After our trip, our last semester at Boston College got incredibly busy. As we reembarked into our lives, it was inevitable that moments from the trip resurfaced and impacted our daily lives. In the midst of their numerous activities, several students have been able to write post-trip reflections and volunteered to share them on the blog. Seeing the trip's impact on their lives will forever remain an intrigue. What has been most interesting is how the same exact experience impacts each person differently. Enjoy the read and happy summer, until next year's trip!!
Driving from Port-au-Prince to Leogane, where the guesthouse was located, my eyes were opened to the extremely impoverished living conditions in which the people of Haiti lived. As we drove through the city, “tent-city,” we saw, first-hand, the devastating effects of the earthquake that occurred four years ago. However, it was not the poverty and the suffering that struck me the most; despite the emotional, physical, and economical suffering that many of the Haitian people must endure, I witnessed a unique sense of spirituality, compassion, loyalty, and kindness among the Haitian community that I had never seen in the United States. After attending mass in Leogane on the first Sunday of our trip, I watched the congregation, ranging from newborn infants to elderly grandparents and great-grandparents, come together in prayer and share their faith with one another. In a place where there has been great loss and suffering, the people of Haiti have still found a way to come together, celebrate their faith, and maintain hope.
My most memorable experiences of the trip included going on the home visits throughout the village located on the mountaintop in the village of Trouin. It was during the home visits that I was provided with a better insight into some of the lives of the Haitian people. A group of us (Donna, Mary Kate, Shri, and I) assisted an extremely sick man back to his home, where we would provide him with the medication that he needed to be as comfortable as possible to allow a pain-free and peaceful death. We left the patient under his favorite tree, surrounded by some of his family members. Although it was extremely painful to watch the helplessness in this man’s eyes, and the sadness in the eyes of his family members, it was in this moment that I learned one of the most important roles of the nurse: to provide comfort and hope when patients and their families feel alone, helpless, and hopeless. While we had cultural and language barriers in our way, our presence, we hoped, offered the comfort and peace that he needed at the end of his life. No matter one’s country of origin, socioeconomic status, language, and culture, every individual deserves to be treated with respect, dignity, and love.
I am extremely fortunate to have had this opportunity to embark on this journey with nine of my nursing classmates, four graduate students, nurse practitioners, and Donna. Each and every person that I shared this experience with showed me what it truly means to be “men and women for others.” I look up to every one of these ladies, as their compassion and commitment to service is truly inspiring. This journey to Haiti has not ended, as this experience will remain with me throughout the rest of my life.
God gave me a beautiful, blessed life. I have more love in my life than I know what to do with, and for this reason I feel that I am called to share it with others that are not as fortunate as I. Hence, nursing is my vocation, my calling. I also truly believe that it was in His plan for me to go to Haiti; to learn and grow from all of the wonderful women I went with and to be forever touched by the people we encountered. We had an incredible team that went to Haiti, each one of us bringing another remarkable approach to the care that we provided. I do not want to underestimate the impact that the free medications and procedures had upon the people of Haiti, for both of these things had the ability to provide immediate relief of ailments or prevention of more serious conditions. The sustainability of education within our dental hygiene, nutrition, cycle bead, and other teaching projects also must be noted as significant within the villages that we traveled to. However, I think the biggest impact that we made in Haiti was the love that we shared and the message we sent that to each person we talked with that someone cared. Someone wanted to listen about your headaches and back pain. Someone wanted to make sure that your child did not contract worms. Someone wanted to help relieve your acid reflux. Someone wanted to check to make sure that you did not have cervical cancer. By going on a medical mission to share God’s love, we not only provided the Haitian people with love and faith in God and humanity, but I was overwhelmed by the amount that we received in return. The people of Haiti may not have much, but they have an astounding amount of faith and love that truly touched me and I hope to emulate. One woman, after being seen through triage, cared for by the providers, and simply given vitamins and ibuprofen and biofreeze for her muscle aches proclaimed to the heavens, “Thank you God, thank you for sending us these saviors.” The love we received through simple acts of kindness was overwhelming, and transformational. Most people search a lifetime for the opportunity to positively impact someone’s life. As nurses, we are blessed with the chance to touch and even save people’s lives daily. It is up to us to face and embrace this challenge, with the full force of our knowledge, skills, compassion, and God’s grace, in attempt to make the world and the people in it better and more just when we leave because we cared. Through this process, we receive the most precious gift of all, as demonstrated through the love and gratitude that the Haitian people gave us. For this reason, I feel compelled to give at least two weeks a year to those suffering from financial, emotional, physical and mental poverty within Haiti, other nations, and even in our own backyard. After an experience like that in Haiti, it is honestly the very least that I could do.
My experience in Haiti is something that I cannot quite describe in a few words. It was an absolutely amazing experience because it was like being reunited with an old and dear friend. I grew up in Haiti, but had never been back since I moved to the US in 2000. So, things were familiar and unfamiliar all at the same time. From the beginning of the trip, I told myself that I didn't want to take too many pictures because I didn't want to be inhibited from fully enjoying the sights and connecting with people. The experiences in the clinics were my absolute pleasure because I had the chance to talk/connect with and care for so many different people. Overall, the trip solidified my desire to return and work in Haiti some time in the future.
Its been almost 2 months since we left for Haiti. I first heard about the CSON trip to Haiti on Admitted Eagles Day in 2010, which was the first year they had the trip. Since that day I had been dreaming of the opportunity to be a part of the trip myself, and I still can’t believe that that dream came true. There was never a question in my mind that the trip would be incredible and life changing. The only question was in what ways would the trip change me and stay with me as I transitioned back to BC and to life here in the US in general. I think the best way for me to demonstrate how profoundly Haiti has affected me and illustrate that I will never forget the people that I met and the experiences I had is to describe the experience I had the day after we returned from Haiti. The experience of driving from the airport back to BC the night we arrived back home is still an experience that I am not sure I can put into words and something that still feels like it was a dream. I was having such a profound culture shock being back in the US surrounded by such wealth and opportunity. Therefore, I don't think I truly processed everything until the next day.
I went for a run down Heartbreak Hill, which I love to do to clear my head. This run was different though. Usually I give no thought to the mansions alongside Commonwealth Ave that I run by regularly other then to think, “Wow, those are some really nice houses.” However, this time while I was running down Comm Ave, I would look from side to side at the houses that I passed and the only thought in my head was, “How many Haitian houses could fit inside that one house? How many Haitian families could live inside that one house that is probably being used by a family of 4?” I literally found myself counting in my head, picturing the small concrete or tarp houses that we saw everywhere in Haiti and which would hold often an extended family. I kept running, but I was just so overcome by the contrast between what I had just been surrounded by for 9 days and what I had returned to that I found myself starting to cry. I must have looked like an incredible mess running down the street with tears coming down my face, but I couldn't stop myself. My stomach was in knots and I just felt so overcome with feelings of guilt and anger. I was angry at the ignorance in the world about life in Haiti, the lack of appreciation for what people have here in the US, and just the excess that we are surrounded by. I felt guilty for having been able to come back from Haiti to a life full of incredible privilege, when I still felt so deeply connected to the people we left in Haiti. It came to the point where I couldn't bring myself to lift my eyes from the pavement because I just couldn't look at those houses anymore or even the cars driving past me that were in such contrast to the patched together vehicles and tap taps we had seen in Haiti. That day was extremely difficult for me, but necessary for me to start to process and transition back to life at BC. My experience is a perfect representation of the fact that there is no doubt that Haiti has stayed with me and that our time in Haiti will continue to influence my actions and perspective on a daily basis. Thank you to everyone who made the trip possible and who has supported us along the way, because we couldn't have done this without you.
To say that my experience in Haiti was eye-opening and life changing would be an understatement. I gained so much from my experiences, which include establishing mobile clinics and providing nursing care to those in need, visiting various orphanages and feeding many malnourished children. Our Boston College nursing team grew into a family consisting of young ladies at various career levels, including established Nurse Practitioners, Nurse Practitioner Students, Undergraduates, and several volunteers. Everyone contributed in her own way, allowing us to provide care for just short of one thousand patients in 5 days. Now that is impressive! Each person on the trip, specifically Donna Cullinan, personally inspired me to share love with everyone and to not forget that infinite possibilities are born of faith. I am so grateful and thankful for everyone who helped to make this trip a reality. These experiences will be held close to my heart as I continue to learn, provide care and affect the lives of those around me back home.
Now that it has been almost 2 months since we went to Haiti, I know now more than ever that Haiti