Mission Trip Haiti: In Words and Photos – Part 1

Editors Note: Sorry it has taken so long to get this post up. The last several weeks have been hectic, at best.

I wrote this as a stand alone blog post for a variety of reasons. One of which is that I was asked by my college newspaper, The Oredigger, to write guest column – which I was more than happy to do. The original plan was to take a blog post and then repurpose it for the newspaper. As it turned out, I did it the other way around.

Below is an expanded version of what I wrote for The Oredigger.

For those who aren’t majoring in History, here’s the quick introduction to Haiti, courtesy of the CIA World Factbook:
From www.cia.gov:

In the early 17th century, the French established a presence on Hispaniola. In 1697, Spain ceded to the French the western third of the island, which later became Haiti. The French colony, based on forestry and sugar-related industries, became one of the wealthiest in the Caribbean but only through the heavy importation of African slaves and considerable environmental degradation. In the late 18th century, Haiti’s nearly half million slaves revolted under Toussaint L’ouverture. After a prolonged struggle, Haiti became the first black republic to declare independence in 1804. The poorest country [and also perceived as the most corrupt] in the Western Hemisphere , Haiti has been plagued by political violence for most of its history. After an armed rebellion led to the forced resignation and exile of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004, an interim government took office to organize new elections under the auspices of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Continued violence and technical delays prompted repeated postponements, but Haiti finally did inaugurate a democratically elected president and parliament in May of 2006.

My involvement with Haiti is a rather curious one. Last spring, I was looking for a summer mission trip that would be able to use to my skills as an engineer. Although I pursued several different avenues, I didn’t find anything that struck a chord with me. Excuses will always be prevalent, especially in today’s society. Through an interesting set of short conversations with a variety of people over the fall, I decided that it’s high time I let my “religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.” (G. K. Chesterton)

So there it was.

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Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Washington, United States

I left for Haiti on January 8th. It was an arduous journey to get there (or so I thought), leaving in the early morning from Seattle, flying to Chicago, and then to Miami. Miami only offered a short reprieve (I think we spent more time trying to get to our hotel rooms than we did in them) before we had to be back at Miami’s International Airport to catch our flight to Haiti.

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Miami International Airport, Florida, United States


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Miami International Airport, Florida, United States


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Miami International Airport, Florida, United States

We landed in Port-au-Prince easily enough and then shuffled over to the regional airport (which shares the same tarmac and runway) where we caught our 45-minute flight to Port-de-Paix. An hours drive by Toyota Land Cruiser (albeit at 10km/hr) and we found ourselves in Passe Catabois.

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Mais Gate, Ouest Department, Haiti


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Mais Gate, Ouest Department, Haiti


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Mais Gate, Ouest Department, Haiti


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Mais Gate, Ouest Department, Haiti


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Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti

I was with a group of twelve, myself included. We are all part of Convergence, the young adult group (20’s and 30’s) from University Presbyterian Church. We range in age from 23 to 35 and only one of us is married. Our vocations range from engineer to office assistant and everything in between. Our mission was to serve with long term missionaries Bruce and Deb Robinson, working on projects they planned, primarily construction and electrical, at a school/church located 30 minutes away in the town of Foison.

We spent the rest of Saturday scouting the terrain and learning about flood plains. On Sunday, we went to church in Poste Metier, then ventured back towards Port-de-Paix to examine a river that has been eroding its banks, preventing a water pump from working properly.

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18.0 mm || 1/1600 || f/3.5 || ISO200 || NIKON D70
Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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48.0 mm || 1/500 || f/4.5 || ISO200 || NIKON D70
Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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18.0 mm || 1/400 || f/3.5 || ISO200 || NIKON D70
Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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18.0 mm || 1/5000 || f/3.5 || ISO200 || NIKON D70
Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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18.0 mm || 1/250 || f/10.0 || ISO200 || NIKON D70
, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Beau Champ, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti

Unfortunately, the first few days we were in Haiti it was raining and the roads, while technically drivable, were not ideal. Thus we had a change of plans, and our first of many lessons in being flexible. Monday we ended up doing some small jobs around Bruce’s workshop, sorting bolts, running electrical wire, fixing wheelbarrows, and playing with the local kids, among other things.

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Beau Champ, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Beau Champ, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Beau Champ, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Beau Champ, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Beau Champ, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Beau Champ, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Beau Champ, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Beau Champ, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Beau Champ, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Beau Champ, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Beau Champ, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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Beau Champ, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti

Tuesday, we were still at the workshop, letting the roads dry out, although we had a chance to visit a water canal project. At 4:47 pm, we felt a rolling. Everyone looked at each other, mostly in confusion. A few seconds later, more rolling. Almost out of instinct, those that were inside headed to the door ways. I was at the front door, and decided that the best place, given the lackluster building codes, would be outside.

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, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti


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, Nord-Ouest Department, Haiti

Bruce had mentioned that Haiti was home to frequent tremors and we all though this was just that. It would be another two hours before we learned of the actual devastation. The word came over dinner: Port-au-Prince had been hit by a huge earthquake, at least 7.0. Everything was flat.

Everyone was shocked; I hadn’t even once considered that the epicenter could be Port-au-Prince.

6 Replies to “Mission Trip Haiti: In Words and Photos – Part 1”

  1. Can’t wait to hear more about your adventure.

    One thing I’ve learned in the past two years living in earthquake country is that the belief that doorways are the safest place to be in an earthquake is only true if you are in an adobe style building. These were often the only part left standing when these buildings fell down. If you are in any other type of building you are probably safest under a table or other sturdy piece of furniture. (Safety topic for your day…)

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this blog. A group from my church, including myself, is heading to Port-de-Paix in about 7 weeks to serve at Sonlight Ministries School. I loved the pictures and am so very excited to go. I have been searching the internet to find a glimpse into the lives of Haiti, you afforded me that. Again, I thank you.

  3. That church in Poste Metir looks exactly like the one I helped to build over the summer of 1987. I never saw it painted and furnished though. Great to see that it might still be in use. Do you know if it survived the quake?

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