Haiti: UCLA Chi Alpha and Elisha C.
Eduardo Navarro is a 4th year French and Political Science double major at UCLA. This summer, he volunteered jointly with both UCLA Chi Alpha and the Elisha C. in Haiti Organization. Chi Alpha is a UCLA Christian-based ministry and Elisha C. is an organization that stemmed from Chi Alpha. Elisha C. is focused on bringing about economic change to Haiti by promoting micro-enterprising and generating local economies. It is also responsible for sponsoring children to go to school at all levels ranging from basic primary education to the university level. Eduardo chose to travel to Haiti because he wanted to make a difference in someone’s life and work toward long-term solutions by establishing effective change in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. Additionally, he knew his fluency in French, which is closely related to Creole, the language of the Haitian people, would help eliminate language barriers that might have otherwise created obstacles when volunteering abroad. Instead, as a French speaker, Eduardo was able to interact firsthand with the Haitians to share stories and make an impact that much stronger by doing so through a common language.
This summer was Eduardo’s second time traveling to Haiti for a service trip. When asked if he experienced any culture shock, Eduardo described the infrastructure as the first thing that stood out to him. There was still a lot of visible damage from the 2010 earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The language was the second shock . Even though Eduardo is a French speaker, he found that Haitian Creole was still very difficult to comprehend. However, Eduardo welcomed the challenges, knowing that Haiti is such a diverse and culture-rich country offering a multitude of traditions. Even more so, he described how the Haitian people express such union and humbleness that made him feel right at home.
During his trip, Eduardo quickly realized there really are no typical days in Haiti. Some constants included preparing evening snacks for the village they served to feed up to 200 people and simply engaging in bonding activities with different groups of people including playing games with kids, bonding with older teens, and just taking advantage of the quality time they all had with one another. However, Eduardo and his fellow volunteers truly had something new to do every day. Some days, Eduardo and the other volunteers would take service recipients to the beach, a luxury they do not otherwise have. Other days, the group would have church services for the people they met and prayer sessions for their needs. Other tasks included distributing enough rice and beans to feed 18 families for an entire month. They were also able to award 42 students with scholarship certificates that sponsored them for school, nine of which were university students. One night, the volunteer group even planned a local BINGO night where the whole village came to play and were able to award prizes to every single participant.
When asked about the impact of this service experience, Eduardo answered: “This service trip has literally changed my life and career aspirations. As cliché as it sounds, I know that Haiti has ingrained itself in my heart and life. No matter where my career takes me, I will never give up on Haiti. This country has a future and I will dedicate all the resources I can to make a lasting change in the people who so humbly welcomed me to their country with open arms. … Going to Haiti has taught me not to take anything for granted and that as Americans we are very spoiled. We live in a country full of privileges and opportunities that many people around the world, unfortunately, do not have. I have learned, that even though we don’t live through the same struggles as people in Haiti or others around the world, it is our responsibility to help those less fortunate than us.”
For Eduardo, the most rewarding part of the experience was the invaluable and irreplaceable friendships he made. During both his trips to Haiti, he has found the friends he has made to have the purest hearts of anyone he has ever met. He is also so impressed that the people he has met are able to teach him such joy and humility because regardless of their situation, they show so much joy and happiness. Other UCLA students can come out to UCLA Chi Alpha meetings and get more information about the volunteer service trips to Haiti every Tuesday evening at the University Religious Conference (URC). Information for anyone interested in volunteering in Haiti can also be found in the Elisha C. website.