This week has been a bit of a blur. Last Thursday I walked into an interview with a couple of West Shore residents about to embark on a trip to Haiti and walked away with an invite to join them on a trip that is essentially the reason I became a journalist.
After that I didn’t sleep for three days. Thursday night I lay awake trying to figure out the best way to pitch this to the bosses – then practicing that pitch over and over again in my head. Friday morning I walked into the Gazette office and was overwhelmed by the support I received. Within hours I had the okay from all the powers that be to pack my bags – and camera gear – to join this group on their trip to Haiti at the end of the month.
Friday night I started making lists in my head of everything I needed, where it was, what I might have to pick up and I don’t know what else but there was also lists of lists. I really should start leaving a note pad on my bedside table because by the time I woke up I couldn’t remember any of them. Saturday night I was too tired to sleep, too excited. So I mentally started crossing off items from those lists that I can only seem to remember when I’m on the edge of consciousness.
This will be a quick trip, five days in length, to essentially assess and address the state of two orphanages and share some of the stories of those involved with them. Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes in Haiti, so this trip will look at also addressing future needs.
This isn’t my first time taking part in a trip of this nature. Back in 2008 I spent time in Peru building a school and installing clean burning stoves in villagers’ homes. That was my first glimpse into what poverty looks like in a developing country. But while I was sitting on a dirt floor in a one-room home, literally mixing mud with fecal matter because it makes a stronger cement-like substance to build the stove with, I couldn’t help notice how happy this family was, even though we were trying to converse in a language I didn’t understand. By North American standards, this family had nothing, except for each other, some old tattered clothes and the few guinea pigs running around the home that will eventually become a meal. When I left they were so grateful the mother offered me a hand woven friendship bracelet she’d made while trying to converse.
Whether I am the one venturing off on this type of trip or covering it for an article, the same question is usually posed in some form by people wondering why a group or organization is supporting a foreign project instead of focusing those efforts and funds on Canadians.
But the two aren’t mutually exclusive. If you look at the group that’s going on this trip, I would argue that these people have devoted themselves to helping Vancouver Island residents, whether it’s through their businesses, their involvement with the Westshore Sunrise Rotary Club, their involvement in local governments or the many other projects and groups these individuals support. This group spends their days trying to make sure no one goes without at home and abroad, and I am honoured to be able to travel with them.
We are not only Capital Region residents, we are part of a global community. And while I would say we take care of our own first, we also have a responsibility to everyone we share this planet with.
Many of us were born with the great fortune of being Canadian residents and often times we truly don’t know how lucky we are. Some of the people I will meet in the coming days had very little, if anything, to start with, they were devastated by an earthquake and once they finally started to regain some stability many lost the little they did have, yet again. We take a lot for granted living in Canada and it’s through projects like these we are able to share some of our wealth.
I became a journalist because I wanted to help people and I truly believe this is the best avenue for me to accomplish that.
Goldstream News Gazette reporter Katie Engqvist travels to Haiti on Oct. 28. Watch your Gazette in the coming weeks for stories and reactions from a country that was recently devastated by Hurricane Matthew.