What are you doing right now? Sitting at your desk? Eating a bagel, feeling generally uninspired? That’s where I was 5 years ago. Until I had a conversation that changed my life.
It was February 2010, the dead of winter. My advertising gig was winding down and, having just gotten out of a break up, I was drinking too much red wine and watching entirely too much Winter Olympics. That’s when a co-worker started talking to me about Haiti. Why? Well, as it turned out, while I was obsessed with snowboard cross racing, the rest of the world was captivated by the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti only a month before, taking the lives of 316,000 people.
My co-worker wanted to do something, to help, but given the fact that his wife was pregnant with twins, he felt he couldn’t. I, on the other hand — 29, single, with money in the bank — had no such excuse. So after a lot of researching, phone calling, and a bit of luck, I found myself boarding a plane to Port-au-Prince, both excited and petrified for the adventure that lay ahead of me.
The grossly abridged version of what happened next is this: I did logistics for a medical NGO for 2 months and had my mind blown. I then returned to my ad career in New York but the thought of Haiti never left me. So I quit for real and moved back down to pursue education projects, something I wasn’t exactly experienced in, yet had a passion for. Thankfully in July 2011, I met a group of ridiculously loveable English students and it all clicked for me.
These students would go on to form what is now English in Mind Institute (EIM) — a 200-person, Haitian-taught English school that offers 5 levels of English along with vocational training and job placement. Although I never could have predicted it, today, I’m EIM’s International Director. And I couldn’t be happier.
A big part of what I do, is bringing people down to Haiti. Why? First off, because it’s awesome. The beaches, mountains, caves and waterfalls are unreal. Not to mention the food, art and music. But more importantly, as with everywhere, it’s the people that make the difference. In the case of Haiti, I love introducing foreigners to the culture, and more specifically, the students that changed my life. And ever since we started bringing volunteers down, it’s been inspiring to watch each of them get changed in their own, unique way.
If you’re like most travelers, Haiti isn’t on your bucket list. But it should be. Not because Haiti needs you, but because just maybe, you need Haiti.
Want to join us? Check out EIM’s volunteer page and let’s get this party started.