Baie-Trinette - Trip to Haiti with BuildOn
Updated: May 23, 2019
Recent news of violence erupting in Haiti made me pause and count my blessings once again. Living in the US, we live in a bubble that sometimes it is easy to forget that we have so much to be grateful for. I had committed to working with Buildon as part of my Literally Literacy program to build a school in Managua, Nicaragua. Earlier this year, the state department had put out an advisory against traveling to Nicaragua due to civil unrest. We monitored the situation there all the way until May, a month before we were to leave. With the continued safety risk, plans were made to shift our effort to Haiti instead. I am glad we had completed our mission prior to this new developments in Haiti.
BuildOn is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to build schools in developing countries. As part of Literally Literacy's initiative to support the promotion of literacy, I went on a BuildOn project to Haiti to build a school in the small town of Baie-Trinette. I met some of my team at the Los Angeles airport and the rest in Miami. We were a group of 12 high school kids eager to make a difference. The youngest is only 14 years and is already planning her next trek.
When we arrived at Port-au-Prince, Haiti the heat and extreme poverty assailed our senses.The town was a day's bus ride from Port-Au-Prince and had no running water or electricity. We were not allowed to be on our phones but it didn't matter anyway as it was so remote there was no signal. We were greeted by the townspeople with branches of leaves. It was so festive that I thought this was an even better idea than the plastic disposable flags we wave at our parades back home.
The first order of business is a meeting with the townspeople and everyone had to sign a contract. Those who can write signed their name, and those who couldn't put a mark with their finger. The contract required the town to allow an equal number of girls and boys to attend the school once it is built. About a third of the adults used their thumbprint as their signature as they didn’t know how to write even just their name. What’s exciting about the school is that it would also be available for the adults to learn to read and write should they choose to.
It was grueling work, more so because of the heat. We had to make sure we drank enough water during the day. At the end of it we were exhausted and happy to just chill. We taught the kids to jump rope and card games like Uno. It was a bit challenging because of the language gap but they were happy just for the interaction. While we were there, we also learned how to weave a fishnet, make cassava bread and distill castor oil from beans.
We got to visit a completed BuildOn school in a nearby town. It was overall an exhausting but completely gratifying trip.