Johanna’s Story | “Haiti is an incredible country”

As her student placement rolls on, University College Cork (UCC) student, Johanna Murray, gives us her impressions of Haiti and tells of some of the stories and people who will stay with her.


Well, welcome back everyone to my blog. I can’t believe I’m currently five weeks into my placement; it seems like I only arrived yesterday. I’ve decided to take a break from detailing my work here and instead give an insight to my thoughts on my placement so far.

Haiti is an incredible country: I feel honoured to have the opportunity to come here and work with its people.

If I’m being honest, the whole concept of heading on placement hit me very late. I was so busy in college finishing up assignments, moving out, and saying final farewells to my friends that I didn’t have a chance to fully process my expectations of what the placement and Haiti itself would be like.

Before I left, I was very lucky to speak in depth with Sophie O’Sullivan, who undertook her placement with Haven last year, so I had some idea of what to expect when I headed over to work with Haven. Of course, I heard tit-bits of information, such as how dangerous Haiti is as a country and how difficult of a placement this would be. Many people close to me even asked me to maybe reconsider choosing Haiti. But I figured if I’m not prepared to challenge myself and push my boundaries, well then, was development really the sector I wanted to pursue for the rest of my life?

Now, I’m not saying Haiti is all sunshine and daisies. Yes, there have been moments during these five weeks where I’d love nothing more to go home, but then, I pause and I realise how much I will miss being here once I go back to Ireland. Sure, like anything in life, there have been difficult moments, such as having no power, no internet, no water, and being housebound due to a raging storm. Yes, it is hard being the only “blonde” and English speaker in the nearby area. But there are also unforgettable moments, such as when you see the sunrise on Île à Vache, or when you finally hand over a beautifully renovated school to a bunch of laughing and dancing children.

The independence granted by Haven has allowed Sandra, our Programmes Manager, and I to forge our own ties with the people here. One example is Madame Poulet, an amazing woman who, no matter the weather or time, will prepare a meal for us and, more often than not, the food will be lobster or octopus, something wholly different.  The people here are incredibly diverse, loud, and friendly.

I still have quite a bit of my placement to go. I’m almost halfway there, but I feel the next chunk of my time here will be just as enlightening. I’m sure it will be riddled with difficulties and successes, but I know I will have the staff of Haven behind me at all times.

I also know that, regardless, this placement has already been eye-opening and I have learned many key aspects of what it takes to be part of a successful, long-term, and small development charity.

Till next week!

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