Johanna’s Story | Learning what Haiti is really like

All of us here in Haven were delighted to welcome Johanna Murray to Haiti just last week. A third-year student in International Development at University College Cork (UCC), Johanna is swapping her native Tipperary for Haiti over the next three months, as she takes on her student placement with our team.

In her new blog series, Johanna will be sharing her experience of living and working in Haiti, and her first few days in the country give the sense of the exciting time ahead…

Well, hello everyone!

My name is Johanna Murray, and I am studying International Development in UCC. I arrived here in Haiti just one week ago for a three-month stint as Programme Support Intern for my third-year placement in college. I am the only one in my class to venture to this side of the world.

I first heard about Haven from Sophie O’Sullivan, a student in the year above me, who completed her placement with Haven last year. She spoke about the organisation and country so passionately I couldn’t help but be interested. I have always been drawn to the more agricultural and sustainable side of development and this too is why Haven appealed to me so much: I was attracted to a more hands-on placement.

With Haven, I will be working heavily on their Volunteer Programme which begins for us on 14 April. Myself, the volunteers and Haven staff will be working to upgrade and refurbish Jean Jean School, a school for almost 160 students.  Set in a remote location, the school can be difficult to access and is in bad need of repair.

Once the Volunteer Programme is over, I will also be involved in the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) side of Haven’s projects. For example, I will be helping staff to fill out fortnightly reports for their different programmes, so there is one database filled with all the relevant information.

My time in Haiti has been jampacked already. From the President of Haiti coming to Île à Vache (the island off the south of Haiti where many of Haven’s programmes are based) to attending a Haitian funeral, I certainly think I’ve been immersed in culture here already.

Whenever I told anyone about my placement in Haiti, I was immediately met with questions like “oh,  is that the country that had the hurricane… or the earthquake?”. Everyone’s first thoughts about Haiti revolve around those awful humanitarian crises which occurred in 2010 and 2016.

But, I can tell you, even after only being here for a week, there is so much more to the country. The colours here are fantastic. The people have so much culture. They are the only country in the world to have had a successful black slave revolt. The nature here is also breathtaking. Yes, this country is poor and lacking in resources, but I can say hand on my heart, that Haiti is so much more than that.

I hope by reading these blog posts over the next few months you will get a better understanding of the fantastic work Haven is doing in Haiti and see what the country is really like.

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