How a Trip to Haiti Changed My Life

This is the first post of a three part series on Haiti.

As I sat down and got quiet thinking about all the things that happened this week, including missing the premiere of Southern Charm (don’t judge), I couldn’t help but feel incredibly grateful for all of my many blessings – family, friends, a beautiful home, a job I love, and comforts that many can only dream of. It’s so easy to forget how incredibly blessed we are to not only be alive and kicking but also thriving. It got me thinking back to one of the most transformative experiences in my life that dug me out of a pretty rough period and opened my eyes to the beauty in the darkness – Haiti.


My parents had divorced a couple of years before I went to Haiti, which was a very difficult for me. Navigating the post-divorce family life had thrown me for a loop (around a tree, under a bridge, through the woods, over the mountain, and back again). My parents were like adoptive parents to some of my friends. My family was always close but obviously, not anymore. It was devastating to me and the life I thought I had. I was always used to being in control of myself and my feelings, and I was admittedly a mess.

On the outside, I still had it mostly together. But on the inside, I was incredibly unsettled. I read every book I could on being an adult child of divorce, which wasn’t many. I tried meditation thanks to the collaboration between Oprah and Deepak Chopra, thinking that would give me clarity in my life. I became a short-lived “Holy Roller.” I tried tap dancing, therapy, & Tito’s vodka. I didn’t realize at the time that I was searching for a return to the stability I always thought I had in my life that I would never have in that same way again.

A good friend of mine had been to Haiti a couple of times and encouraged me to join the group from Catch the Vision that was going in November of 2013. I had never gone on a trip like that before and was more than apprehensive. I really had no idea what to expect, and I was honestly more concerned about bugs and peeing outside than anything else. I loved helping people, but I wasn’t really sure if I was the appropriate person to go and be the “Light of Christ” in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. I most definitely was unqualified. But I went to the info session and decided that I would go. Obviously, I went because I wanted to “help,” but I had no concept of what that actually meant.

haiti construction

The night before I left, I think I finally understood what anxiety truly is. The entire night, I was on the verge of tears thinking about what I had gotten myself into. I had no skills to bring to Haiti. I wasn’t a nurse or doctor. I usually avoid manual labor at all costs so the thought of being able to help with the construction project made me feel completely overwhelmed. I’m not someone who easily shares my faith, and this was a mission trip. Sometimes, children get on my nerves. I had zero business going to Haiti. On top of that, I hadn’t practiced peeing outside which had been a ridiculous but real source of anxiety. The last thing I wrote in my journal before I left for the airport was, “I thought I’d feel more prepared than this.”

Before our plane even landed, I could tell Haiti was different. As the plane reached the runway, there was rubble on both sides of the single runway from the massive earthquake more than three years prior and almost no trees anywhere. As I walked to the front of the plane, the heat and humidity were oppressive, and I’m from South Carolina. When we went to claim our luggage, everyone found their suitcase. Except me. All I could think was, “What am I going to do? There’s no Lane Bryant here.” Just as the real possibility of being stuck in Haiti with no clothes or supplies for an entire week began to wash over me, an oversized black suitcase with an ‘Upgrade Me’ tag appeared. At least I would have clean clothes and my toothbrush and iodine tablets for water.

haiti little boy

As we left the airport, there were hundreds of people talking and yelling and trying to grab the bags so we would have to pay them for helping. It was a mad house. When we finally got to the parking lot where 15 of us would cram into 3 Nissan Patrols, it finally began to hit me. I had traveled pretty extensively prior to going to Haiti. All over the U.S. Europe. Asia. But there was nothing I had experienced that could prepare me for the sights and heartache and beauty I would see in Haiti or the change in my heart.


 

For more information on what Catch the Vision is doing in Haiti, please visit CTV’s website or feel free to shoot me a message. I’m always more than happy to talk Haiti.

19 comments

  1. Mother & Daughter says:

    I understand all of your feelings. Divorce is hard no matter the age. Daughter was in her 2nd year of college when her father and I divorced, she says she remembers nothing of the next year. Good for you for stepping out of your comfort zone, it is hard but we all need to do it on occasion.

    • Sarah says:

      Yes! You know exactly what I mean. It’s difficult. But often, you find what’s most important by dealing with those tough times. And thriving! 💕💕💕

  2. Sarah says:

    This made me smile. I love that rush of landing in a new country and thinking “What have I gotten myself into?” It’s thrillingly scary and beautiful.
    I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your 3 part Haiti adventure!
    Also, what plugin do you use on your blog for Instagram? It looks amazing!

    • Sarah says:

      Exactly. 98% scared. 2% excited. Or it’s 98% excited and 2% scared! Thanks for stopping by! And I use Instagram Feed. It’s super easy to set up!! 😊

    • Sarah says:

      Haha! It’s so strange the things you focus on and stress over!! That’s the beauty of life, I guess. Thanks for reading!!

  3. Erin says:

    I am looking forward to reading more about your experience! My husband is leaving for a mission trip in Honduras in a couple weeks – I am nervous for him to go but I know that it will be heartbreaking and amazing all at the same time.

  4. Brenda says:

    Great post and I am looking forward to the next part. Shaking things up is often a way to snap out of things I think. Plus realizing where you are and what you do have. I was reading thinking what an experience this is going to be and jealous.

    • Sarah says:

      Jumping out of your comfort zone can definitely shed light on those “big picture” things and put them in perspective really quickly! I wholeheartedly recommend it! 😊

  5. Jessie says:

    I love this post! I’ve never been to Haiti, but would love to go sometime. Congrats on getting out of your comfort zone! I’m always inspired by posts like this. 🙂

  6. Joce says:

    This is a beautiful post! I have always thought about doing a volunteer trip but have been too nervous to yet. It is on my list and this post has moved it further up that list! It is inspiring to read other people’s stories of moving past anxiety to do something great! 🙂

  7. Hillary says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I look forward to reading the rest of your series. Proud of you for getting out of your comfort zone and wanting to give back even when you felt ill-equipped to do so. (Pro tip: It seems like you had a lot of love and care to give – many, many times in life, that is more than enough and great things come from that!) And I totally relate about being nervous about peeing outside! Sometimes the things that seem like they should be minute details end up causing us the most stress!

  8. Rachelle says:

    I can really identify with your need to try all sorts of self help and new hobbies. I have the same reaction to difficulties in my own life. I am excited to hear the rest of your story.

  9. Jean-Marie Lawrence says:

    Haiti!!! I have been wanting to go there for years, but haven’t found the opportunity yet. I’m in a wheelchair, so it’s a bit harder for me to travel to a 3rd world country, and most groups don’t want to or aren’t able to work with my needs for me to go. But I know I’ll get there when I’m meant to. So amazing that you got to go!

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