I’ve been fortunate to travel to many places around the world whether it be for vacations, to study abroad, visit friends, conduct business, or anything in between. Every trip for me is absolute bliss. I love packing up a little bag and setting out to explore somewhere new, expand my horizons, and put myself out of my comfort zone. Don’t speak the native tongue? Start making up sign language. Can’t read a menu? Point blindly at something and keep the fingers crossed. Get a little lost? Find yourself! All these things have made up who I’ve become. Yet we are not simply made up of the positives, as the negatives we have endured define us on an entirely different level. Throughout my travels I have come across several places that will forever remain in my mind for reasons that words simply cannot describe. And as predicted, another one has been added to the few. Starting with the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in northern Berlin, Germany, to the Underpass Street Sale of Medellin, Columbia, and followed by the Slum Markets in the Longhua District of Shenzhen, China, I’ve added one more to my list and it's possibly the most impactful: the Little Children of Jesus ministry for orphaned and handicapped children.
It’s been almost three weeks since returning from Haiti, but I believe an extended amount of time to decompress after such a trip was completely necessary. Numerous times I’ve sat down to write this post and after jotting down several words and staring blankly at the screen, my mind starts racing through details of the trip - where we went, what we did, what we saw. How can such a short trip yield so many incredible experiences, and futhermore, how am I supposed to transcribe that to a short writing?
I told my friends, “I may be a bit different when I come back from Haiti so be prepared. You know, cut out all the extra unnecessary luxuries in my life, stop eating big meals, or spend my time a little differently. This sort of trip can do that to you.”
Now that I’m back and have returned to my day to day routines, am I any different?
What are luxuries anyways? Defined as material objects, services, etc., conducive to sumptuous living, usually a delicacy, elegance, or refinement of living rather than necessity. So basically fancy cars, big houses, expensive jewelry, etc., right? Not in Haiti. Let’s revise that list a little and add things such as clean water, constant electricity, shoes that fit, green grass, or a new soccer ball to play with. Those are their luxuries. Things that we take for granted not every day, but every single minute of our lives. We have grown accustomed to replacing the broken with new, the older models with the more up to date, and so on and so forth. We have all purchased new things that have been victim to planned obsolescence, where companies have created products to need replacements after such a time. Down in Haiti things are different.
However, I don’t want to focus on the levels of poverty or misfortune that the Haitians endure on a day to day basis. Everyone knows that story, and it’s what Be Robin Hood is taking steps to fix every single day. But instead, I’ve come to look at this trip from the perspective of the over enthusiastic optimist that I am. We worked at schools and health clinics down in Haiti east of Port-au-Prince with children and young adults. The trip went amazing. No issues came up, we improved a lot of the buildings in more ways than I can describe, started and finished a lot of projects, played a lot of soccer and (most importantly in my eyes) brought countless smiles to the kids faces. They were happy..so incredibly happy!
The orphanage was tough, it really pulled on your heart strings. But if you can dig deep and move past the misfortune, you can witness something spectacular. You see how running around pushing one of them in a wheelchair, or putting a hat and pair of sunglasses on them, or just holding their hand brings forth sheer, unadulterated, and absolutely inconceivable bliss. There’s nothing in this world like walking by them as they reach out to grab your hand almost with reverent awe. Their faces light up, their eyes twinkle, their laugh ricochets through the halls, and their smiles could change the world. Perhaps this is why Be Robin Hood was created - to help bring forth smiles to those who need it most.
And then there were the children at the schools. One morning while working, we heard singing and a group of us wandered in the direction until we found the source. In a very plain open aired space, benches and a couple chalkboards were set up with a beautiful backdrop of vast greens and mountains. Music was played and verse by verse songs were sung as they learned the new song. Then as if scripted like a flashback scene of a movie, I closed my eyes and was taken back to my very childhood singing in a choir in elementary school and realized how incredibly different our lives were, yet in a strange way, remarkably the same. This was an experience I've never been through that nearly brought tears to my eyes. The singing was beautiful and the kids were so happy.
It was an incredible opportunity to be able venture into a world deprived of the day to day amenities we have in our modern day society. Yet is it such a bad thing to eradicate the unnecessary raucous and distractions that our safe but arguably faux environment puts forth?
So back to my original question…have I returned any differently? I still drive my car, cook big meals, and (usually) change my socks daily. I still want to change the world but now more than ever, I have even more of an inspiration to do so. I close my eyes and see the streets of Haiti, the daily tasks by the locals, the smiles on those kids faces, and it pushes me to an entirely new level. I’m determined to see BRH succeed and I truly believe it has the potential to do great things. I’ll do anything to reach my goal, and I hope you will join me. Share my message, my vision, my goals - and remember, together as one, we can Be Robin Hood.
Happy March 1st!
A couple months ago, I was asked if I would be interested in taking a short trip down to Haiti to offer assistance with various projects and help out. Haiti has always been a sought after destination for me, yet for some reason the stars have never aligned to allow me to venture down. When this opportunity came up, there was no way I could refuse. I was absolutely ecstatic to be part of such a trip! But as our departure date of March fourth quickly approaches, I find myself asking, is ecstatic or excited or anything remotely close to those descriptions really the correct way to describe my feelings for such a trip?
Throughout my travels, I’ve found myself in a vast array of locations that have left me in awe and overall disbelief at the levels of poverty. Initially, I had found myself wandering around wondering how everyone could live in lack of the daily “necessities” that I have grown up with. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, as it is said that majority of the world lives on less than three dollars a day. However, it seems that the more places I visit and the more people I meet, the less and less I notice these things that are “missing” and start to appreciate the essentials that much more. So to revert back to my question, how do I describe this pre-trip feelings?
One word comes to mind: Thankful.
I’m thankful to have this incredible opportunity available for me. I’m thankful to partake in what is certain to be a life changing experience. I’m thankful to be able to witness and embrace the people of such a rich and heartfelt culture despite the constant struggles and despair they too often endure. Thankful for the ability to travel with an amazing group and set aside what we have deemed important for what is actually important. Thankful for the support and encouragement I have been given in the time leading up to this journey.
Through the group that I’ll be traveling with, we agreed to fill two large duffel bags per person of items that the locals need on a regular basis. When I reached out to family and friends about helping out, I was absolutely blown away by the responses I received. Items came pouring in from left and right, and before a weeks time, I had more than enough products to fill up the large bags. This, I was truly thankful for. I want to express my sincere gratitude for everyone who helped out by donating items, along with those who wished me well on my travels. A special thanks goes out to The Soccer Edge in Naperville for sending me down more soccer balls then I've seen in my entire life, and the Ashbury Book Club for all of their courteous donations. Similarly, it is through everyone’s kind words and support that I have been able to ardently pursue the vision of Be Robin Hood. And with this strength of others guiding me along, I will be traveling down to Haiti to do everything I can to help out, and furthermore, to continue to inspire change throughout this world.
Together as one, we can Be Robin Hood.
*If you or anyone you know is interested in making a generous financial contribution, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss further options for this. I can't thank you enough already.