I have recently been to Haiti on a mission: to get to know the country and their people in order to help their children with the non-profit organization Lakay Pam. Upon my return, Modelinia.com asked me to write an essay about my experience there, and I wanna share it HERE with you.
While the world has kept Haiti on their minds and in their hearts ever since the tragic experience, only a select few individuals have had the opportunity to visit the country and see the tragedy while lending a helping hand. Elite agent Gabriel Ruas shared his experience in Haiti with Modelina, just in time for the Lakay Pam event, hosted by Coco Rocha tonight – to which you’re all invited!
I have been working with NGO Lakay Pam (”My House” in Creole) for a little over three years. The organization, started by one of the models I manage, Carolina Bittencourt, has touched me from the beginning. Carolina, who traveled the world through her modeling career had always felt the need to help, but never believed that simply giving money away was the right way to do it. It was only when she met Haitian entrepreneur Cedrick Roche that she finally came accross her mission. With Cedrick by her side she set off to Haiti to learn all about this tiny country in the Caribbean, so close from the modern world but so far from everyone’s memories.
Carolina and Cedrick set sights in one particular orphanage and the goal was to help the children of Haiti, many abandoned by their parents, many unable to afford education, many without even a grain of rice to eat at the end of the day. Today, Lakay Pam helps to provide shelter, education, health care and food for over 700 children in Haiti, but the number of the ones in need is much bigger and it grows on a daily basis.
After the earthquake in January of this year, I decided I would finally make my way to the emerald shores of Haiti and put my hands to work. Through the invitation of Lakay Pam and their local supporters I ended up in Port Au Prince, and I couldn’t be more excited and panicked at the same time; the thought of what I was going to run into was unclear and blurry in my head. After the easy and comfortable 3 hour flight from New York, arriving at the airport was simple, but the effects of the destruction were already visible; military helicopters and airplanes parked in the partially destroyed airport and very minor organization on the way in were nothing more than the expected.
After I settled in and reorganized myself, I hopped in the car and went to downtown Port Au Prince. Everywhere I looked around me, I found destruction, from small houses to tall buildings, most of the city crashed down to the ground, 6 floors of construction layered on top of each other, like a sandwich of death. As the car got closer to the core of the city it got worse, and some of the buildings that are still standing show signs of instability, keeping their residents outside, living in improvised tents.
The tents are an entirely new chapter. Tents are spread all over the city where there used to be beautiful squares and monuments, in the hills that border the town, everywhere you look you can see them, alongside tons of debris and trash. It’s heart breaking and disappointing to see that in the modern age we still are subject to such cruelty.
But not all is lost, and every single Haitian citizen and visitor, like myself, will tell you that. The people in that island share something very special, that is their will to survive and their positivity. Haitians have been ruled by brutal, corrupt and selfish presidents; disrespectful and near useless police force, and they have always managed to keep on living, why shouldn’t they now?
The art is spread all over the country, their local artisans show their skills in mosaics, stone sculptures and unimaginable things made of straw. And all that work is done without ever attending a class to teach them the things that many design students from the developed world would take a life time to figure out.
The help that is coming from all sides is being allocated to their respective places, but at this point the damage is so extensive and so lost in the middle of the politics that it has become easier to do as we are doing, going down there and assessing what you can do for yourself. If it’s cribs, x–ray machines, mattresses, bricks or cement that they need, let’s buy it, let’s do what we can. In a country where the vast majority of people have no running water or electricity, even one hundred dollars can go a long way.
But let me tell you now, what you can do, that would be even easier and surprisingly pleasant: next time you have to take a vacation, instead of going to every other packed destination in the Caribbean, go to Haiti. Yes dear reader, that’s what I said, go to Haiti. With some of the most astonishing beaches in the world, Haiti was once the top destination for vacation, even Elizabeth Taylor had a house there! Well, Haiti’s beaches are still the same and nature has never looked better! Places like Ile à Vache, Port Salut and Cap Haitian have outstanding resorts surrounded by culture and history, not to mention a much different scenario than the one you will run into at Port au Prince. I’ll also tell you a little secret: If you ever went on a cruise through the Caribbean, you have probably already bathed in Haitian waters and walked in one of their beaches; the reason why you don’t know about it is because they won’t tell you, simply because of the bad reputation the country had for many years.
And how will vacationing in Haiti help the country? Well, the more people go there, more money will be injected into the country and more the hotels will be busy and with that more jobs will be generated and more the economy will get back into place. It’s not a rare and unknown formula, it has happened in many cities of Africa, South America, and Asia, which now solely depend on tourism. It may seem like a long shot, but at least you are trying and will have an amazing experience while doing so!
I would even take the chance to say that if you got to the end of this long writing, than you already are on the right track! Help in any way you can, but help no matter what, don’t let this destruction go unresolved don’t let this disaster be forgotten, don’t let Haiti go once again into that dusty place that lives in your end every bodies brains. Only together we can help this nation struck by some bad luck and a lot of bad political decisions.