Hey Curlfriends! Do yourself the favor and click that play button!
I apologize for the delay but there was so much to take in and process!
Last month, I anticipated heading to Haiti for a week! Being from the Caribbean, I said to myself, “There isn’t anything that I would see there, that I can’t see on my island.” And boy was I ignorantly wrong!
Let’s just start on how I got there in the first place.
I joined this leadership program called Public Allies, which was a story in itself! On my first meeting, with a group of 24 other allies (young adults placed in nonprofit positions), I had to listen to people present a TSP, which at the time I didn’t know what it meant. I later came to find out it meant… Well, I never learned what the “T” stood for, but I know it was a service project that directly affected the community. Our responsibility was to come up with a proposal for our project all by ourselves.
Now with a group of 25 young professionals, you’ld think it would be easy. BOY WAS I WRONG AGAIN! I’ve come to learn that it was a touchy subject and unless you were ready to go to war, it’ s best we didn’t even bring it up. However, this was my first meeting, so I didn’t know any better. I listened to a few presentations, but the one that enticed me was by a young woman named Eveline.
In preparation for my trip to Haiti, I held the mindset that I will be going to give. Instead I came back with much more in return!
First, I would like to introduce you to the DREAM TEAM! Each member held an important role.
Eveline- The Service Leader
Eveline was once a foster youth, who had been disconnected from her family at a young age. During adulthood, she reconnected with her family through Facebook. (Thanks Mark Zuckerberg!) She began traveling to La Gonave (the forgotten island of Haiti) and learned of the need and found ways that she was able to help. She started her own Non-profit organization which is called Pathways to Hope. She travels there twice a year to bring donations to those who are in need. She did everything from making sure paperwork and funds are cleared to planning a detailed trip of servitude.
This woman single-handedly made a huge impact on the lives of those in La Gonave as well as in Central Florida! She is nurturing and considerate. Everything of her reminds me of how my grandma treated me. The experience she provided all of us was by far unbeatable by any organization out there because it was authentic. One thing I will never forget is her hearty laugh that was incredibly infectious! I can still hear her trying to catch her breath as she wipes tears of laughter from her eyes.
Amanda- The Cultural Chameleon
She is the girl everyone fights for to be their roommate! Amanda can fit into every setting. She is a “go with the flow” type of girl, yet leaves a strong presence. She adapted to the culture quickly! She speaks Spanish and English fluently, which came in handy as she was able to break down language barriers between our group and natives during our trip. She always provided insightful opinions and low-key sarcastic jabs that left the crew in stitches. Amanda is the most well rounded, and sophisticated person I know! The TRUE definition of a lady. Oh! And the kids absolutely adores her!
Natalie- The Jokester
If I had a nickel for how many times I lost my bearings after laughing at her jokes. Natalie’s jolly spirit set the mood for the trip. Even when the team was frustrated or irritated she always made light of the situation. She beamed of pride to showcase her Jamaican and Haitian roots. She spent months preparing for the trip and learning about the culture. Her heritage sure did help us along the way.
Her can do attitude helped us get most of our donations through customs when we were told to throw them in the trash. Whenever I heard her say, “we can at least try,” I knew things will work out. Fun facts about Natalie she met her brother for the first time and she collects mini elephants from every country that she travels to. This trip would have made 8 elephants, unfortunately, elephants are scarce in Haiti. But all hope is not lost. She will be back in December!
Maria- The Ride or Die
Oh Maria, Maria! I swear! She is the one person you need to have with you if there is a zombie apocalypse. In every situation she provides the logic and the punchlines. She is tough, yet delicate and fun to be around. She is a straight shooter and is not afraid to get her hands dirty and is always willing to risk herself to get the job done.
She is super intuitive, which came in handy for our time in Port-au-Prince. One thing on the trip that I admired about her was that she was the girl who never hesitated to jump right in when no one else wanted to.
Did I mention she is high key the life of every party?
Tashea- The Journalist
Welp. Me! Since I am the narrator, I will let my story unfold in the upcoming blogs. I pretty much walked with my journal everywhere. I took pictures and I didn’t miss a beat. Even when I got the travel bug. (Yes I threw up!) I still rolled out of bed, so I didn’t miss out on any experiences! I’m the one who came up with illogical ideas that were crazy enough to work…sometimes. LOL I recorded every moment while still living in the moment.
This journey, I expected nothing more than to hand out donations and work on projects. Just to be a part of something. Prior to this trip, I tend to blend in with the background. With a team like ours, there was no way I could have done that. It was all our duty to bring what we had to support the team. They let me shine when I thought I was made of clay. This trip definitely showed me what I was made of, even though I wasn’t prepared for that responsibility. It broke me down, molded me, and polished me. Without this trip, I would have never known what I was made of.
Sandra- The Translator
This was Sandra’s second trip. A God-fearing native who now resides in the U.S. She was able to let us know when we were getting scammed. She was able to provide us with knowledge about the island and about the customs of the people. It was great to have her around because when other people were busy we ran to her.
She offered her fun-loving motherly spirit. She literally would take the clothes off her back. (That reminds me, I need to return your pants lol) All in all, Sandra sacrificed a week of her busy life as a mother, a wife, an employee to travel with us to make sure our trip was a success.
Jasmine- The Sweetheart
Jasmine was one of the foster youths that we took with us to La Gonave/ Haiti! Her bubbly personality and optimistic attitude was so refreshing. You will always find her having her personal impromptu photoshoots, while capturing the beauty of the island.
She was always willing to help and never had a sour attitude, even when things got a bit bumpy, she sucked it up and addressed it later.
For such a young person, I saw plenty of leadership skills that I wished I owned. At some point, I tried to adapt some of her mannerisms. I witnessed potential that has barely been scraped. She can potentially run the world with such skills!
Esperanza- The Baby Whisperer
Esperanza had the most shocking talent. She was able provide unconditional love to the children. It didn’t matter if the baby was ill with a runny nose, she held that baby as if it were her own. Literally the baby would physically look healthier after being in her arms.
Esperanza showed us the healing that love and nurturing can provide. She introduced the kids to the song that I have linked on this blog, “I know who I am” by Sinach. It is an inspirational song that played our entire trip. It became our theme song. She danced with the kids, played with the kids, loved the kids until there wasn’t any more room left for love.
She came with her sister Jasmine as a foster youth. They were almost inseparable, almost as though their identities were one. They both were able to find their place and learned where they fit in and how they complement one another.
Marven- The Protector.
Marven is the ideal man with the plan. With his love for children, servitude, and innate willingness to provide, there was nothing he could not accomplish! He was born and raised in Haiti. He was essentially the plug. There was nothing that you could want around Marven. He would go above and beyond to make sure our trip was seamless. He worked hand in hand with Eveline to make sure that everything we did made economical sense.
He made sure we weren’t taken advantage of. He stuck with us throughout the entire trip! Let me tell you, being around a group of women for 7 days must have drove him crazy, but he never gave up on us. If it weren’t for him we may have gotten caught up in a travelling nightmare.
With Marven around, I felt safe. We felt safe. It must be nerve racking to even have that type of responsibility, but he came through for us. Showed us an awesome time. I think we probably had the best trip out of all the trips thus far because Marven was an exceptional addition to our team. Having him on our team was like ordering three chicken tenders from Chic-fil-a and getting five!
Donald- The Dentist
This will all make sense in the next blog , but I want you to fall in love with the characters of the story prior to reading the story.
Meet Eveline’s brother Donald, When we were first introduced, I couldn’t even fathom what he was capable of. At the time, I was meeting so many people and I wasn’t quite sure I would meet him again.
He made sure we were taken care of. At this point, I didn’t even know what he did. I figured he was the muscle of the crew. Instead he helped us learn some Creole. He helped us understand the money. But the most important part, he made us feel at home. He opened up his home to us. He opened us up to his culture. These experiences you wouldn’t get anywhere else, even if you paid a million dollars. The authenticity of this trip was overwhelming.
He shared tips on how to be more comfortable. He gave us a tour of La Gonave, parts that you wouldn’t be able to see if you were “just a tourist.” He worked hard with Eveline and Marven to make sure we felt at home. For that, I am forever grateful.
I later on found out that he is a dentist! He gave up 3 days of work to make our mission a success. He is the true definition of selfless, just like the rest of his family.
Dr. Jules- The Doctor
He is the doctor, but he is also an inspiration. He carried the first part of our trip. His parting speech stayed with me and became my life’s motto. “People will always try to tell you who you are, but if you don’t know who you are, you will begin to believe them.”
His words came just in time. I was finding myself, and those words were the last piece to the puzzle. Of course, I am still growing, but I have learned my foundation.
He believes laughter is the best medicine. He was serious about his work, but he fit right in with a group full of comedians, goofballs and people who love to laugh,
My favorite part was the witty comebacks to Natalie. The entire trip was a spiritual healing. I came on a trip with nothing but God fearing people, and people who just love life. They weren’t there for the selfie opportunities. They were there just to be part of something big, and in turn received so much more.
I truly met myself for the first time when I went to La Gonave. I gained new experiences, as well as gained a new family. I was saddened to leave Haiti. We all went out of our way to show how much we cared for one another. We defended our team when outsiders attacked one of our members. We stuck together and shared memories. Through it all, we rode for each other until the wheels fell off. (No literally, we basically had to push a car up a cliff TWICE!) The love we shared was irreplaceable, I couldn’t ask for a better team!
Okay so now that you know the team…. Stay tuned for the story!