It’s hard to believe that 6 months have passed by and that my time in Haiti is drawing to a close already. What a clichéd thing to say, but it’s true – it feels like just yesterday when I first stepped off the plane, eager to soak up the atmosphere and get to know the country where I was going to be spending half a year of my life. Along the way, I got to learn plenty of new lessons about Haiti, development work, and also myself.
I learned that you always, always, need to have a Plan B – you can prepare yourself for project activities like carrying out field visits and capacity building sessions, buying materials, and delivering packages, but there will inevitably be circumstances out of your control that will delay or hamper your work. In Haiti, most of that entailed unpredictable political demonstrations that made it unsafe to go out on the streets at times, the unreliable internet connection, the rise in costs of goods and services due to inflation, as well as the constantly changing rates of the American dollar that impacted the planned project budget.
I learned that respect is a universal language – that is, treat others with respect and people will appreciate it and return the favour wherever you are in the world. Even through language and cultural barriers, I was able to form meaningful connections with Haitians who welcomed me into their country with open arms, for which I’ve been incredibly grateful.
I learned that international development work is what I want to be doing with my life. It has many challenges and frustrations, sometimes leaving me feeling helpless and hopeless about the countless obstacles to poverty reduction that no one person can seemingly address. But having seen the positive difference that the project has made for many families here, it reminds me that development work can still be fulfilling and have a genuine purpose and impact, even at the micro-level.
Finally, I learned that 6 months will fly by in the blink of an eye. So if you have a bucket list full of things you want to accomplish, don’t put them off until later because the opportunity can pass by before you know it – so just take the plunge and relish the moment.