Jackie Eiting, a long-time friend of Lila and Andrew Meade, was an invaluable participant on the trip to Haiti. She was always looking out for everyone else; always had some new piece of knowledge to share; and even after a long hike, was full of life and more energy than anyone else. We wanted everyone who has been following the events of the trip to also witness Jackie’s wisdom and insight. Below is a short reflection Jackie wrote on her experience. Thank you Jackie for being an inspiration and friend to all on the trip!
Jackie with Sarah, Siennah, Lan, and Kremena
I really resisted going to Haiti…I just didn’t need to ‘fall in love’ with another ‘third world country’. I kept thinking “really, what could an almost 70 year old woman do in Haiti that would actually make any difference to anybody?!” BUT when Lila said, “Jackie we’re counting on you…you will be the only other non-student (read older person) on this trip” I succumbed! As I was making my reservations it occurred to me that this journey would change my life, one more time….and it didn’t disappoint!
Our first drive through Port Au Prince seemed familiar….Dante’s Descent into Hell came to mind….the rubble, the bumper-car traffic, the stifling heat, and the everywhere chaos hid what was obvious to me 7 days later when we returned. Port au Prince was simply a struggling, amazingly alive city, on the precipice of daily survival.
We stayed that night on the floor of one of our student’s family’s home. Clairiola’s extended family, already squeezed, over flowing into this house, opened their arms and resources to us with unbelievable generosity.
At this point I was making the slow transition from “what AM I doing here?” to “This is Haiti, I am here”.
I realized I came ill prepared in 2 ways however. I had all the stuff for sure; the right clothes, 98% Deet Spray, Malrone etc. But I had not even the simplest of Creole phrases to say “hello, thank you, how are you?” I was essentially a mute with no way to express my overwhelming gratitude for such generosity. Secondly , I didn’t know these beautiful young women who were my traveling companions and clearly much better prepared than me. They were already bonded to each other and Haiti. This however became the most powerful secret sauce of the trip for me, the cherry on the Haiti cake: to meet, get to know and deeply love these special young ‘leaders in the making’.
Watching them work, playing with the children of Chermaitre, climbing up and down the mountain, taking water and soil samples, listening and being deeply moved by the woman of Chermaitre’s heart achingly sad stories, not complaining about the lack of water and being clean, and laughing so hard with and at each other about all the hard circumstances, I became increasingly happier and relieved about the possibility and future of our planet.
Knowing Andrew and Lila for so many years I did know that VHP was a special organization. I do and have always trusted their integrity and ability to make a huge difference in anything that they touch. What attracts me now so powerfully to VHP is the ability to contribute directly to a place, a village, a community, i.e. people, the children of Chermaitre AND the fact that the VHP experiences leaves an indelible mark on these young students, these truly’ global citizens’ who are transformed by their work in Haiti. Each one of them will never forget this experience and each one will go on to use this experience to keep making a difference in this world.
As some wise person said to me “you get what you resist’… that is true… I got Haiti and I got a life- long commitment to the Vassar Haiti Project! Not a bad deal!