Kate Kenneally and Sarah Browne are taking part in the 2016 Volunteer Programme. In this blog series, they share their experiences and all the developments from the site throughout the week.
Here, Sarah tells us how the first few days rolled out.
After a long day of travelling, we arrived in Haiti on Friday at around 8pm. We took a bus ride through the colourful streets of Port-au-Prince – which are like nothing I have ever experienced before – and eventually arrived at our destination, La Cabane Guesthouse in Fond-Parisien. The staff made us feel right at home from the get-go and served us a gorgeous seafood dinner (the first of many) upon arrival. La Cabane is situated on a beautiful lake which comes with the serious caveat of being full of caymen crocodiles, and so swimming in it seems to be a no-go.
After a well-deserved night’s sleep, we were woken up at 6am for breakfast and set out on the short stroll to Hope House Haiti, run by Yvrose Telfort Ismael and her husband Pierre Richard. We were divided into individual work groups and work started at 7am sharp. It was clear that there was a lot of work to be done.
There were teams assigned to building the new classroom (which is a massive undertaking), a chicken coop and general refurbishment. I was working on the painting team and, on the first day, we managed to paint the outside of three of the classrooms in the school. By 11am, the sun was blazing; we were definitely ready for lunch at 12pm.
Day one was very tough as it was stiflingly hot and, after lunch, it felt like we were dropping like flies. We powered through on water, Dioralytes and Beroccas, and achieved a lot.
My personal highlight was when I was painting a wall, and a group of seven or eight boys gathered around me and started to “help”. Within a few minutes, it became clear to me that I had lost control of the situation, as there was more paint on the boys, me and the ground than on the wall. After many pleas from me to “arrêt”, which were met with hysterical laughter from the boys, I had to call for back up from the rest of the Haven team.
When we arrived back at La Cabane, we were served another gorgeous seafood dinner and, while some of the volunteers stayed up solving the world’s problems, I opted for an early night at 7.30pm. I think the long flight and the physical labour were a bit of a shock to the system!
A bit more sunburnt than the previous day, we were up at 6am again for breakfast and back at Hope House for 7am, reporting for duty. I felt like I was a bit more aware of the need to take frequent breaks, and it was a little cooler, so I found today a lot easier.
Even though the work is hard, everyone has a good sense of humour and it makes the whole thing really enjoyable. While sweating and struggling to manage a roller (for the first time in my life), I had great conversations and craic with the other volunteers.
At one point, while the painting team was taking a break, a little boy came up to me and sat on my knee. He didn’t say a word and, when I asked him what was wrong as he seemed really sad, he just said he was tired. I sat there with him for over a half an hour while he dozed off in my lap, and it reminded me of the whole point of the trip.
Yvrose, the owner of the school and orphanage, drifts in and out and is always willing to tell you her stories about the earthquake and how she came to be where she is, which is amazing.
After work, we headed back to La Cabane for dinner and a few beers. We talked about the day and commiserated about our sunburn and mosquito bites.
This place really is another world.