My nerves were making my whole body feel a little…off. Overall, I was uneasy and uncomfortable with everything happening in my life, however I was experiencing this natural high that had me so excited to adventure, experience and to overcome. Some say I was running to Haiti, but I say I ended up there because I needed to be there, to give, to provide perspective and to guide.
This trip to Haiti was a little different for me. I was going as a retreat co-leader. I was honored and excited that I was able to co-lead this retreat with Kristin O’Connell, founder of Devoted to Children Foundation (D2C). GOYO Adventures has partnered with D2C as our Seva, selfless service partner.
Devoted to Children, is a non-profit that is dedicated to caring for the orphaned, abandoned and enslaved children of Haiti. D2C provides a family home, education, nutrition, yoga and more to 8 strong, lovely little beings in the town of Cayes Jacmel. In addition, D2C supports sustainable community development through various educational and yoga based projects, such as an after school program and summer camp.
As I landed in Port au Prince, I felt clarity. I felt excitement. I felt dirty and I was dripping with sweat. I was eager. It was then that I snapped out of fight or flight mode and was reminded of the smells, the neon lighting, the Haitian smiles, their eagerness to communicate with you before stepping away from the airport. I was reminded why the road always leads me back to Haiti…
Only 5 minutes after landing in Haiti, Kristin and Kristi, retreat leaders, myself and their two children ended up on a 6 person puddle jumper where they have to weigh you and your bags, they pray before flying, and did I mention our co pilot was 7 years of age! We flew only a few thousand feet over the tall mountains, which felt like less. In these mountains were small villages scattered throughout, life out in the middle of nowhere! After a short ride over the mountain, we landed safely in the coastal town of Jacmel.
This place is beautiful in a Haitian way. The streets are dirty and hot, but, the smiles, the tap taps, the moto bikes, the hard workers, the children, the people that fill the streets, goats, chickens and cows all bring light and beauty!
We were staying at Cyvadier Plage Hotel, a fancy Haitian Hotel…in a Caribbean cove of crystal clear water, palm trees, green grass, and the most peaceful yoga platform.
On this trip we had 3 mothers, 3 daughters, and an artist, a yogi, and a traveling physical therapist who has hiked the AT and PCT. This group connected like we have known each other for years. My inner child came out as I found myself dancing, playing cards, and hanging with the kiddos more than the folks my age. If we could all see the world through the eyes of a child, we could see the magic in everything, their hearts wide open and full of love.
Together we got to spend a week in a beautiful beach setting, take part in morning yoga classes to set a daily intention and to keep grounded, see incredible sites, such as Bassin Bleu, create and finish a mural at the orphanage to bring color and brightness, play with the children at the beach, teach them yoga, help them with homework, and watch them at dance class.
Every day is an adventure in Haiti, from what you experience, what you learn, what you see, or what you may have to face…however that’s what makes Haiti, Haiti!
The Devoted to Children family home was clean and simple. Mama Nicole was in the kitchen preparing a meal for 8 hungry growing kids and the whole D2C staff, while Madame Diane was making sure the kids had completed their homework before heading to the beach for surfing and soccer with us.
The boys: Darwendy-11, Darwen 11, Fednel 15, Fransisco 17. The girls: Gloria 6, Rebecca 7, Sheelove 9, Alycha 9. These children speak a million stories. They all have their own personalities, and even though we don’t speak Creole, and they don’t speak English, we all laugh and play in the same language. The connection is real.
These kiddos have made a lasting impression on my life. They have reminded me of what it means to work hard, to be independent, to express love, and most of all, to smile. To be able to give without expecting anything in return is the greatest gift of all…let the Haiti high continue!