by Lilly Keller '19
In June, Avery Kean and I travelled to Haiti with our Church, St. Patrick’s, to participate in a service trip to our partner parish in the village of St. Etienne. St. Patrick’s has a long-standing relationship with St. Etienne, which includes an annual Haitian art show and sale at our church, and fundraisers such as the sale of Haitian coffee and other handmade goods to raise money to support their church and school. Our church also sponsors regular exchange and service trips for the adults in the community; however, this was the first time in recent years that students were able to attend.
Our group arrived at the airport in Port Au Prince, the capital of Haiti, on June 16th, and from there we drove up to the mountain village of St. Etienne, where we would spend the majority of our trip. During our stay, we spent the mornings running a vacation bible camp for the children of the village, and our afternoons either working on other service projects or exploring the surrounding areas of the country. When most people think of Haiti, they think of the crowded urban environment of Port Au Prince; however, most of the country is rural. In fact, in St. Etienne, they do not have an electrical infrastructure, and most of their power comes from generators, but they still have excellent cell-phone service.
During our stay in the village, our local hosts provided us with amazing food at every meal and taught us about the beauty and culture of their country. While many of the adults in the community spoke English, the children did not. Therefore, in order to communicate with the children at the vacation bible camp, Avery and I (and the other students on the trip) had to learn as much Creole as possible, which in our case was very little. Despite the language barrier, the children were eager to learn from us and amazing to work with. Somewhat to my surprise, we also learned a lot from the kids, particularly about how to communicate without using words.
In the end, what started out for me as simply a service trip to an interesting place turned out to be a really enjoyable and educational experience. I was able to learn about Haiti’s natural beauty and complex culture while also making many personal connections with my church’s wider community. Avery really summed it up well, saying: “Haiti was incredible and I can’t wait to go back to St. Etienne’s someday.”