The story of Haiti – part 1

It’s been about a week and a half since I returned from my trip to Haiti. I didn’t think it would take this long to start telling the story.

“They” tell you that when you get back from a trip like this you will experience some culture shock. That you will have trouble adjusting back into day to day life. I know my team has experienced some of this. It is hard to hear people complaining about silly circumstances when you have seen the things that we had the opportunity to see.

The most common question that I have heard in the past week or so is, “How was your trip?” That is an incredibly hard question to answer. Is the person just walking by, so all they really want to hear is “great”. Do they want to hear a story or two? Or do they want to know about the whole experience. I would guess that most people do not.

I don’t think that people want to know that the first thing you notice when you get off the plane is the smell of death. No one has to tell you what that smell is. It is something that I have never smelled before but I will never forget.


landing in Haiti


The airport was crowded, confusing, and overwhelming. Actually, the main terminal was too damaged in the earthquake to be used. One of the cargo holds is being used for customs and they simply pile all the luggage in there and you fight your way through the crowds to find your bag.

The ride from the airport to the place we were staying was beautiful and devestating. Haiti is such a beautiful country but it is so broken right now. There is a giant tent city on the airport grounds and we drove past several more during our short bus ride.

The media have been calling them ‘tent’ cities, but that is not really an accurate description. Most Haitians do not have actual tents, but only a fews sticks onto which they tie a sheet, a tarp, a piece of cardboard or some tin. The rainy season is on it’s way and I have no idea what everyone is going to do.

another tent city


earthquake damage


Shortly after I took this picture, the smell from the airport returned. We were told that just over the hillside is a mass grave where 200,000 Haitians are buried. By a few days after the earthquake it became too difficult to identify all the victims and find family members so most victims ended up at this site.



The organization that my team stayed with is doing some amazing work in Haiti. On site, they have an orphanage, church, clinic (and are building a hospital), school, and feeding program. Since the earthquake they have distributed over 2 million meals and the number of patients that they have seen through their clinic has increased from about 75 per day before the quake to about 250 per day currently. Our team was actually the first non-medical team to join them since the quake.

Mission of Hope Clinic

After unpacking the food that we brought and finding our bunks, we headed down the hill to visit the kids in the orphanage. Staying at a place swarming with doctors and nurses performing major surgeries with limited supplies, it would be easy to think that we weren’t doing much. Before the earthquake, groups came all the time to visit visit the kids and play with them. That was their ‘normal’. If we could bring some of that back and help the kids smile again, the whole trip was worth it.

riding a bikecutests little baby - part of a set of twins


  • Thank you for sharing your experiences in Haiti. I just finished Mountains Beyond Mountains, which makes your travels even more meaningful to me.

  • Thanks for the comments everyone. There is so much more of the story to tell, but it is going to take a while to get it all written out.

    Thanks for supporting me in this!

  • You’re a brave person for this adventure. I’m sure this gives you a whole different perspective on life. I’m glad to hear that you’re back safe.

    For those that I know that have taken similar trips, would you do it again? Most that I know say they would, and do.

  • I’m going to forward you an e-mail from the school nurse at the high school my mom works at… she’s down in Haiti now… for about 3 or 4 weeks total working in a medical clinic and orphanage… I think you’ll really appreciate her thoughts, letters, journaling from the trip thus far…

  • I’m so glad to hear that your trip went well. I wish that I could go down there but it isn’t looking possible for me at this time. Your pictures are beautiful. I can’t wait to hear more about your trip. 🙂

  • I’m just now getting to these posts, and I’m sorry it has taken me so long.

    Your post and amazing pictures have me feeling quite emotional. I mean, I’m a little choked up just thinking about it. That picture of the little boy on the broken bike is incredible, and tells a story of a million words in once glance.

    I’m looking forward to reading through the rest of the story over the next few days.

    Thank you Sara.

  • Sara,

    I don’t know how to write on this thing. Thank you for going to Haiti and risking a change in your routine and our cushy way of life. Isn’t the US a great place? We do these things for other countries and people just because. It is what it is all about. Just being there would have been enough–for the Haitian people to see that someone cares enough to come there, when it is not pleasant. That is when they need us most. Thank you. Your reward is in the gift you gave them.


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