By: Paul Ten Haken

On April 20, a group of 11 of us left for Haiti on a service project that would change each of our lives in different ways. Our expectation for the trip was that we’d be helping build a 2500 square foot multi-use school/church building in Savane a Roches (desert of rock). After all, that is what service trips are about, right? Building stuff, getting things done, swinging hammers, sweating, etc. In actuality, there was much more important work to do – and it didn’t involve getting calloused hands or sore backs.

A view from our mission compound.

The children of Haiti are amazing.  This school saw enrollment increase from under 200 to over 700 in just a year.  Why? Quite simply, they needed a building and very minimal financial support for classroom materials. Put another way, the children needed an opportunity.

Playing with kids at the Touch of Hope school.

One boy was extremely proud of his “truck” – one of his only possessions.

Children would wait outside of our mission compound, hoping we’d come out to play soccer, patty-cake, or simply just spend time with them. And despite the Creole/English language gap, we communicated just fine.

Part of our team was from Peppermint Energy.  While there, they introduced a portable solar unit in the Haitian village where we stayed. It was quite evident that this form of power could do big things there.

The kids were simply awesome.

We quickly became accustomed to seeing children like this. But these images are what we will always carry with us.

We quickly became accustomed to seeing children like this. But these images are what we will always carry with us.

Providing the keys to the school to Jean Claude, the school director and church pastor.

The mass burial site for victims of the 2010 earthquake. A solemn sign that is not easy to forget.

A picture that encompasses so many aspects of what Haiti is all about.

The needs in Haiti are great. Actually, they are overwhelming. Where do we start? What impact can we have? Can the widespread poverty and government corruption that we saw ever be changed? While it is easy to get discouraged when assessing the seemingly endless problems, one needs to look no further than the spirit of the Hatian people to see a level of contentment and (often) happiness despite the circumstances. There is much for us to learn in that very simple lesson.

Haiti needs our help. The people need our help. Philemond, Alain, Rodney, Modson, Jean Claude, and the hundreds of others we met need our help. For our group, this trip served as a catalyst to assess needs and determine where we can help, as well as the proper way to help. God moved in each of our lives in different ways during this trip but one thing rang true for all of us: our experience and work in Haiti is far from over.