JV EnCorps Portland: Jesuit High Community
In February, Jay Lyman (JV EnCorps member and former JV) joined a Project Living Hope team in Camp Marie, Haiti. Working with Haitian locals and American volunteers, the team tackled the first phase of construction of a community center, education building, and athletic facilities. Jay had the opportunity to witness the crushing poverty and political instability afflicting Haiti, but also was inspired by Haitians who are working tirelessly to make a better world for themselves and their children. Below is his letter home to family and friends:
Dear family and friends,
Many of you were aware that I spent the last 10 days in Haiti, and some have expressed concern about the situation there and my safety. Thanks to all for your thoughts. I am home safely and am processing all that happened.
In a nutshell, I went to Haiti to join a group helping to build a community center, education building, soccer fields, and other amenities on a 25 acre site near Saint Marc. The first phase of the project involved a lot of heavy earthwork, using large earth-moving equipment. From the beginning, the project was struggling with inadequate supplies of diesel for the equipment, but that in itself seemed fairly normal for Haiti, where shortages are common. However, not long after we got started, riots and road blockades started to disrupt the capital city, Port-au-Prince, and soon spread out to other parts of the country as well. We continued on as best we could, improvising when needed (including bribing our way through a roadblock one day with a fifth of rum).
As the civil unrest continued, the conditions started to deteriorate. We were lodging at a mission that provides health services and education at outposts throughout Haiti, and they had to pull in their staff from the remote postings as food and fuel ran short. Soon it became apparent that it was becoming a struggle just to keep the lights on and provide food for the rapidly growing number of people where we were staying. So the project leaders decided to pull all the Americans out of the country. Since the roads were blocked and it was impossible to drive to the airport, they chartered a helicopter to get us out. Even getting from the mission to the site where the helicopter could land was interesting – about 20 of us piled into the back of two pickup trucks and we weaved down the road around the remnants of burning tires and piles of rocks.
We helicoptered down the coast to the airport at Port-au-Prince, which gave us a chance to see the beauty of the country and also scattered smoke plumes from burning tires and other debris on the highways leading into and out of Port-au-Prince. We all made it to the airport safely, and then out of the country on flights over the next day or two.
The safety of our group was never threatened. We basically hunkered down in the mission once it became impossible to keep working at the project site. Please pray for the people of Haiti who are going through this period of unrest and don’t have the luxury of all the support systems we were able to rely on. The roadblocks and lack of fuel make it very difficult to get around, and in many places food supplies are stretched thin.
Again, many thanks for your thoughts and prayers!