the conditions that other countries live in. I think that teenagers, students, and adults would all benefit from the experience of going to see, experience, and get to know the people of Haiti.
Were you scared?
JO: I’d like to say no, but when we first walked out of the airport and ventured into the city the overwhelming reality of the circumstances, number of people, and amount of noise definitely generated some fear. Traveling with Shannon made it feel safe very quickly. Her ability to fluently speak the language makes a big difference in all environments and in the relationships with the people in Haiti.
CK: I never felt scared at all. Shannon was an amazing guide. Between the ministry team in Haiti and Shannon, I never felt like there was anything that was uncomfortable.
What are your thoughts about going back?
JO: The first day in Haiti was so powerful that I honestly wanted to go straight home. By the 2nd day, however, I wanted to stay. Now that I’m back home, I can’t wait to get back to Haiti and be with those people again. I’ll definitely go back in the next 12-18 months.
CK: I would absolutely go back and hope to do so within the next 12 months.
JO: It’s easy to get caught up in our own lives. We all have real issues, real joys, real problems, and real hurts that we have and are experiencing — but when you have the opportunity to take yourself out of your own world and be placed in the world of others, it can change your spirit. Even my worst of days would likely be a pretty good day for many of those in Haiti. You cannot look into the eyes of these Haitian children and not be touched in the most profound way.
We have been blessed with the privilege of being born in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. But bravery often requires that we step outside of our comfort zone and reach to those in need. We have that opportunity in Haiti and I hope that many of you reading this will come along side FPSM in whatever what you’re able. Together, we can help — and if we can, we should.
At FPSM, we are committed to doing everything we can to make the most impact on the lives of the residents of Milot in the name of Christ. Perhaps that includes a trip to Haiti for you…we can’t guarantee that you’ll want to come home, once you’ve met the people. We can guarantee that it could change your heart…forever.
For more information on upcoming trips to Haiti, please email [email protected].