We can probably all remember the terrifying images from the 2010 earthquake that rocked Haiti: buildings collapsing, homes being destroyed, children and adults fighting for their lives amidst the ruin and chaos.
It’s been nearly two years since the 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, but today, there’s still much to be done to repair the country. Becky Armstrong, a customer retention specialist at the West Central Tribune, recently took a mission trip to Haiti with Connie Spartz, also of Willmar, and a group from Hennepin Avenue Methodist Church in Minneapolis. During their week in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, Becky and her group witnessed extreme hardship, poverty and famine. While Becky thought she had an idea of what Haiti would be like, she now realizes that until you’ve been there and seen it for yourself, you don’t really understand it at all.
Becky describes the trip as “culture shock” and “emotional overload.” No matter where the group went, they couldn’t escape the devastating after-effects of the earthquake or its impact on the Haitian people. Many people in Port-au-Prince still live in the tent cities they set up following the earthquake, Becky says, because at least there, they’re guaranteed clean water and toilets. It’s hard for many Haitians to find work, and yet there aren’t enough workers to even begin clearing out some of the rubble and debris left behind by the earthquake.
Before leaving for Haiti, Becky and her group raised money at home to purchase library books for schoolchildren. Between them all, they raised nearly $1,300 to spend on new books for one of the local schools in Port-au-Prince.
Rather than choosing the books themselves, they invited the school’s principal to meet them at a bookstore and pick out the books that he wanted for his students. When the principal arrived at the bookstore, he was like “a kid at Christmas,” Becky says, and couldn’t wait to bring the books back to the school.
During the rest of the week, Becky and the group visited other schools, orphanages, a church, a hospital and a nursing home to bring people essential supplies, such as food, medicine and clothing.
For Becky, the trip was an eye-opener. Though she wishes she could have done more, she knows that she made an impact on the people she met there. At the same time, she says that, like on all of her other mission trips, she got more out of the experience than she gave.
-Ashley White, Community Content Coordinator