I LEFT MY HEART IN HAITI
by Katie Cariker
When I heard about the opportunity to go to Haiti and work with WATERisLIFE, I immediately jumped in with both feet. I joined other students from my college’s Campus Christian Fellowship (CCF), and we went for two weeks in May 2013. One of the many tasks we were charged with was to dig a well in the village of Dargout with WATERisLIFE. With the sun scorching down on our team, the job wasn’t easy. The guys on our team took on most of the drilling, while the girls on the team, including myself, worked on building relationships with the community. I got the opportunity to spend a lot of time with the precious children of Dargout each day we were there, and I also got to meet many of their mothers. On one of the last days we were there, we held a sanitation clinic to teach the people of the village how to keep their hands clean, and how to keep water clean. We distributed personal straw filtration systems as well as bucket filter systems, both made by WATERisLIFE. Seeing the people so proud of what they’d just received was an awesome experience. To know that clean water, something so essential to everyday life and taken for granted by Americans like me, wasn’t accessible to those beloved people was really heartbreaking.
Knowing that it would be worth it in the end, we all pushed through the heat and loved on the kids and families while the men dug away, trying to provide a reliable water source for the people of the village. I brought the children coloring books, crayons, stickers and other various donated items. Keeping them entertained was fairly easy, as some of the kids were seeing a crayon for the first time in their lives. The kids were overjoyed just to have people spend time and play with them. Our time together was spent singing, dancing, coloring, talking and playing sports together. Each day when we had to pack up and leave, my heart dropped. Leaving those kids was very hard on me. I felt like I had started to establish real relationships with them, and even though there was an obvious language barrier between my English and their Creole (or French), love broke that barrier and allowed me to communicate with them.
As a 23-year-old college student going to school to be a counselor, my eyes were opened to the dire poverty, as well as the hunger for love and humanity in this world. Those children craved a basic connection with another human being, someone to love them and show them that they care. My heart was hurting for the people I fell in love with and left behind in Haiti, just two short weeks after I arrived. The well was dug, and we moved on to our next task: holding a medical clinic in the mountain village of Las Cagnite, which gave the villagers the opportunity to see a doctor, dentist and a pharmacist.
One of the memories that I have that will forever be ingrained in my mind is when I snuck water to a little girl. We were told to stay hydrated throughout the day so we wouldn’t get sick from the heat, but we quickly learned that although there were many little eyes staring when we drank the purified water, we couldn’t give every single child a drink. If we, the team, didn’t stay hydrated, we would be of no use to drill their well, which would eventually become a sustainable water source for Dargout.
I had developed a relationship with a gorgeous little brown-eyed girl named Dalinska, who was about six years old. I walked over to our truck in hopes of getting away from the kids for a quick drink. Dalinska followed me and tugged on my shirt as she begged me to give her a drink of water by saying, “dlo,” which means “water” in Creole. All she wanted was a drop of water to quench her thirst. As I looked around, I saw that no other kids were around at that exact moment, so I took the sweet girl around the side of the truck, out of the view of most people and poured water into her mouth. I couldn’t stand to look into her eyes anymore and tell her no, deny her water. After I gave her the drink, she clung onto my waist and gave me the biggest, tightest hug I’ve ever gotten before. As I looked down, we locked eyes and her big brown eyes peered into my soul. I hugged her back, held her for a minute and told her that I loved her.
My biggest takeaway from being in Haiti is that happiness is an emotion, and joy is a choice. Often times we privileged Americans tend to be very materialistic, basing our happiness on “stuff” or circumstances. You see, although they don’t know anything different, the people of Haiti have hardly anything, yet they are extremely thankful. They choose to be joyful through all things, through all circumstances. So friends, I submit for you to consider the next time you get down about something in life: choose joy over temporary happiness.
Aside from my experience, I highly encourage anyone who hasn’t traveled to Haiti or any foreign country, to go. Go serve and experience what I experienced. You will leave a piece of your heart there – I promise.