Submitted on behalf of Sam Smith, a St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School Sophomore
Last Thursday I returned from my second trip to Haiti. I wasn’t sure what to expect, because so much had happened between now and the last time I had been there. I was very excited to see that the seeds I had helped plant in sachets over a year ago were now full-fledged seedlings ready to be planted in the ground. I will never forget the faces of the farmers as they walked into the nursery, one by one, to collect their first round of trees, or when they saw photographs of themselves. On their faces appeared expressions of absolute contentment. Being able to watch these first steps occur has been a privilege.
On our hike down, nearing the end of an exhausting day, we walked by a man and his wife who was wailing in pain, over her child who had just passed away, laying next to her, wrapped in plastic and a blanket. I felt so helpless because I couldn’t do anything about it, let alone speak to her. This was one of the most profound moments of my life so far. I have never shared a sense of helplessness of that magnitude with anyone ever. After sharing those moments with that woman I could not find a reasonable excuse as to why something so common in the United States, such as aspirin to bring down a fever, could not be there when someone so innocent as an infant needed it. This experience has reminded me that no matter your circumstances there is always a spot in you to be grateful for what you have.
We have also had to learn how to deal with the unexpected in our plans. We had started working with a group of Haitian students at the CFFL vocational school to conduct the biodiversity study. We ran into some misunderstandings and there were stressful moments when we learned about the disagreement, but these feelings were followed by very encouraging hard work and problem solving to get us back on track. I have learned that collaboration can be challenging, but it is absolutely necessary to have the engaged participation of Haitians in this project because they are the people who, in the long run, will make the biggest difference.
Sam Smith (next to Luckner Noel)
St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School Sophomore