April 16, 2018

Travel As Service: A Mission Trip to Haiti

Travel can do many things. It can excite, or it can frighten. Travel can relax, and it can also be trying. The beauty or chaos of a new place can awaken senses that lie dormant when we are at home. Travel can introduce us to new people, cultures and environments. It can teach, and it can inspire. Travel can even change our perspective on life. The best travel, I believe, does all of these things.

Pico Iyer’s essay Why We Travel opens with the line: “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves.”

This sums up the purpose of my recent trip to Haiti. First, I traveled to lose myself. To leave behind, if only for a moment, the day-to-day routine and cast aside recurring worries I couldn’t help but feel were superficial. Next, as Iyer wrote, I traveled to find myself. To rediscover the person I truly am at heart once the rigors of daily life were stripped away.

There is a dangerous complacency that can arise in those who sit idle — a sealing off of the mind can occur, a distrust in outside ideas, a settling into one’s ways. In other words, idleness can lead to single mindedness. A tried and true cure for this condition is travel. More specifically, traveling to a part of the world that is very different from your own.

My entire adult life I have talked about the importance of volunteering. I discuss it with my daughters and friends. I speak about it at schools when I am promoting our book series. I compliment those who give of their time every chance I get. But never once had I committed to doing it myself. My charity consists mostly of small donations to various causes. Lately, though, this effort did not seem enough, and I began to feel like a hypocrite, always talking, but never doing.

As it happened, over the holidays, I was presented with an opportunity. For twelve years, my wife’s cousin, Ricky, and his wife Shae have been active in the Canaan Christian Community, an orphanage and school in Montrouis, Haiti. They visit regularly, serving in whatever capacity is needed. When at home in Kansas City, they spend time raising money for Canaan. I have always admired their dedication and when it came up that they were visiting Haiti again in March, I asked if I could join them.

A few days into our journey, as I crawled under a mosquito net to record the day’s experiences in my journal, I wondered how I would ever be able to convey in my writing anything that even came close to what life was actually like in Haiti. How would I be able to sketch an accurate image of a country after only seeing a small part of it? How would I understand a nation of people after only meeting a few? It isn’t possible. In Haiti, I was an outsider, a foreigner, and I left knowing far too little to draw any conclusions. Therefore, all I can offer is my own experience, framed by the places I visited and the people I met.

For that reason, it seems the best way to tell this story is by publishing a few excerpts from my journal. By the end of the week, I will post my first entry, “Haiti Journal: Part I.” Additional excerpts will follow in the coming weeks. At the end of each post I will include a link to Canaan, should anyone wish to donate to this extraordinary orphanage and school. The children at Canaan are fortunate in many ways. They are educated, fed, housed and loved dearly. But they need continued support. U.S. dollars go a long way in Haiti. What the average American might spend on a family dinner at a restaurant can buy much needed school supplies, solar lights, medicine, or a meal for the entire orphanage.

Our mission at Travels with Gannon & Wyatt is to bring the magic of nature and far away cultures to the imaginations of children and their families. In our blog, we are able to delve deeper into the places we visit. When we can, we also do our best to help if help is needed. If our humble effort does nothing more than raise awareness and trigger compassion among readers for those born into difficult circumstances, then we feel we have made strides toward our goal.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this series of blogs.

Visit the Canaan Christian Community Website

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