Lessons in gratitude, resiliency, and the joy of lollipops
By Emma Moise, 16, president, MAST Academy Interact Club, 11th grade:
I have been helping with fundraising for Flying High for Haiti since my freshman year. I was eager to travel to Haiti because my dad is Haitian and this was my first time visiting Haiti. It was an incredible experience to be able to see where the money for the projects is used and the tremendous impact it has on people’s lives.
Ines Lozano, founder of Flying High for Haiti, is an inspiring, thoughtful, mesmerizing, and fearless leader who is highly respected in Haiti. She is a quiet force who effectively makes things happen.
We visited the Ecole du Village School which is sponsored by Flying High for Haiti and brought school and art supplies that we collected through our Interact Club. I learned that the government schools in Haiti are not free like they are here in the United States, and what might seem like a small fee to us is expensive in Haiti. Education is not a right or an entitlement. The parents have to work hard to send their children to school, and they must have shoes to be able to attend school.
We met children who could not go to school because they did not have shoes, or because their parents could not afford to send them. I was impressed with how eager the children were to go to school and learn, even though their school did not have electricity, air conditioning, or running water. Some children had to walk at least one hour each way, and some even have to walk up to three hours each way to go to school. The children, even though they had very little in material things, were full of joy and appreciation.
The most amusing time I had was while giving lollipops to the children. It was like we were the Pied Piper walking through the island because when we gave a lollipop to one child, several children magically appeared, and within minutes we were surrounded by at least 20 children excited to get a lollipop. Word spread faster than a text message!
Participating in the trip made me much more appreciative of the small things we feel we are entitled to in the United States, like electricity, air conditioning, flushing toilets, food, cold water, ice, toilet paper, my own bedroom, a television, electronics, and sunglasses, to name only a few things we take for granted. Haiti is a beautiful country and the views were spectacular. The Haitian people are kind, creative and resilient. I feel fortunate that I had this opportunity.
Songs, football, and a new perspective on life
By Julian Moise, 15, MAST Academy Interact Club, 9th grade:
I was excited to get the opportunity to travel to Haiti with Ines Lozano and Flying High for Haiti after helping with fundraising efforts for the past year. We flew into Port-au-Prince and rode in a van at heavy traffic time for six hours until we reached a small coastal village, Les Cayes. From Les Cayes we boarded a small fishing boat in pitch darkness and rode to the small island village of Ile-a-Vache.
The following morning we boarded the brightly colored fishing boat again and visited the school. I visited all of the classrooms and sang with the children. Afterwards, we distributed new textbooks and lollipops to the children. During recess, I played a modified version of American football with the students. I felt welcomed and appreciated throughout my time at the school.
The children were extremely well behaved in class, paid attention and worked hard. They were proud of their school and decorated with handmade decorations for our arrival. We walked through small villages to distribute clothes and solar lights, and carried lollipops to give to the children along the way. Everyone was incredibly grateful for what they received.
On our second day we visited a clinic to deliver glasses, and then went to an orphanage. Many of the children were in school, and we spent time with the children with severe disabilities who were not able to go to school. We made beaded bracelets and blew bubbles for them. Although we worked hard on this trip, we also had time for some fun. On our last night we hiked to Abaka Bay Beach Resort, which has a beautiful white sand beach with crystal clear water. We swam and played soccer with the children, and enjoyed the sunset.
This trip has changed my perspective on life. We should cherish everything we have in life and not take things for granted. We have so much in life, much more than we need. The Haitians we met in Ile-a-Vache are honest, hard-working people who face significant hardships each and every day, but still continue to enjoy and appreciate life. I want to continue to volunteer with Flying High for Haiti because it was a meaningful experience that had a profound impact on my life.