Haiti – April 2014
Since the fall of 2013, I have been eating, breathing and dreaming Smile 2 Smile. I enthusiastically turned my living room into a tiny factory/warehouse, enlisted all my friends for the weekly notch-turn-stuff operation, hand sewed during the Holiday power outage, watched the complete Mad Men series about 10 times while stitching eyes and noses, and relentlessly pitched the S2S mission to whoever would listen. But inevitably, entrepreneurial bliss was very often followed by terrible moments of doubt. Those days, the Gifting Mission in Haiti was the shining light, the hope that all the Smile 2 Smile team’s hard work would be worth it after all.
At long last, on April 5, with 101 Buddies in our luggage (which our Airline temporarily “misplaced”, but that’s a whole other story…) Scarlet, Olivier and I landed in sunny Port-Au-Prince.
Haiti was heart-wrenchingly beautiful. We saw a land of contrasts and contradictions: mountainous landscapes and endless plains, dreamy beaches and dusty slums, ubiquitous colourful art and deficient infrastructure. In Mirebalais, St-Marc and Turin, we witnessed the children’s sheer happiness despite their difficult circumstances. It was humbling, inspiring, motivating. In the unforgettable moments we shared, they taught us a deeper meaning of hope, optimism and friendship.
We were privileged to be the connecting agents between the children we met in Haiti and our donors and customers in Canada. You helped us deliver love, play, fun and smiles: the essence of everything childhood should be. Far from being the finish line I had envisioned during my nocturnal sewing marathons, the Haiti Gifting Mission is only the start of a chain of happiness I know we can develop further together. I wish to deeply thank every one of you for helping Smile 2 Smile accomplish its first mission in Haiti. I can assure you, all those smiles truly were a shining light!
I went to Haiti carrying my share of uncertainties. After all the hard work and preparation of the past few months, I kept wondering how our project would be received in the hospitals and centers we were to visit. After all, the hospitalized children and their families were facing very real and alarming problems and we weren’t bringing any cash donations, medication or food supplies. What we wished to offer the kids was a little different: a day of fun and play, and a colourful friend for them to keep.
My first contact with Haiti erased nearly all those doubts. In this beautiful country, I witnessed day after day just how difficult life could be for children. Seeing little girls, early in the morning, carrying huge buckets of water on their head, I was reminded of the importance of our mission. Many of the children we met don’t have the chance to enjoy a carefree childhood.
During our stay, we had the opportunity to visit two hospitals and one orphanage to share Smile 2 Smile Buddies. It wasn’t always easy. We saw sick children and exhausted parents. But the little ones were true heroes to me, always finding ways to smile even though life is far from being easy for them. To see them hugging their Smile 2 Smile Buddy made me realize once again how valuable the S2S mission really is.
I left Haiti knowing that the Smile 2 Smile project really made a difference in the lives of all the children we met. I wish to thank everyone who helped us share smiles and happiness with over a hundred kids in Haiti. I hope you will be on board for our next mission!
Going to Haiti has been one of the most rewarding and incredible experiences of my life.
I was really apprehensive to visit the country, not because of the security issue everyone talks about (in fact, I felt very safe at all times during the trip), but because I was nervous that I wasn’t going to be able to be engage with the kids on a deep, personal level. I didn’t think I knew how to give back to someone I didn’t know.
But it was easy. From the moment I landed in Port-Au-Prince, everyone I met during my journey was so incredibly welcoming. I felt at home. The sun and the smiles got me right away. Even though there were lots of places consumed by poverty, I could see hope and optimism in each person I met.
And the kids… They all came without asking for anything but our friendship. The Buddies were a gift from Canada, a cold faraway land they had all heard about, offered by a faraway friend, a friend who cares. Their young and innocent love wrapped me. I gave in. It was so easy to smile and play with them and my initial apprehension just melted away.
The Buddies were the link between our supporters in Canada and the children we met. The kids were so mesmerized by the thought of someone so far away giving them a new friend! They will hold their Buddy at night and share with it their joys, hopes and fear, just as I did with my favorite toy as a little girl. That thought made it so easy for me to genuinely open up.
For a few hours, the playground we shared with the children was the mountainous backyard of the MAEC orphanage, the beautiful courtyard of the Mirebalais University Hospital and the tiny rooms of the hospital in St-Marc. I believe that we achieved our goal of sharing the carefree, happy moments every child is entitled to. I feel extremely blessed and honored to have experienced this adventure and I am so glad we had the opportunity to give back together the way we did. Unconditionally.