Beth in Haiti

Please join me as we bring hope to a nation in need!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Little Bit of Thanksgiving

At the beginning of this week, I wasn’t feeling particularly thankful.  It was surprisingly easy for me to focus on what I felt like I was missing back home: everyone beginning their long holiday weekends, posted pictures of delicious food of which I would not be able to partake and this year being the first Thanksgiving that my family would not be together.  I spent a majority of Monday and Tuesday dwelling on these thoughts and labeling them as missed opportunities.

That all came to a screeching halt on Wednesday afternoon when I was graciously smacked in the face with a little bit of perspective.  As I sat down to eat our ever-monotonous lunch choices of peanut butter and jelly or tuna salad, I overheard a friend of mine discussing the exact feelings that I had been struggling with internally.  Instead of continuing to focus on family back home and what we were missing, he turned to look out over the mountains, towards the water, and simply said, “We have so much to be thankful for here.”  Immediately, things snapped into focus as I thought, “Duh!  Why didn’t I think of that?!”  How selfish of me to live in a country where there is so much need, having all of my needs met, and still focusing on the things I can’t have.

In an attempt to counteract my extreme nearsightedness leading up to a holiday where we are supposed to focus on and be thankful for our many blessings, here are a list of things that I love about my life in Haiti and would never trade for any amount of turkey and stuffing: 
  • The opportunity to live in a country with so much potential and perseverance
  • 3,000 students who I work with in freshly-pressed uniforms that daily commit to attending school at Mission of Hope despite the fact that education in Haiti is not mandatory
  • A job right out of college that I LOVE
  • The feeling of safety at Mission of Hope
  • Two 15-pound turkeys that Publix donated to us for free so that we can have a little bit of home here in Haiti
  • An amazing kitchen staff that worked all day on Thursday just to attempt to make us a traditional, American Thanksgiving dinner- even if it did involve unidentifiable toast & beef entrĂ©es (Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Haiti)
  • Books that keep me inspired
  • Access to a car that lets me explore Port-au-Prince every Saturday with friends
  • A new internet tower with clear reception that allowed me to Skype into my family’s Thanksgiving dinner and almost feel like I’m homeThanksgiving day marking exactly one month until I greet my family at the Port-au-Prince airport for the first time
  • The Haitian people whose lives and faith constantly humble me
  • And 65 kids that think my name is “Cow” (Bef) and love me anyway.

Thankful for 2 of the newest editions to the Village of Hope: Rose Myrtha (Left) and Soudnell

Eating Thanksgiving dinner with my family via Skype

Especially thankful for 5 Kindergarten uniforms hanging on the line for our youngest Village of Hope kiddos now in school!

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Today we begin to slowly make our way back to normal after a week of Hurricane Sandy-related mayhem two weeks ago and a long weekend this past Thursday and Friday surrounding a national holiday.  While the storm came and went and is mostly forgotten by those not life-threateningly affected here, the devastation still being reported in New York City has been ever-present in my thoughts and prayers lately as I have struggled with placing my emotions on what is happening back home and feeling so cut off from a city that has been so much a part of my life.  It’s almost a surreal experience now to be in exactly the opposite situation than that which I have grown accustomed to.  For the past two years, I have known that I was called to return to Haiti and have lived with that truth at the forefront of most of my decision-making processes.  Anyone who got to know me during those two years, regardless of our level of connection, could tell you at least one thing: I ALWAYS talked about Haiti.   I strived to stay connected in as many ways as possible with the people of Haiti and friends who travelled back and forth as I experienced the difficulty of being physically removed from a place you call home when there is news of devastation or change and you feel almost as if you are being left behind.  For two years I felt that way about Haiti while living in New York City.  Now I am finally here; living in Haiti after all of the time that I spent saying, “after I graduate, I’m moving back to Haiti.”  And now I am experiencing that being here evokes the same emotions about friends and family in my other “homes” just as being in New York revealed my passion and longing for Haiti.  It is an extremely powerful feeling to realize that so many places and people have touched your life in such a way that a piece of your heart will always remain there with them.    

So in this time, I am feeling that same “longing” and struggle with being removed from New York City as it fights to pick up its broken and flooded pieces and work together to return to a state of normalcy.   I was at a complete loss for how to feel as I spoke with friends and they assured me of their safety despite their loss of power and their emergency evacuations.  Trying to feel as a part of the happenings as possible, I was constantly searching for the latest updates from social networks, news sites and pictures.   I found myself moved by those who were discovering gratitude in the face of adversity for their daily blessings and struggled with my placing my emotions surrounding people claiming that New York City was the “new third world” or making jokes in bad taste about being forced to live like many of those who I live and work with on a daily basis.  I went through just about every emotion and battled with how to feel given the circumstances: helplessness due to my inability to help or see anything going on in New York firsthand; frustration with those who spoke so tastelessly in the face of their own discomfort; respect for those who faced adversity and reached out to help others despite their own discomfort; until I settled on one- thankfulness.

In an uncharacteristically packed Sunday church service this morning, one of our pastors mentioned New York City and the bond we share with its residents as we have all been affected by Hurricane Sandy.  He went on to ask that we keep New York in our prayers as they fight to rebuild their city and remain unified in the wake of a disaster.  Immediately, thankfulness swept over me.  I am so incredibly thankful to have had the privilege of living in New York City for two years and to meet some of the most amazingly unique and selfless people that I will ever know.  I am thankful that I continue to receive updates from people confirming their safety and continuing to actively seek out ways that they can help their city get back on its feet.  And most of all, I am thankful to live in Haiti.  I’m thankful that despite having so little and experiencing such unthinkable destruction of their own, the people of Haiti are faithful, selfless and gracious enough to think of others who struggle.  New York City, Haiti is praying for you.

View of New York City from downtown on the Hudson River