The Volunteer Experience

What does volunteering in Haiti – actually making the trek from Washington D.C. to Miami to Port-au-Prince – look like?

It could look something like this:

Friday

Depart D.C. at 6 a.m. to ensure a connection to Miami and then a probable one on to Haiti. Arrive in Port-au-Prince around lunchtime, exiting through customs and into the muggy heat where World Vision staff will greet and load you and your luggage into white sport utility vehicles.

Travel 45 minutes through the streets of Port-au-Prince, taking in the sights of street vendors and women carrying baskets on their heads with no hands. Arrive at the Karibe Hotel, recently built with beautiful architecture, a spa, clean water and air conditioning. Take a swim in the pool before meeting up with your group for orientation at the World Vision office nearby. End the day with a plate of shrimp creole at the hotel restaurant.

Saturday

Arrive at the regional airport by 8 a.m. for a flight aboard Mission Aviation Fellowship’s five-seater Cessna. Weigh your body and bags before being seated according to size. Take the 20-minute flight over the skinniest part of the country – allowing views of the ocean to your left, the Dominican Republic to your right. Touch down in the central capital city of Hinche, greeting goats, horses and donkeys as you disembark on the rocky dirt runway.

Travel to the Hotel Hermitage in Pandiassou located 10 minutes outside Hinche. The hotel is owned by a wealthier couple who wanted a retirement home, but realized the need for a hotel in their town. Chickens and goats roam the property, and you may joke that after dinner there will be “one less chicken on the property.” The rooms are basic, but nice, with fans and clean water for showering.

Have lunch at the closet thing Hinche has to McDonald’s. Order a hamburger, chicken nuggets or a sandwich.

Perhaps take time to visit the local market or drive around to get an overview of the area.

Have dinner at the hotel – sampling chicken, goat or guinea creole; red beans and rice and fried plantains. All local fare that is delicious!

Sunday

Rise with the chickens and eat one of the hotel’s fresh, organic fried eggs. The hotel also serves fruit (bananas, for example), bread and jam, pumpkin soup (on Sundays) or oatmeal, washed down with strong Haitian coffee.

Visit a local church for services. Join in the singing in French and experience greetings African-style.

Begin work in Savanne Plate village.

Monday –

Continue working in the village, eating meals in the hotel restaurant and allowing World Vision staffers to mediate your conversations, food requests and needs.

Return to D.C. a changed person with a greater vision for the people of Haiti and a heart for the hungry you’ve now met and love.