A rooster crows in the distance, a faint cry from a small child can be heard and the sun was starting to rise. Sleeping out on an open patio 5 stories above the city wasn’t so bad. It was day seven in Haiti. For that day’s adventure, we had to wear tennis shoes. We prepared to visit Cite Soleil, which is an overly populated and extremely poor area in Port-au-Prince. Driving to Cite Soleil, it was obvious things were going to be different. Shacks were everywhere; the lack of a garbage removal system was very evident, and the air smelled of a strange aroma.
We pulled up to our stop, which was in the middle of many blocks of concrete. Those blocks of concrete turned out to be homes, which had roofs made out of tarp and sheets of metal. At times, more than 6 people would share a space no larger than an average walk-in closet. And when it would rain, many would have to hangout on their roofs and wait for the water to go down to return to their home.
The city is below sea level, so all of the run off from the main part of Port-au-Prince makes its way to rest there, including human waste, animal waste and so on, which makes sense why it smelled. Pigs walked around freely much like dogs do here. There were piles and piles of decaying trash, pieces of metal, glass, tin and everything else you could imagine laying on the ground. The need for tennis shoes made sense, yet the children of Cite Soleil walked around barefoot. They walked, ran and skipped as if they were on grass, oblivious to what they were actually stepping on.
When we arrived, the children flocked around us. A simple smile, wave or even glance in their direction made them smile. Their smiles were contagious.
As we made our way around the city the children joined us. Each of us had at least 5 kids beside us with both hands holding the hand of a child. The children were so happy, genuinely happy to have us there.
Haiti is a poor country and Cite Soleil is the poorest area. Touring this area was heartbreaking but it also made me realize how lucky I am. The people of Haiti don’t know any different, yet they live every day to the fullest. They have hope that tomorrow will be better than today. They believe and have faith in God because for many of them, their faith is literally all they have. It’s hard to imagine life without a phone, TV, internet, a car, food for three meals a day and a place to sleep. Many of us take for granted the material things we have and don’t think twice about those who have little to nothing.
My trip to Haiti was life changing, and whenever I feel like I’ve been too caught up in myself and the world, I think back to my trip. I read the journal I kept everyday while I was there, and it helps me put my life back into perspective. One day I hope to see those smiling faces of all the children again. One day I pray all of the citizens of Haiti will have eternal peace and rest with Jesus in heaven. One day I hope I can have an unquestionable faith like they do.