Join a Trip to Haiti

Traveling with a “Northern Friends of Haiti” Team

We currently limit team sizes that we bring to Haiti to ten (10) people, including the one to three (1-3) experienced Northern Friends of Haiti (NFoH) representative(s) who will be traveling with the group. This limitation allows us to help each person experience and integrate with the culture at every step. Below are packing, language and information sites you should visit, as well as a brief description of what a one week experience with us in Haiti would most likely entail.

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COST

One thousand two hundred and fifty US dollars ($1,250) PLUS air fare (between $600 & $800 US depending on when and where travel originates). Approximately $500 of this fee is used to accommodate your experience in Haiti. The balance supports our projects, programs and efforts in Haiti.

A $500 deposit is due upon reserving your space, the balance is due two weeks before departure. The fee is fully tax deductible as the trip will entail service work with our nonprofit organization (see below).

THE TRIP

We will work with you to coordinate your travel to and from Haiti, including having a NFoH representative travel with the group whenever possible. If your city of origin differs from the majority of the group and we cannot arrange to travel with you we will be sure to help coordinate your arrive at Port-au Prince International Airport (PAP), the capital of Haiti, to coincide with the rest of the group.  During check-in, you should make sure to confirm any checked baggage through to PAP. We coordinate for our NFoH representative(s) to travel with you for the last leg into PAP to assist negotiating through Immigration, Baggage Claim and exiting the Airport.

Upon arriving at the airport in Port-au-Prince you will pay the $10 entry tax, pass through Customs and Immigration and then go downstairs to pick up your baggage before exiting the Airport. There are endless airport representatives who will offer to assist you in finding your baggage and carrying them outside for a small fee; $2-3 dollars is acceptable though they always ask for more. If you do not want help, a gentle “no thank you” or “no, mesi” (may-see) is understood. There is very little red tape involved in entering the country, and we will be on our way before you know it. After exiting the airport we will load up into our 2000 Ford, Super-duty, 4×4, 1 ton pickup truck.  This will be our means of travel throughout the week. The truck cab can accommodate six or seven (6-7) people comfortably so, depending on the group size, a few team members may need to ride in the truck bed with the luggage. This is a normal practice in Haiti and as safe as riding in the cab.

We typically try to schedule our flights to arrive in Haiti early in the afternoon so we can make the 2 ½ hour drive north to the city of Gonaives before dark. Once in Gonaives we will settle in for two nights at one of three guest housing solutions; a small private school, a private home or a guest house complex. All are safe, secure and provide a wonderful experience of urban Haiti life. We will spend our 1st full day in Gonaives, interacting with school children, perhaps attending a medical clinic, visiting the local market to stock up on provisions and enjoying dinner in a restaurant if we wish.

After our second night in Gonaives we will make the 90 minute, 15 mile trip “up” into the remote and very rural Bayonnaise valley where our work is focused. We will settle and stay in the dorm style rooms for the next four days. The facility has solar power for phone and tablet charging, fans and lights. There is no air conditioning but there is usually a nice breeze in the valley. The bathroom is private with a “composting toilet” (we’ll teach you about that on site) and room to take “bucket baths”, the typical method of bathing in Haiti. Meals will be prepared twice daily by the women in the village. Rice and beans with some sort of “sauce” form the basis of most meals, along with in-season fruit and vegetables. Beds are simple wood frames with air mattresses; we often roll up clean clothes to use as pillows. This is part of the Haiti experience.

Our days will be filled with a host of activities which may include construction projects, medical clinics, working at the local schools, working on water or soil conservation projects and variations of all of these. Late afternoons usually include soccer and other activities with the community children and perhaps a “water run” down to the nearest well for bathing water. Evenings include sharing language and conversations with the local Haitian community members. We’ll also have the opportunity to visit several different villages and attend a church service if desirable. Everything we do will be “hand-in hand” with members of the Haitian communities; our approach is to partner with them; not do things for them.

The morning of our last full day in Haiti we will pack up, say goodbye to our new Haitian friends, drive back down the mountain and travel south to the small “resort” coastline we passed on the first day’s travel. We’ll enjoy a relaxing “decompression” day and night at one of the resorts and drive to the airport early the next day to catch our return flights to the United States.

AN IMPORTANT CONSIDERATION

You may find yourself wanting to help the people in Haiti by giving them a handout such as food, shoes, clothes or even gifts of cash.  Or you may want to give a more personal ‘gift’, such as a personal e-mail address, or offer to make a contact for the person in Haiti with someone back in the States.

Before you undertake any of these acts please check with your mission leader!

Although we are not experts, we have a great deal of experience “on the ground” in Haiti.  We often see ‘help’ here in Haiti that isn’t helpful at all.  The help from someone trying to be generous is often hurtful for the people being given the handout.  It is important to understand . . . . The process of giving and receiving handouts is demeaning to both the giver and the receiver . . .   Offering someone a handout makes it very difficult for that person to turn such an offering away. Such an action is not based on equality;  it is based on condescension.

At Northern Friends of Haiti, we believe that Haitians are perfectly capable of improving their own situation.  They need a hand up, not a hand out.  They prefer the opportunity to work for themselves, to realize their own advancement from the power of their own minds and efforts, to be empowered to make progress. We are here to help make this possible for them as they experience the satisfaction that comes from performing their own work and being fairly compensated.  We believe this is the only way to make genuine progress. These are our values, and those of our Haitian friends as well. They welcome us as equals, and we treat them with respect.

The values we espouse and live by may be debated by people of good conscience who do not agree.  We are willing to engage in conversation about this.  However, while you are serving with us in Haiti, we request full cooperation and respect of our values.

We thank you in advance for your understanding.  We are confident that you would never do anything that might harm or deter our efforts here, which is one of many reasons that we welcome your presence in Haiti with us.

Mark Gadue with friend

Mark Gadue, Vice President of Northern Friends of Haiti, shares an experience of Haiti:

During my 3rd trip to Haiti I spent 16 days living in and working out of a guest house in Gonaives, a large, port city approximately 90 miles north of the capital, Port-au-Prince. The neighborhood where we stayed seemed to us to be an impoverished area but for this particular city, the neighborhood is upper middle class. It was hot yet comfortable. Every window in every home was open and therefore every conversation was heard. However, I never heard a cross word uttered, any disagreement or sharp exchange of anger or any loud voices (other than the woman selling bread in the morning). There was no authority of any kind present in the neighborhood; no police interventions or sirens as we would expect in a major city in the US but I saw no drunkenness or lawlessness of any kind whatsoever. What I heard was laughter, the glee of playing children, plus a lot of music and singing along with cheering for soccer goals scored and home town favorite World Cup victories. I was welcome wherever I went and greeted with unfailing friendliness.

You might like to come to Haiti someday to see for yourself what it is like. You may have a sense of adventure and want to know more about an underdeveloped country. Or perhaps you feel a call to service, and Haiti is a great place to answer that call. Haiti grows on you and visitors often experience a deep seated personal joy and peacefulness that is unexpected.

When you first arrive there is a fair amount of sensory overload. You find that things are different from what you are normally accustomed to in our American way of life. You must forego many of the normal conveniences that we take for granted on a daily basis at home. The sights and sounds and smells barrel toward you. It is a place without much material wealth. Money is indeed scarce. You have to be prepared to see life lived much closer to the edge of survival than life lived in the midst of prosperity. Functioning indoor plumbing is rare and electricity can be sporadic, yet cell phones are ubiquitous. Haiti sometimes seems to be stuck in a different century than most of the world. The “highway” infrastructure is practically medieval. Traffic is chaotic. When you first arrive, given the conditions you observe, you might think, “What on earth are these people smiling about?” However, after being here for a short while, you find yourself smiling right along with them. It’s possible that in simplicity and in love, we can find peacefulness and joy that tends to elude most of us in the abundance of our material prosperity. I have heard it said that Haitians are not poor; they just don’t have much money. The people of Haiti may not have much money but I think their poverty is what Christ spoke about when he said that the poor in spirit were to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. In many ways, they exhibit a sense of happiness and inner wealth that many of us find elusive.

What you will also find is the pervasive willingness of the Haitian people to find joy in circumstances where joy would seem hard for us to imagine. Generally speaking, Haiti is relentlessly tough from the materialistic point of view. But, there is a prevailing amount of faith and joy. Haitians are deeply spiritual, family oriented.and almost unfailingly generous. They have an ability to joyfully and enthusiastically celebrate the most routine things, like simply greeting newcomers, for instance. It is amazing how quickly and easily most visitors adjust to this environment, mostly because Haitians are so welcoming and friendly. They are incredibly hard working, patient and persevering, even in adversity. Being among them, we begin to find ourselves becoming more patient and persevering also. We start to be profoundly thankful for the fulfillment of basic needs and to find joy in simple things.

I cannot promise you the sense of peacefulness that I feel when I am in Haiti; your experience will be your own. However, I can assure you that Haiti and her people will touch your heart in ways both subtle and profound. It is impossible to place yourself in the midst of the work and play, smiles and laughter, meals and blessings, fellowship and sharing, problems and solutions of Haiti – and remain unchanged yourself.

UPCOMING TRIPS

NOVEMBER 9th to 17th, 2015 -                   FILLED

DECEMBER 29th to JANUARY 6th, 2016 - FILLED

APRIL 2015 – Date Pending -                         SPACE AVAILABLE

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PREPARATION

We recommend using the following Check List when preparing for your trip to Haiti.

Packing-for-Haiti-Haiti Hub (http://www.haitihub.com/info-packets/)

“Haitihub” is also a wonderful resource for learning the Creole language and understanding the Haitian culture. Visit their sites at:

www.haitihub.com

www.facebook.com/haitihub

www.twitter.com/haitihub

As so many have said before, pack large quantities of Respect, Humility and a Willingness to Learn.  These will be the foundation for a successful trip, and they are indispensable.

You should be sure to have these items with you in your personal carry-on bag(s)

  1. Your Passport
  2. A pen to fill out the “Customs” and “Declarations” Immigration Cards
  3. Ten US dollars ($10) for the Entry Tax

You will most likely be given the “Customs” and “Declarations” Immigration Cards aboard the flight to fill out before landing. You will need the following information:

  1. Address where you are staying in Haiti:          Lacoupe Bayonnais, Gonaives Region
  2. Phone Number where you are staying:           3368-8265
  3. Reason for trip                                                  Check the “Pleasure” or “Vacation” box

Additions and variations to the “Packing-for-Haiti list” might include:

  1. Visit your personal physician or a travel clinic well before your trip to be sure you have all required immunizations.  These would include Hepatitis A & B vaccine, Tetanus / Diptheria DT, Typhoid, and obtain anti malaria meds. “Chloroquine” is the malaria med of choice for Haiti. Speak with your NFoH representative about this before purchasing these on your own.
  2. Over the counter  Imodium and / or prescription medicine (Cipro or similar) for travelers’ diarrhea.  Antacids, as some of the Haitian food can be spicy. Ginger to settle a queasy stomach.
  3. We will provide both “packaged” food and access to Haitian cuisine for those who wish to taste the local food. Feel free to bring energy bars, trail mix, dried fruit, Instant Oatmeal, personal food preferences, etc. in the event you have special food interests or dietary needs. Keep in mind there is no refrigeration and it is hot so don’t bring things that will melt.
  4. A mosquito or bug net to hang over your bed. Check with your NFoH representative regarding what type of bedding you will need. Bug spray and pumps are better than aerosol.
  5. A smart phone and/or tablet for photos, reading and occasional internet access. We will have access to power for charging these devices.
  6. Cards, handy carrying games (Cribbage, etc.) to enjoy with others during down time.
  7. NFoH will provide all of the clean, safe, purified water you need to drink.  We supply drink mix packets to flavor the water and you are welcome to bring your preferred flavoring if you wish. Bring a personal water bottle also.  A wide mouth Nalgene bottle is good.
  8. Bring personal hygiene items such as soap, shampoo, a towel, tooth paste, tooth brush, etc. and any other specific bathing items you may wish.  Your normal overnight kit.  You might also add hand sanitizer, Ibuprofen, personal Band Aids and Anti Bacterial, sunscreen, chapstick and moleskin. A small roll of duct tape can work miracles.

Mark’s Haitian phone number is the easiest way for people from the USA to reach you should they need to while you are in Haiti.– 011-509-3368-8265 – Please ask whomever you share this number with to limit calls to emergency issues only. Since you’ll be in Haiti there is not much you’ll be able to do to be of assistance but you may want to be informed.

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