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Letcher man says helping in Haiti changed his life




“Children would hang all over you wanting to hug you or hold your hand,” Jon Haynes, second from left, said of his visit to Haiti in January. Haynes lives and works in Letcher County.

“Children would hang all over you wanting to hug you or hold your hand,” Jon Haynes, second from left, said of his visit to Haiti in January. Haynes lives and works in Letcher County.

My recent trip from Letcher County to Haiti for missionary work was an amazing experience — and one I would highly recommend for anyone.

I went with a group from Three Forks Baptist Association, based in Hazard and affiliated with the Children’s Lifeline organization. It took five hours and rides on two airplanes to make it there. We flew from Lexington to Atlanta and then from Atlanta to Port Au Prince.

Once we arrived in Haiti we could immediately feel the difference in temperature, as it was 95 degrees there for the majority of our stay. An old yellow bus and our translator were waiting for us outside the airport, and the translator took us to the compound in which we stayed. The roads are very poor in Haiti and drivers use their horns more than their brakes.

Once we arrived at the compound we put our stuff away, ate dinner and planned for the week. The first day there we toured the compound and walked around the village, where children would hang all over you wanting to hug you or hold your hand. The rest of the week was spent at orphanages doing Bible school and working on improvements to the facilities.

Jon Haynes, left, and a fellow volunteer stood on a hillside in Haiti overlooking the Children’s Lifeline compound where he and other volunteers were based during their visit in January.

Jon Haynes, left, and a fellow volunteer stood on a hillside in Haiti overlooking the Children’s Lifeline compound where he and other volunteers were based during their visit in January.

We stayed busy feeding the children, painting and playing with them and their new toys. A pair of shoes and a soccer ball will make you the best friend of any child in Haiti. The love these children shared and their excitement to see us is truly a humbling feeling.

The living conditions in Haiti, a country that shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic and is located 1,406 air miles from Whitesburg, are very poor. Most of the country is without electricity and there is absolutely no air conditioning unless you are in the airport. The places with electricity are solar-powered by day and battery-powered at night. The terrain is mostly dust and desert-like with cactus and some vegetation.

Haitians eat mostly mango and bananas in addition to chicken, goat and beef. The water that is clean is stored in plastic bags from which you have to bite the corner and sip. A few mainstream products such as Coca-Cola are sold in the markets, but not much.

Jon Haynes of Whitesburg took this photo of the outside of an orphanage in Haiti where he worked as a volunteer for one week recently.

Jon Haynes of Whitesburg took this photo of the outside of an orphanage in Haiti where he worked as a volunteer for one week recently.

Haitians dispose of their garbage by burning it in pits.

The houses in Haiti range anywhere from concrete structures covered by tin roofs to sticks held together with mud and a tarp-like covering for a roof. For income, Haitians use the bartering system by which they trade goods for food. They need $2 a day to feed their family and earn the money by selling goods handmade from wood as well as bracelets of all sorts.

To water crops, the people of Haiti use an irrigation system that lines both sides of the road. They also bathe in these irrigation canals that are fed by the river.

Although the living conditions are very poor in Haiti and technology there is anything but modern, the people have an amazing amount of love for each other. As you observe them smiling, laughing and enjoying life without any of the modern comforts we in the United States have, you can’t help but wonder if we in the U.S. would be more loving people if we didn’t have so much at our disposal.

This trip truly has changed my life and given me hope that humans everywhere can show the same compassion for each other as the people of Haiti do.

I would like to thank the people of Letcher County for making this mission possible. The trip cost $1,779. Of that amount, $437 was raised through donations left at the store where I work, East Kentucky Tobacco and Beer at Ermine; $215 was raised during a roadblock near McDonald’s, and $320 was given in donations by friends and family.


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