Haitian Initiative Impact Trip Q&A with Brenna Akkerman
Q: What were your first impressions when got to Haiti for this Impact Trip?
A: I went to Haiti three years ago for my first trip. It was a lot similar to how it looked when I first went but I did think it looked better in terms of the garbage in Port Au Prince especially. My two friends that came with it, for them it was a culture shock with the level of poverty and the type of lifestyle the people have to live down there.
One of the days we went and drove through the mountains. What I saw was equivalent to going back to the beginning of time. It was crazy, people were just sitting there staring, and this is what they do all day. The kids were just bathing out in the river and their schools were literally a 10x10 space that was as big as a stable. It’s 1,000 percent different than the life we live here. It made me have a pit at the bottom of my stomach thinking about this is what they do every day of their life. It’s just hard to see because they can’t really have goals and that they’re just stuck with what they’re doing the rest of their lives.
Q: In what ways is it evident that TSF is having a lasting impact with their work in Haiti?
A: When we hung out with the kids at the soccer fields, you can just tell that is the highlight of their day, they love it. It’s a stepping stone to their future and it’s a catalyst for them want to work harder towards a better future.
Q: What is something that surprised you about this trip to Haiti?
A: There is just such a degree of separation between the rich and the poor, it’s sickening. It’s either you’re very rich and wealthy there or you go one mile away and you’re in a severely poor place. You go from seeing mansions to shacks just a short distance away, there’s really no middle-class.
Q: Take me through what the makeup of a typical day for you consisted of on the trip.
A: Right away in the morning we would wake up and get ready before eating a chef prepared breakfast, which was always delicious. We would sit around as a group for a little bit and talk. After that, we would usually go on an excursion. We went to see a waterfall and we went to the beach one time, and we also went to the Apparent Project, and had lunch there once as well. In the afternoons we would go out to the soccer fields for a couple hours and just hang out with the kids. Later on we would head back to have dinner and group discussion, and that was pretty much our day.
Q: Was there a specific event or part of your trip that was the most memorable for you?
A: So three years ago I met a little girl, she was five years old at the time and she was on the soccer field, but she wasn’t in the program yet. Her name is Tiklis. She had a lasting impression on me and I used to send her gifts.
When I got there this time I asked all the coaches if they had seen this girl, I showed them pictures but none of them recognized her. On the fourth day, I was walking on the soccer fields and I felt a little person grab my hand, and it was her. Out of all the kids that could have came up and grabbed my hand, it was her, so I was really happy to see her. She stuck by my side the entire day, and I was just so happy it made me cry. And it was good to know that she’s part of the soccer program there now.
Q: What would you say to someone who is “on the fence” about joining TSF in going on an impact trip to Haiti?
A: I tell this to so many of my friends because they’re all on the fence about going. It is absolutely life changing and I think it should be mandatory to go just because you get that change of perspective.
Any doubts someone had before about not going, they would wonder why they haven’t gone before after going on the trip. The good thing about it is, Tony can put you on a payment plan, because I know the cost is a deterrent for some people. But I can guarantee your life will change forever and you will never regret it if you go on an HI Impact Trip!