Monday, January 10, 2011

Muey Fatigue Ampiel (I am very tired)

Following up on Mike's post below, I'll try and keep mine short. But that'll probably not end up being the case.

I just took a hot shower and the water supply didn't come from a bucket. America.

Eric and I left the All Hands base in Leogane early on Sunday morning to a hugs and well-wishes from a few unfortunate souls who occupied bunks nearby. I gave Chris a trademark "Scissor Handshake," wished him luck and told him to "do good shit down here." He will.

Walking in the dark to the bus station with Eric, we talked about our experience and what we'll take away from it. He expressed a little shock that he'd come to Haiti in the first place, confidence in the "All Hands" integrated method of community involvement in projects and a desire to return to the project sometime in the future. I agreed. All Hands is an organization that becomes part of the community and affects change from within. It not only rebuilds the infrastructure and with direct aid in response to disasters, but also provides a platform for volunteers of all stripes and abilities to be useful in whatever capacity they may be able.

Our last night at base coincided with the Local Volunteer Graduation Ceremony, in which the first round of local volunteers were celebrated for their work and commitment to the organization, projects and community. They were people we had worked beside or eaten with during our month of volunteering. Their families came and they received certificates of completion in recognition of their dedication to All Hands, many rounds of applause, hugs and pats on the back.

They don't ask for it, but they deserve much more recognition than that. The local volunteer program is integral to All Hands' work and, I'm sure, will insure that members of the community remain engaged and invested in progress after the organization leaves Leogane in a year or so.

It's funny. Our group, and many of our friends and colleagues, talk a lot amongst ourselves about the concept of service, reinvesting in one's own community and the motivations to get involved. I didn't realize how universal that concept could be, particularly in places where it may otherwise appear to be absent. The message was evident, though, in the speeches of some of the local volunteers at the ceremony.

The local volunteers weren't just proud for having helped their community or of the completion of their commitment to the program. They weren't just clearing rubble or building schools or making Bio-Sand Water Filters. They were a part of something much, much bigger and, ultimately, just as valuable for the community...if not more. Young people with exposure to the international community, significant experience with an international NGO, training, skills and a real desire to affect change in their community and country.

Speeches commenced and a sea of people, including families, other local volunteers, "Blanc" volunteers from all over the world, staff and the Executive Director of the organization listened. Whether it was for the realization that the impact of service on the individual is universal or for savoring one of my final bottles of Prestige in Haiti, I found myself blinking out a few tears as Vlad translated his speech into English, a language he presumably hadn't known prior to working with All Hands.

What I'll ultimately take away from our trip was a little more simplistic. It was easy. Don't get me wrong - the work was hard and there were logistical aspects of everything that were certainly not easy. Rare was a day that we didn't return tired, filthy and beat, but we were always ready for more. Relative to the greater task at hand, it was easy to coordinate and easy to be there. Easy to make friends and easy to get involved. The support of our friends and families made made it even easier to go and if we haven't thanked you enough already, I'd like to take this opportunity to do so again. So, Thanks. Really.

Simultaneously the easiest and trickiest part is to decide to go and when, to want to do something and doing it. The learning and experiences come after that. And everything after that is still kind of easy. So, go. If not to Haiti, then maybe somewhere else. It's universal and it makes you feel good. You meet great people and you learn new things. So that's something, too.

Eric and I took a bus from Leogane to Port au Prince, where we hired our last motorcycles to drive us to the airport. In Florida, we took a taxi to the beach in Fort Lauderdale and were a little disoriented by the orderly fashion in which cars drove down the street one-by-one and without honking their horns. The clean air and streets. The "plastic" scenery, the cleanliness and facility of our surroundings.

I slept on the floor of the Fort Lauderdale airport for a while, waking up to find that Atlanta was snowed in and caught a standby seat in business class to Baltimore, where I slept on the floor again, and finally made it to New Orleans after a little over 36 hours of travel. For me, classes begin again tomorrow and being a 26-year-old non-traditional student in Freshman English promises to be even more interesting on the heels of this past month.

Thanks again to everyone. Thanks for your support. Thanks to Brendan, Mike, Chris and Eric for going on this magic carpet ride.

Muey fatigue ampiel. I am very tired.


No comments:

Post a Comment