Posts Tagged ‘Let Haiti Live’

Go Overseas Interview

This is a quick interview I did for the good people of Go Overseas (http://www.gooverseas.com) about “a day in the life” of the volunteer project I recently did in Haiti with Elevate Destinations. Go to the Go Overseas website to see it properly formatted and much nicer than the cut-n-paste version here…and while you’re there, find yourself a trip!

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Day in the Life of a Volunteer in Haiti

Day in the Life of Andrew Mersmann - Volunteer in Haiti

Andrew Mersmann – Volunteer Alum in Haiti

Andrew Mersmann is a Los Angeles-based travel writer and author (Frommer’s “500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference). He was a client on the Elevate Destinations “Urgent Service” trip to southern Haiti in 2010 after the earthquake, and returned this year as a volunteer team leader. Andrew’s blog, Change By Doing focuses on volunteering and service around the world.

Where: Haiti
What: Volunteering with Elevate Destinations

kids in Haiti

Volunteer with children in Haiti

Morning: We were sleeping in either tents outside or under mosquito netting in a large, dirt-floored classroom…and it was July in Haiti, so I generally woke in a puddle of sweat. 15 of us shared a bathroom with no running water, just a large barrel of cistern water to use for bucket baths and flushing the toilet, and we had a jug of drinking water to brush our teeth, drink, etc. Breakfast, like every meal, was lovingly prepared for us, and we scarfed down peanut butter for protein and lots of carbs for energy.

The morning work detail was transporting sand, gravel, and bags of concrete, bucket brigade-style, up the precipitous side of the rocky hill, to build the kitchen and depot for Let Haiti Live headquarters. Grueling physical labor in intense heat, passing plastic buckets to the next volunteer up the hill, and passing empties back down to be refilled, we made games of staying hydrated, sang songs, shared life stories, and laughed until our sides ached.

Afternoon: The afternoon work was based in education for 40 young people, ages 5-25, in the requested areas of English and Leadership Skills. There were two age-divided classes going simultaneously for three sessions each afternoon, for a total of six lessons a day. We had a lesson plan and general direction for each class, some stood alone as individual lessons, some as continuation on the work of the previous day. Each volunteer taught at least once, then assisted other volunteer class leaders in other sessions. We exchanged cultural experiences (describe foods, sing national anthem and other common songs, share stories everyone learns as a child) and more practical advice (first aid training, entrepreneurship, even yoga) with the help of English translators. At the end of the week, the kids had prepared a program of dance and song and cultural presentation for us when we all shared a day at the beach.

Volunteers working hard in Haiti

Volunteers hard at work in Haiti

Evening: The young people we were there to serve went home to their families in the evening, so this was when we had time to really bond as a volunteer team. We’d stare down the hill at the waning light over the ocean before we had to grab up flashlights. One evening we joined our hosts at a highly competitive and celebratory community soccer match, another night we pooled a small amount of money so a local resto/pub owner could hire a band and we danced with lots of locals deep into the night. Other evenings we hung out in camp, headlamps as our only light, wishing for a cooling breeze, and dodging tarantulas on our way to the bathroom or eventually to bed/tent. Again, the laughter was always the most prominent sound.

Highlights: The highlight for me was after some circumstances waylaid or final day of lessons and we had to skip presentations of student projects (the older group had divided into small groups to create original “campaigns” for Haiti, developing posters, logos, radio commercial scripts, etc about a topic they were passionate about: the environment, education for all, better roads and infrastructure for the country, agriculture/food/hunger)…all of the kids voted to come back to class Saturday morning to finish, even though that had not been scheduled. Them seeing, and valuing, the benefit in what we were all doing together, made it all resonate so forcefully for me.

Quiet time with a 5-year-old growing sleepy as she sat in my lap, or helping clean and bandage a girl’s cut toe as she bravely squeezed my shoulder instead of crying, or a group of teen boys making necklaces for each of us to say goodbye, are subtle memories I’ll have forever.

Home From Haiti

The most amazing experience–working with Let Haiti Live in Cyvadier on the southern coast of Haiti with an amazing group of volunteers and the local community that welcomed us more warmly than we could have ever hoped.

Here is how we spent our mornings, bucket after bucket, day after day…

 

 

 

Take Part in Directly Affecting Haitian-led Solutions

I am fundraising for project dollars that go directly to the organization I am partnering with for a July Volunteer Service Trip to Haiti to support Let Haiti Live‘s locally-initiated goals of education, reforestation, and advocacy. I hope you’ll consider a much needed donation (click this link to go to my personal fundraising page).

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So many friends and family opened their hearts and wallets when I volunteered in Haiti in 2010 after the earthquake. I’m headed back, to lead a group of volunteers this time (I wish you were coming with us!) I am again working with the same travel company, Elevate Destinations, on this award-winning example of their brilliantly conceived Urgent Service trips.

In July, I will be co-leading a volunteer service team in Cyvadier, Haiti for a week to support Let Haiti Live, a non-profit organization investing in Haitian-led initiatives that strengthen the people’s ability to become more self-sufficient economically, socially, and environmentally.

Our group will be working with 40 youths that are part of the JADPE program (Youth in Action for Development and Protection of the Environment). We will conduct a week-long Summer Camp teaching kids ranging from ages 5-25 English language skills and leadership development (among other relevant topics). We are also doing a construction project: building a kitchen to feed the kids of this community, and storage space that will support the expansion of the group’s reforestation efforts in the region. Our work will help empower youth leaders, help families grow food, and support Haiti’s environment.

Youth empowerment is CRUCIAL to helping Haitians rebuild their country. 100% of your donation will directly support our project that was initiated by the Haitian leaders of the organization. I know how frustrating it has been for many who think so much money has gone to Haiti, but seemed to disappear before making a difference. Here is a way to reach out and know exactly where your dollars are going.

Thank you for your support – even $10 helps!

Your support will:

*Provide hot lunches for 40 kids for the camp (for many, this might be their only hot meal for that day).
* Help provide the educational materials they need for the summer camp.
* Enable us to work on the construction project to expand Let Haiti Live’s capacity.

Please help me exceed my goal of raising $600 for Let Haiti Live by July 15th!

Your donation means a lot to me and to the youth at the JADPE project.

My sincere thanks,

Andrew Mersmann

DONATION PAGE

Join Me on a Service Vacation In Haiti This Summer!

One of my favorite friends from my last trip to Jacmel, Haiti.

Hey Everyone–I am co-leading a volunteer/service trip to Haiti this summer. Join us! The trip is with Elevate Destinations, the same organization I was lucky enough to travel with to volunteer after the earthquake. There is a one-week and a two-week option (July 22-30 or July 22-August 5) and we will be teaching/leading a summer camp/leadership academy for youth ages 5-25 in the afternoons, while our mornings are spent on reforestation and construction programs. It takes place in Cyvadier, on the southern coast, not far from Jacmel. I would be thrilled to answer questions and give you more information if you want to chew on the idea of coming along–I promise you will come home a different person and will be so deeply moved by this experience.

The in-country project partner is Let Haiti Live, working to strengthen Haitian independence and self-determination, with a focus on alternative media, education, and community mobilization; reforestation; and international advocacy. It is an honor to work with such a dedicated organization.

If you’ve ever considered service travel, see if this feels like a fit. Feel free to ask questions or add comments here, or email me directly at: 500andrews@gmail.com. More details of the trip can be found here (1-week trip details) and here (2-week trip). Come on–this will be unlike any summer you’ve known!