Johanna’s Story | “The lessons and experiences I had here will stick with me forever”

We can’t believe that Johanna Murray’s placement as our Programmes Support Intern has come to an end! The University College Cork (UCC) student left Haiti earlier this week, after three months of working with our team and local communities in Haiti. As she prepared to jet off, Johanna found time to write a few last words about her experience…

Well, here we are guys: the final blog! As I write this, I’m actually super-stressed, trying to sort ESTA visas, flight details and all that jazz before I leave for the United States (US) tomorrow. I really can’t believe it’s all over. The last three months have literally flown by. It’s a bit weird being one of the first people on my course to finish their placement, but I think I’m ready to move on to the next part of the journey.

I feel incredibly lucky that I was chosen for this placement. I honestly feel like it’s given me one of the most realistic views of what it is like to work in development.

The amount I have learned even by just being with Haven staff and by living on Île à Vache is amazing: it’s all information that will definitely help me choose what aspects of development I would like to pursue once I finish university. I have also been given a very insightful view into what developmental life is like in Haiti, as well as a general understanding for the rest of the world. Unlike many other placements, I have experienced the “office” life as well as being on the ground. I feel so many people who work in development these days get caught up in bureaucracy and security and whatnot, so never actually see what the situation is like on the ground, whereas I met and spoke with people in our projects, got firsthand knowledge of what it is like to live in places like Île à Vache, and saw how Haven is changing this for the better.

In many ways, I was fully immersed in the culture here too. I went to a funeral and a graduation; I went out with the people on Île à Vache, and ate with them. I tried Haitian food and listened to local music. I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do with myself when I’m exposed to Western culture once again! I am very grateful that I was given a chance to do this as it has shown me how important it is in development to immerse yourself in the community: it makes it easier to initiate change or create a response to any sort of disaster as you have the systems in place.

My placement wasn’t easy. I know from my Snapchat and Instagram posts that Haiti looks beautiful, which it is, and I think more people need to realize because, as I said before, Haiti should not be defined by its challenges. There is so much more to this beautiful country that people need to understand. In saying that, living on Île à Vache certainly isn’t easy – at least where we were staying, homes similar to a lot of people on Île à Vache. We sometimes went without power, food and water for more than a couple of hours.

It is absolutely roasting there. I’m sorry, but everyone in Ireland has nothing to complain about at the moment; what ye are experiencing now with the heatwave, we have been experiencing for the last three months! The humidity is much worse here, and we have no fan. I have also been bitten by mosquitoes every day since I came here, so, realistically, those in Ireland have nothing to complain about (but, of course, it is uncharacteristically hot – global warming – so I suppose the complaints are justified in that this weather is so unexpected!).

But on a final note I would just like to thank Haven – Damien, Sandra and Orlaith in particular: I couldn’t have completed this placement without ye and I want to thank you all for giving me the opportunity to work with ye for the last three months. It has been, as cliché as it sounds, quite life-changing, so thank you! And I will miss the craic I had with Damien and Sandra and everyone over here in Haiti. Thank you also to Magda, Nadine, Delva and Johnny – again, I would have been lost without ye, especially when I was sick!

I feel Haiti has a lot of potential, but there are many barriers it must overcome before it reaches this. Haven is instrumental in helping the people of Haiti to reach their goals. I will most definitely be returning in the future, as I know I am going to miss the work, people and country terribly.

I want to also thank everyone who read these blogs. I really enjoyed writing them up every week and, again, I will really miss them. But, alas we must move on, and while I am leaving Haiti tomorrow, the lessons and experiences I had here will stick with me forever!

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