April 2010: A freshman and pre-med student at Santa Clara University, I was standing in line for dinner when my cell phone rang. I answered to hear my mother’s voice and the question: “Would you be interested in going to Haiti this summer?” I am ashamed to admit it, but I laughed. I laughed because that is a question I was not expecting from the other end of the line. (Usually I received phone calls asking how to change the channel on the TV or turn on the computer.) And I laughed because, well, what did I–a college freshman–have to offer a country like Haiti? She explained that she had heard of a group doing physical therapy and in need of additional help. As I was finishing up an EMT course, I might be able to be of assistance as well. So, after the initial shock of the question, I decided I was on board with the idea and grew to realize that this would be an experience that would open my eyes to how much of the rest of the world lives. Never would I have guessed that what I would experience would change my life in the way it did.
July 2010: The moment we walked out of the Port-au-Prince airport was a significant life-changing experience, a moment that would lead me places I never would have imagined. I remember the children lined up, fingers intertwined with the chain link fence, yelling at us. I remember the feeling of my heart dropping to my toes as the reality of where I was and what I would experience finally struck me in an all too real way. And I felt weak. I felt powerless and small. But as we loaded into the car, rolled down the windows, and drove to Fond Parisien, I lost a piece of myself to Haiti that I will never get back. We worked in Camp Hope with the organization Hands of Light in Action for 7 days, my mom doing physical therapy and myself organizing charts and patients and playing with the children. I left knowing that I needed to come back and the day I got home I booked my return flight for September.
September 2010: The second experience I had was just as amazing as the first, if not more so. Going by myself this time, I was granted the independence to experience everything a little bit differently. I had wholeheartedly fallen in love with Haiti and the Haitian people even if I could not put a finger on why, how, or when. I left with the knowledge that I would be back someday, even if I did not know when that day would come. I arrived in San Diego planning to drive back to school and start my sophomore year in less than a week. But the day before I was scheduled to leave, I decided that I needed to be in Haiti. For the first time in my life, I put the “safe route” on hold and followed my heart. I called Santa Clara University and took a leave of absence for the 2010-2011 school year, contacting FFP Associate Director, Wendy Patchin, only hours later.
Foundation for Peace accepted me as an intern in Haiti for ten months and I will never be able to put into words what this opportunity has meant to me. I am working with an incredible staff teaching English in Fond Parisien and assisting short-term mission teams in the country. My love for Haiti and her people grows daily and so does my admiration for Foundation for Peace. Despite the challenges we often face, I go to bed every night and wake up every morning grateful to be where I am, doing what I am doing. The work Foundation for Peace does, and the passion they have for doing it, gives me the assurance that we are making a difference. I could not have asked for better people to be working for and alongside.
In just 20 years, I have had the opportunity to experience things many people will never have the chance to in a lifetime and I will be forever grateful for that. While I had to make some tough decisions and ride some emotional roller coasters to get where I am today, I do not doubt for a minute that I am exactly where I should be.