I Left My Heart in Bois Jolie

It’s hard to believe, but for the Zanmi Kafe Interns of the Sewanee Haiti Institute our time here is almost over. The past five weeks have been an incredible adventure for all of us. We’ve accomplished so much, completing our respective research projects despite constant setbacks and continuously difficult circumstances. We’ve modified our studies to suit conditions and the schedules of our collaborators. We’ve made improvised field repairs, replacing the rubber gasket of a CO2 injector with carefully cut rubber band among other things. We’ve improved our Kreyol, and learned many wonderful proverbs. But perhaps the most important thing we’ve done during our time here is to establish new relationships and build on old ones.

I know that much has already been said regarding the importance of building relationships here, but I feel that it can never be stressed enough. People seeking to give aid flock to Haiti in the thousands, bringing with them many different ideas on how to contribute to this country. Some are vast in scale, seeking to create blanket solutions for the ills of the country. Some are smaller, building schools or providing temporary medical assistance. Sometimes groups come simply to tour the country and give gifts to children and others, which may give them a feeling of having done something good but is ultimately highly problematic for the development of the country, creating a sense of entitlement and a perception of all foreigners as gift-givers. Our project is special in that due to our limited resources it is currently being carried out on a relatively small scale, but unlike most other small scale forms of aid, ours is a long-term project based in relationships with local institutions (Zanmi Lasante, Zanmi Agrikol, etc.) as well as those that this project aims to help.

We have been fortunate in my time here to meet and to work with many incredible people, all doing their part to make aid in the development of this country. Some of the connections I have made here I know I will maintain for years to come. But even more important than the relationships we have developed with others working around us are the relationships we have developed with those whom we are working for. Unlike those groups who pass through, giving away gifts to people they have never met, we have eaten, worked, sung, played, and laughed with the people of Bois Jolie. It is something truly special to get to know someone from such different circumstances and to come to be, in some small way, a part of their lives. We know how lucky we are that the people of Bois Jolie have opened their community to us, and in response we have opened our hearts to them. I may leave Haiti in two days, but a piece of my heart will remain here forever, always waiting for me to return, and I think that is something special.

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