I spent a total of two weeks in Haiti with the organization Volunteers For Peace. I primarily led a summer camp with three other volunteers for about 45 children aged 10-17, which took place in a very simple concrete/metal roof structure. Having the opportunity to teach in the rural village of Duchity was truly unique and I am extremely grateful to the World Affairs Council of Charlotte for awarding me this opportunity. I would also like to thank UNC Charlotte, Carolinas HealthCare System and Wells Fargo for supporting the 2014-2015 Council Scholar Award Program.
My days began at roughly 8 am with breakfast. Camp ran from 9 a.m. -12 p.m. Monday through Friday. I participated in the second session which ran from July 20th-31st. I taught an English lesson from 9-10 followed by arts and crafts activities as well as games from 10-11. The last hour was held on the soccer field, where we exchanged through play and also had the opportunity to be with the younger group of children aged 5-10.
Afternoons were spent doing cultural activities with the other volunteers and our Haitian leaders, such as going to the outdoor market stalls or hiking to the village water source, or simply playing cards with some of our students. We were completely immersed in the village and the Haitian lifestyle.
While I did my best to learn as much Haitian Creole as possible before and during my stay, it was sometimes difficult to communicate. I do believe, however, that my fluency in French gave me a clear advantage over the other volunteers and allowed me to have a much more rewarding experience. I met several Haitians with excellent French and the others that I worked with spoke English well enough.
This experience has made a huge impact on me, both professionally and personally. Living and working in the poorest country in the Western hemisphere definitely gave me a new perspective on my own life. I can no longer take something as simple as disinfecting and bandaging cuts and scrapes for granted. And I am confident that the time and energy I gave had a positive influence on the children. Seeing girls wearing the donated dresses was wonderful and hearing them use the vocabulary they learned at camp was incredible. The smiles on their faces at a party on our final day were unforgettable. Overall, it was a wonderful cultural exchange. I look forward to sharing my experience with the Cannon School community.