James Codd took part in Haven’s Build It Week in November 2012. Here, in a guest post, he shared his experience of the trip.
“Tap taps, Dioralyte and Hurricane Ties”.
For most, the above title will not invoke any emotional response, and I have to admit that, just over 27 months ago, I was oblivious too. I had heard of Haiti, but, then again, it was impossible not to have heard of Haiti after the worldwide media coverage that the country received following 12th January 2010, when a devastating earthquake ravaged the small Caribbean nation.
Often in life, chance plays its hand and, although a long and not particular interesting story, I found myself travelling to Haiti with Haven. Was it adventure I was seeking? I’m not sure I remember. But, regardless of my initial motivation, what I gained was far more long-reaching that I could have imagined.
Since April 2011, I have travelled three times to Haiti with Haven, and the trips have being well documented on social and other media, but what you can’t get from a press photo call or a tweet is the truly impressive people that you meet when you volunteer with Haven.
The Haitian people are really special; they have their share of social problems, as has every other country, but, today, when I returned to Léogâne a year after my first visit there and saw the progress in a year in the community, I saw that the community is now really established. I called to the homes that I had personally worked on last year with one of last year’s team mates, and also called to the neighbours with some of the team members that had help build their houses.
I was curious, but also felt that we might be intruding. Far from intruding, the home owners remembered us – not just that we were from Haven, but by our first names – and the conversations (using pigeon English and pigeon French) were not the most fluent, but they were really happy to see us again, and it was almost like meeting a long-lost friend.
During the trip last year, I met a Haitian man called Junior. He was not a beneficiary of the project and was not getting paid to help out on the site. When we asked him why he was helping, he simply replied, “why do you help my people and why can’t I?”.
But what I find I gained most from Haven is the genuine friendship from people whose only common bond is that they really are driven by a desire to help Haiti,and who traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to build homes and communities for people they never met, in a country that most of the world forgot. Life is harder in Haiti, that is true, but my overwhelming belief is that no problem in Haiti is unsolvable.