Earlier this month, I spent a week in a village with no electricity, no running water, sleeping under a mosquito net, and sweating in 90-degree weather. And I had the experience of a lifetime.
Through a charity offer, Synapse & call center partner Listen Up Español have raised thousands of dollars to benefit buildOn, a charitable organization. I was afforded the opportunity to travel to Haiti as an ambassador of buildOn, responsible for representing their mission:
“To break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations through service and education. We empower urban youth to transform their neighborhoods through intensive community service and to change the world by building schools in some of the economically poorest countries in the world.”
For this specific trek, we’d be building a school in Haiti, a developing country located in the Caribbean. We traveled from New York to the capital city, Port-au-Prince, and onto a remote village about 5 hours away – La Ferme. For four nights and five days, the members of this community opened their homes and their hearts to the 10 trek participants (8 from Listen Up Español, 2 from Synapse) and 4 buildOn staff members.
Before breaking ground for the school, we formed a large circle with representatives from both buildOn and the La Ferme community. The organization’s mission was reiterated and the local individuals shared their gratitude and excitement for all the possibilities the new school would open up. We then rallied the group to gather in the middle of the large circle and chanted the following together, “Nou se buildOn!” Translated from Haitian Creole, this means, “We are buildOn!” As the circle dispersed, we began digging into the fertile soil – side-by-side with community members. Some worked without shoes, most without gloves, but all donning the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen. It was truly inspiring to be working alongside these motivated individuals.
Along with the construction of the school, our trek also had a cultural component. Each day in the community, we would spend time experiencing different aspects of Haitian life: a trip to the current school houses, tasting delicious native foods, talking with a voodoo priestess, and playing soccer.
What’s cultural about a soccer game, you ask? Soccer, or foutból as they call it, is a universal sport capable of breaking all language barriers. On our trek, we had many languages being spoken: English, Haitian Creole, and Spanish. Kicking a soccer ball on a wet and muddy field seemed to be something everyone understood.
I am fortunate to have been able to create amazing memories with a group of unique, driven, wonderful individuals; we shared laughs, stories, tears, and lessons. We are lucky to have met the welcoming La Ferme community. We are buildOn.