Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day 1-Yuan

In addition to the seven law students, Dean Susan Brooks, and Tom Griffin came on the trip. Tom Griffin is the co-founder of Lamp for Haiti and an immigration attorney in Philadelphia. He is also one of my personal mentors. He has done incredible work in Haiti for the last eleven years, specifically investigations on human rights violations and has written reports on his findings.

Our flight to Port-au-Prince departed at 6 a.m., which meant we all had to be at the Philadelphia airport by 4:30 a.m. As you can imagine, most of us passed out cold due to lack of sleep. Believe me I did as well but only after bonding with Dean Brooks for about 45 minutes. We had a layover in Miami. We boarded the plane in Miami and were one step closer to arriving in Port-au-Prince. I was personally surprised to see so many people on the plane. The passengers were mainly all foreigners.

We all sat down, put on our seat belts and then…

We were told that there was a technical difficulty with the plane and so we couldn’t take off…for three hour delay. During that time we had a group meeting to discuss the specific questions we wanted to ask during our interviews with the local residents of Cite Soleil for our human rights investigations. After a one hour and forty minute flight, we landed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

While going through immigration, I looked around and saw so many foreigners coming into the country. When we exited the airport after going through customs, we saw groups of men gathered outside wanting to help us with our luggage for some extra cash.

One of the hosts of the guest house we are staying at met us at the airport with a mini-van. We all hopped in with our luggage piled in the back. On our drive to the guest house Matthew 25, I could not believe what I saw. With my bare eyes, I saw multiple tent camps. My eyes welled with tears as I saw how crowded the camps were. As we passed by one of the camps, I saw an older woman in a towel bathing behind a tent. The lack of privacy struck me…how are people in the camps able to have any privacy as they are all crowded around one another?

There were people bustling along the streets as we drove by. Street vendors. Painted pick-up trucks that serve as public transportation with over 8 people on them. When we arrived at the guest house, we met Regine, the full time Haitian American attorney with Lamp for Haiti. We discussed our schedule for the week and then had a delicious meal of pasta prepared by the staff of the guest house.

After dinner, we all went to Lamp for Haiti’s program director’s home in another part of Haiti. The program director’s name is Mimi, a Haitian woman who I came to admire. She has adopted multiple neglected children in the community. Different teams from the states live at her home when they come to Haiti. As I sat in her living room, I felt a deep sense of community around me.

While we were at Mimi’s house, we got a beautiful night view of Port-au-Prince. When I got home that night, I couldn’t wait to see what the week had in store for us. I could already sense the resilience and beauty of this land after only being here for half a day.

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