Stevens 1

Jenny Stevens
AP English IV Pd. 3
Apply Texas Prompt A
“Hungry” and “Give me.” - the only English words the starving young Haitian children knew. These
phrases seemed to be necessary to survive. FOX news named Haiti the world’s poorest country. Heaps of trash
lined the streets, a smell like rotten egg and wet dog wafted through the humid air. Dark eyes glared at us from
concrete walls that barely resembled shelter. The ultimate poverty title seemed valid. The hillsides were stacked
with hundreds of shacks overlapping each other. Bone-thin goats and half-dressed toddlers roamed aimlessly. I
had seen pictures like this but the reality seemed much worse.
Was it a mistake to come here?
Outside of the crowded city, the slums began to spread out among rich green marshes and muddy roads.
In stark contrast to the hateful looks from the city dwellers, the village around Jacob’s Well was alive with
smiles and waves. Though bone thin and half dressed, the young kids with gleaming faces chased after the big
truck that transported our group of sixty, culture-shocked Americans. But we quickly discovered their smiling
faces masked a heartbreaking life. I had travelled to Haiti to help build a camp. For the past ten years I have
attended Laity Lodge Youth Camp (LLYC) in Texas. LLYC partnered with local Haitian ministers to build
Jacob’s Well to help a Voodoo-obsessed culture. While many of my peers spent last spring break in Mexico or
Florida, I found greater reward in Límbe, Haiti for a week with beautiful, wide-eyed, ear-to-ear smiling, yet
heavily burdened, children. The goal was to recreate a LLYC camp to provide free food and fellowship, and
administer medicine to a village that did not have access to medical help.
The week was spent with hundreds of eager children crawling on us for attention. I developed a special
bond with nine-year-old Elande, a young girl mature beyond her years. She stood out because she didn’t
constantly pester me about buying a bracelet or beg for food as many of the other kids did. She was quiet but
relatively confident. The day she did ask me for food revealed her harsh reality. She pulled me to the side when
our group was constructing a fence and said “Jenny, haungry” while patting her stomach. Her broken English
and gloomy eyes revealed the desperation she had and starvation she faced. It divided the two of us because I
had never experienced the emptiness she had.
Most of the kids were forced to grow up at a young age because they needed to help provide for their
families. They repeated, “Give me,” numerous times as they pointed to anything that held any worth. They
wanted to sell it. It was frustrating when they only wanted objects. Our team tried harder to show the kids love
and attention. We also gave them spiritual guidance.
The contrast of religion in America to Haiti is tremendous. At night, Voodoo drums echoed in the hills
villagers practiced ancient rituals and talked of strange spirits. However, at Jacob’s Well, we were able to share
stories of our faith with the children. For them, faith seemed the only thing they could cling to for hope. In
America, we have the room to decide the extent we will practice a religion, if any, because religion is not a
necessary to survive.
In Haiti, where poverty and hunger are the norm, faith that Someone will provide is the only hope they
can hold on to. This sharpened my belief as I realized the power faith had, as well as connection it gave me to
this population of a different culture and language.
Mark Twain said that “travel is fatal to prejudice”. But Americans don’t get out much. While Americans
are often discontent with the abundant amount of luxuries they can have, the Haitians’ delight in simple
pleasures taught me to appreciate everything that we normally take for granted. Travelling to a potentially
dangerous country full of people who lived a completely different life showed me the authenticity of another
country. I also noticed the infinite joy in the kids’ faces although they had very little. Experiencing the Haitian
slums, the disease-stricken children, and overall struggle to live had significantly broadened my world
perspective. As I begin my studies for a career to help others through nursing, I know that my travel to Haiti
was the right choice.