Traveling to Haiti for a week-long mission trip was one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life and a trip that I will have fond memories of for years to come. Hopefully I will soon have a chance to revisit Haiti, its wonderful people, and the friends that I made there.

Haitian children posing at church
A group of children posing for a picture in their Sunday best

While in Haiti, we did a variety of service projects including laying the foundation for a new school and church, building benches and tables, visiting a few area orphanages, and traveling to a remote school in the mountains to teach lessons and deliver supplies for the classrooms there. It was hot, hard work, and the days were long, but it was totally worth it.

A tent city in Haiti
One of the many tent cities in Haiti

One of the biggest takeaways I had from the trip was that nearly everyone we met was so happy and friendly. From playing soccer on the street (which was a rocky dirt road), to dancing in the rain all night long, we were always given a warm welcome. We met people whose houses were small makeshift tents, and although they may have been poor by our standards, they were certainly rich in spirit.

Holding babies at the orphanage
Mike Nay and friends holding babies at a Haitian orphanage

It didn’t take long for me to develop a nickname among the kids that lived and played on the street outside the house in which we stayed. The first day playing soccer I slipped on a rock playing soccer and scraped a gash in my knee which soaked my leg in blood. Not wanting to stop, I played through the injury, but from that moment on they kept pointing at me and saying “jenou”. I thought that this may have meant something along the lines of “pass me the ball” or “I’m open”, but when I asked about it, I learned that in Haitian Creole it means “knee”. Although I had introduced myself as Mike, For the rest of the week they referred to me as “jenou”.

Matt makes funny faces while holding baby
Candidate for funniest picture of the trip

While the urban areas of Haiti were destroyed by the earthquakes and are dangerous and unsafe, the rural mountainsides and the ocean beaches are beautiful and breathtaking. The views that I took in on our journey to the rural mountain school community were among the best I have ever seen.

kids playing with camera
The kids were fascinated with the camera and all wanted to see themselves

The hard, physical work that we did in moving tons of rocks, water, and cement was extremely rewarding. Time really does fly when you’re having fun apparently, because I did not even realize how much work we had done until both of the 5-ton water tanks on the property were completely empty. We had moved that much water across the property using 5-gallon buckets.

my knee is all bloody
The knee injury that earned me my nickname

I left Haiti with a lot of memories, an increased awareness of the plight of others, a few bumps and bruises, and Scabies as I would learn later. I can’t wait to return someday.

-Mike Nay

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