Hope for the Children of Haiti by Sophia Stone

During a youth group service, the leader mentioned opportunities for service trips. She had made them sound fun, exotic even. So I went to an informational session about the service trip opportunities. Each sounded interesting, but the trip going to Haiti was the one that really caught my attention. I honestly couldn't recall what it was exactly- I just knew I was drawn to it.

It was the end of my freshman year, and the trip was scheduled for August of the following summer. My dad was interested in going with me, and so together we attended the team meetings, prepped, packed, and boarded a plane bound for Haiti. Superlatives come to mind when one mentions Haiti. The poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. The worst luck. The most awful conditions. And to a degree, they are accurate.

We traveled there prepared to do any work necessary in the orphanage that we were visiting. The place we were visiting is called Hope for the Children of Haiti, in the Bolosse neighborhood of Port au Prince. It's in the slums of the slums of Haiti. Yet another superlative- the worst possible place for children to grow up.I had never experienced firsthand true poverty, but I had also never experienced the kind of resilience that I saw in the children and the people who cared for them. It was an overwhelming experience. I was both saddened and inspired by the things I saw. often at the same time.

My group painted walls, played with children, did tech support. We cleaned, taught, sang, and built The work itself seemed mundane. I had almost expected to be changing lives- coming down to Haiti for my nine days and turning around the lives of the seventy-odd children in the orphanage. However, I learned over those nine days a lesson that I will never forget. Change, fundamental change, cannot occur in a nine day period. It takes time, and dedication. Community service is not just a summer excursion. It's a commitment to your fellow humans: yes, I can help and yes, I will help.

I came back from that trip with my eyes opened. The next year I attended the HOBY seminar, and I left the seminar convinced that I had to go back to Haiti. I also attended the HOBY World Leadership Conference in Chicago which further solidified my conviction that I needed to continue this service work. HOBY challenges you to go beyond your comfort zone. To lead yourself and others to be the best that you can be, and to have the greatest positive impact on the world that you can have. Haiti has been one of the ways that I've been able to live up to that HOBY challenge. I've gone to Haiti three times, and I'm planning on going back. I'm learning Creole so that I can connect more with the children and adults that I've grown to love. My experiences in Haiti and at HOBY have been complementary. HOBY has given me the tools to serve effectively in Haiti. But Haiti has also taught me that "helping" is not always what you think it might be. Helping may be building a church, making a lunch, having a laugh with the math teacher. No matter what form your helping takes, whether it's in Haiti or near your house, the important thing is to show up. Again and again. Show the people that you serve that you care with your presence and your dedicated effort- that is what HOBY and Haiti have taught me.