Mission Trip Provides Non Traditional Vacation With Many More Benefits
While a trip to Haiti doesn’t sound like the getaway many typically think of when planning a vacation, over the past few years it has turned into one of the highlights of my summer. For the third year straight, I have been fortunate enough to lead a group of local high school kids on a mission trip to one of the most eye opening places I can imagine. Chambrun, Haiti is one of the most economically challenged villages in the poorest country in the western hemisphere. To say it is a striking difference from the everyday lives of the kids I take there and myself, who mostly live in suburban Indianapolis, is an understatement.
Adjacent to Chambrun, is the campus for Nehemiah Vision Ministries (NVM) which serves the local village and has grown since the devastating earthquake in 2010 to include a church, school, and medical clinic which are available for anyone in the area in need of their services. Consisting of 15 high school kids and five adults, my team’s main purpose for the trip was to bring energy (in the form of teenagers) to a summer English Camp for kids ranging from 8 through 16. Although Haitian Creole is the main language spoken in Haiti, those who know French and English have opportunities in education, science, medicine, and business.
Outside the campus, we had the opportunity to help at a local farm started a couple years ago by NVM. This farm provides fresh produce for use on the campus and is also a tool used by the ministry to teach the villagers farming techniques they can follow with minimal tools and investment. It is run in a manner consistent with NMV’s mission of providing a hand up in the form of education and training rather than simply giving handouts.
Adding to the experiences outside of campus, we had a chance to visit the villages of Chambrun and the City of Oneville. Chambrun is a community of nearly 5,000 people and is where a large portion of the children enrolled in English camp live. Most of the homes are mud huts with dirt floors, which gave our group an opportunity to see the children we worked with all week in their home environment. It can be surreal sitting in the middle of a scene that seems to be straight out national geographic knowing these are the homes of those kids we had formed relationships with earlier in the week. It definitely leaves an impression, keeping us mindful of all the gifts we have in our country, but also how we can connect with people in the simplest of ways, crossing socio economic boundaries.
Our next stop was the city of Oneville. Oneville was originally a rural area outside of Port-au-Prince which was used to as a refugee camp when hundreds of thousands of Haitians were relocated in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. Now a city, you can still see evidence of UN tents and other international relief efforts – tarps, bags and other materials are still being used in the construction of makeshift homes. The vastness of this city was a moving example of the severity of poverty in throughout Haiti.
Throughout the week, we took opportunities to reflect on the experiences of the day, the friendships that had been made, and the heartbreaks we experienced. I saw teenagers that grew spiritually and showed compassion for complete strangers. These are the reasons I have been back three times and will be back again next year.