What Haiti Means to Me
In 2015 my business, HALF UNITED, was invited by TOMS Shoes to visit Haiti with their founder Blake Mycoskie and his staff. We'd partnered with TOMS earlier that year, and now they wanted us to go to Haiti for a photo shoot which would highlight how we had worked together. The images would be used in their Holiday catalog which is shipped to millions of homes worldwide around the Christmas season. The opportunity was one in a million. Not only did (and do) my brother/Co-Founder and I love TOMS, but we knew the photos they would publish would expose our brand to millions of their customers, some of whom may even buy from us too.
The decision to participate was an easy one.
Two weeks later my brother Christian and I boarded a flight from our small North Carolina town to head to Port au Prince, Haiti. When we landed in Fort Lauderdale to hop on a connecting flight I remember walking onto our aircraft, taking my seat, and being amazed by the Creole which filled the plane in whispers along every aisle but mine.
As I looked around I found myself in a sea of people who were so different than me. Instantly I felt aware that the only language I spoke was now the vast minority. The way I dressed felt odd. My hair had never seemed more straight, my skin never felt so pale. It's hard to explain how this felt, but in an instance, I realized who I was and what I knew were far less important than usual.
"I realized who I was and what I knew were far less important than usual"
In a flash I knew most people sitting around me had never heard of my hometown, they were not raised the same as I was, they didn't grow up eating the foods I did, and all of our life experiences had probably been vastly different. The divide and the difference were real and it was immediate. Somehow I felt ashamed or embarrassed of my difference. I found myself wishing I could assimilate or even hide. It was odd because I have been to developing countries before, but somehow I knew this trip would be different.
I knew the culture, and the poverty and the way of living may impact me more than the other places I had already been. Though the moments on that airplane were short lived they were poignant for me. I sat there realizing I needed a time of self-reflection. I needed time to introspect and understand how much I really needed to grow. Looking back I am proud of the discomfort I felt sitting on that plane because it meant I was putting myself outside of my comfort zone. I was trying something new.
Facing something unknown.
That first trip was amazing. Christian and I got to see Haiti for all of its vast natural beauty. We jumped off cliffs into waterfalls deep in the Haitian rainforest. We danced with locals, surfed on beaches, saw how people in Haiti live in the cities, in the country, and everywhere in between. This trip also opened our eyes to the needs of the children and families who live in this tiny island nation. Had we not been asked to go, and then answered the call with a "yes" we would have never gone back as many times as we have to help the people in this country.
From feeding children in need to employing orphans transitioning into adulthood, to making sure children are given the best possible chance at a great education- we at HALF UNITED are committed to doing anything we can for anyone we can in Haiti.
We are so proud of the way our friends at ECM daily answer their own call with a "yes." I personally know that is all it takes. Sometimes in life, we do not know how things will turn out, we do not know if our efforts will be wasted or will work out perfectly, but when you take a chance and try regardless I really do believe God meets us where we are.
When our intentions are pure, and our motives are true, I believe our Heavenly Father responds to us and uses each decision, each little moment, even those sitting on airplanes headed to unknown places to guide our lives and make huge impacts on our decisions to come.