Crystal Davidson is not a novice when it comes to service trips. Over the past few years, she has traveled with International Samaritan to some of the most poverty-stricken areas in the world. But when asked how her recent trip to Haiti differed from other service trips, she paused and put her face in her hands. It took her a few minutes to start describing what she saw.
Davidson, of Bloomfield Village, MI, was leading a group of 15 International Samaritan volunteers from Michigan, Ohio, Virginia and Washington D.C. They drove on streets with holes big enough to sink an entire vehicle, Davidson said.
Unbelievable dust and fumes still hang over the city of Port-au-Prince. The noise of roads jammed with people, vehicles, and vendors lining the streets desperately shouting to attract customers, was jarring.
“It felt like I was in the aftermath of a war. There’s no electricity, no water,” Davidson said. “Then we get to the building site. It’s amazing to think that just seven months ago it was a mud field. Now it’s a community. You see buildings and people coming to work every morning. There’s activity; there’s hope.”
International Samaritan is working in partnership with the Jesuits lead by Brother Jim Boynton to build 18 new schools for earthquake refugees. The building site is on the edge of a massive tent city in Port-au-Prince. Davidson especially enjoyed working with the eight Haitians on the I.S. building crew, young men ranging in age from 17-25. The Haitians told Davidson that before they started working with I.S., none of them even knew how to use a measuring tape.
“Now, they can build an entire house from top to bottom,” Davidson said. “One is going to build a home for his mother. I can’t tell you what a blessing it was to watch them work.”
Davidson, along with several other volunteers, worked on completing the second of the 18 schools. Another group of volunteers from Holy Trinity Church in Washington, D.C., taught English to high school students. A third group which included Mary Wakefield, of Ann Arbor, MI, held first aid classes for adult leaders in tent communities, schools and work sites. The group taught hygiene, wound care, burn care, hydration, splinting and basic CPR and delivered more than 100 first aid kits in five days. The teachers traveled with an I.S. translator, Andy Succes, to displacement camps, such as Delmar, Imfrasar and Caneo. Wakefield said she gained more than she received.
Wakefield wrote about the dire situation the refugees are living in. “There are no words to describe how one keeps some semblance of self care and sanity in surroundings without plumbing, water that has to be delivered and sporadic electricity,” Wakefield said. “We would see children very neatly presented in their classes and then have to go “home” to their tents.”
“It is mind boggling to think that Haiti is only a 90-minute flight from Miami with an unimaginable lack of basics. International Samaritan has shown us how direct a connection can be made,” said Wakefield. “From time and money donated to books, medical supplies and clothing, we can see these items go directly to where they need to be.”
Groups can learn about International Samaritan’s upcoming service trips at www.intsamaritan.org. Donations are needed to help fund refugee schools in Haiti. Please contact Andrew Pawuk or Mary Hall at 734-222-0701 for more information.