Our two Checkers teams are back from Haiti after a successful mission trip to Ouanaminthe! Based at Institution Univers, our teams helped build a concrete wall around the school for security, assisted with repainting the windows, taught English classes, and installed Notrax® matting in the showers. The wall project was the most physically demanding, as we assisted Haitian stone masons move the dirt and gravel necessary for the foundation, and stack the cinder blocks. Fortunately, we had mandatory breaks whenever the children would come out for recess. The mobs of “les petits” (kindergartners) all eagerly shouting “Blanc! Blanc!” and craning their necks to examine our light skin, hair, tattoos, watches and cell phones made continuing work nearly impossible. That was for the best, however, as connecting with the people was a crucial part of our mission. Two Checkers core values are “people” and “laughter,” and as we laughed and bonded with these energetic children, we were shown a glimpse of the strength and resiliency of the Haitian people. Multiple times while working on the wall, small children would wander up, grab a shovel, and try to help. When classes began, we got a chance to connect with the children on an even deeper level, through teaching. Another one of our core values here at Checkers is “learning,” and we learned as much from the students as they learned from us. Their eagerness for knowledge and excitement for education was refreshing, and they all strive for ambitious goals. Future engineers and doctors fill the halls and classrooms of Institution Univers.
Possibly the most crucial component of our mission, however, was the distribution of Sawyer water bucket filtration systems. These exciting filters are able to keep water clean for up to seven years, with proper cleaning and care. For those unfamiliar with Haiti, clean drinking water is one of the biggest problems facing the nation. According to the World Health Organization, diarrhea is the 4th leading cause of death for children under 5, accounting for 12% of all child deaths. Digestive problems caused by unclean water are pervasive across the country, making access to clean water absolutely imperative for these people to lead healthy lives. Aided by Institution Univers, we traveled throughout the countryside of northern Haiti, passing out bucket filtration systems to those in need. From the misty mountain town of Capotille to the warm roadside village of Savane-Carrie, we were able to help many Haitians, while they simultaneously helped us to understand our global community and our place within it. Our mission trip to Haiti brought our Checkers values to the forefront. As we learned and laughed, it gave us new perspectives on the wonderful people of Haiti. There are a lot of things that Haiti does not have, but despite the economic hardships, there is no shortage of strength, perseverance, and faith. And that is truly inspiring.
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