People for Haiti was introduced to me by my dear friend Tammy Denbo. Tammy has always had a compassionate heart and has donated countless hours to multiple charities. People for Haiti was different though – it seemed to consume her (in the best way possible). After a few casual mentions, I decided to do some research and check out the People for Haiti website. I was immediately hooked. The photos and stories on the website were swirling in my mind and I too became consumed. When can I go? How could I help? I’m not a doctor or a nurse…what would I even do? With all of these questions and uncertainties looming, I quickly decided to jump in and commit to join the January team.
At the first team meeting, the non-medical first-timers were told that “your role will find you”. I am a Cheerleading Manager for an NFL team and the closest my job gets to something related to this trip is participating in local and international service projects as a representative of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. How in the world can I help in Haiti?
Accept the journey. You will find your role.
In the weeks leading up to the trip, I looked at the website daily, pouring over the photos and faces of the children that I would soon meet. Though excited about the trip, I was anxious to step into this unknown world. From the minute we met bright and early at the airport, my anxiety began to slip away as our team bond quickly formed. Each member of the team possessed a compassionate, selfless quality that is all too rare these days. It was amazing to me that each person was willing to step away from their families, school, work, and everyday comforts in order to bring kindness and the gift of health to complete strangers. They became my friends, my adventure partners, my support and my inspiration to be a better a person.
Upon arriving at the orphanage (I will spare you the insane Haitian airport scene. haha) we were welcomed by the familiar faces that I had come to know from the online photos. With their welcoming arms, beautiful smiles, and warm hugs, it felt as if I was being greeted by family. The connection and bond flourished from that moment.
The medical clinics were a complete new experience for me. I witnessed the patience and graciousness of the people waiting for hours to get medical care. I saw doctors with an absolutely tireless commitment to treat every single patient with kindness and dignity. Our team worked diligently to ensure that 350+ people a day were treated with respect and a genuine smile. At times I was the support crew, ran the prescriptions, helped at triage, weighed the kids, helped in the pharmacy, was team photographer and gave smiles to whomever I made eye contact with. At the first clinic, a little guy that just wanted to be held found me. Guiga kindly approached me and told me to step aside with him. To go enjoy that moment with him…what a priceless gift she gave me. It was cooI. I found my place. I found my role.
I am often asked “How was your trip” and I still struggle with an answer. I can tell you sad stories of unfortunate people in an unfortunate place, of people that do not have opportunities, proper sanitation, healthcare or even the basic human needs like water, of children that do not have protection or a voice against abuse. But I can also tell you stories of hope. They are stories of beautiful smiles, hearty laughs, and glances of thankfulness. It is not something you can understand until you live it, feel it and look in the eyes of the people that you encounter. So go and experience it, then you will get it.
Thank you People for Haiti for opening my eyes and reawaking my spirit of compassion!
And to the selfless and authentic Guiga Vieira- you are changing the world with your courage and compassion. Thank you for the inspiration.
Looking forward to July when my husband Nate will join me in my next Haiti adventure.