Haiti: View from the Photographer

This past Friday, I returned from a medical mission trip to Haiti with a team of nine other from my church, McFarlin United Memorial Methodist, through UMVIM Haiti! Like I explained in my previous blog, we ran a clinic for three days in a small fishing village, Source a Philippe, on the island of Lle de Gonave, Haiti. 
We had a dental and medical team who saw Haitian patients from 12 different villages from the small island and I believe we made a difference and relieved pain for many. 

Most mission trips I've been apart of have included construction work, but this one was different: one being medically focused and I have no expertise to any medical profession, and two, this was an adult mission trip. I have traveled with my church's youth group during my younger years in middle/high school, as well during my undergraduate career. It was a great and new experience, which was something I really needed in my life.

Before we landed in Haiti, all I could do was just gaze and observe the dirt covered mountains with minimal vegetation. It was pretty shocking, but I was anxious to get off the plane and see what it was really like on the ground.
We landed and were directed through their remodeled airport {including new kiosks for check-ins} that was nicer than Grenada! It was pretty nice for welcoming foreigners, for sure. Our team leader warned us about the airport being crazy with men approaching us to help us with our bags, but we were to respond with a firm "no, mesi." Once again, in my opinion it wasn't too bad and I never felt like the men were going to force me to give them my bag. It could have helped that I was with a group of other adults, who knows. 
We load our bags and ourselves into a truck-like vehicle {it almost felt like we were going to jail} 
and had a 45 minute, bumpy, dusty drive to the UMVIM guest house. Just from looking through the metal fence-like screen of the truck, I could already tell that conditions were worse than Ghana and Togo, Africa. 
We had a warm welcome from the UMVIM Haiti staff who helped prepare us for our next journey in the upcoming days.

We had a nice stay with nice accommodations at the guest house, but I think all of us had a much earlier start to our next day than we had anticipated. Some of us realized the roosters start crowing before the sun even rises! The roosters {and goats on the island} were our alarm clock for the remainder of the trip, beginning at 3 a.m.
Anyways, after our first night's rest, we were on our way to Lle de Gonave! This was a full travel day for us, three hour drive and four hour boat ride, but I think it was a great way to actually see Haiti. We drove through Port-au-Prince and other towns and country sides on the way to our boat.
We loaded our sail boat, which I feel a lot of us pictured differently than what it actually was, and off we sailed to Source a Philippe, Lle de Gonave. 
We spent the next four days in Source a Philippe preparing for our medical and dental clinic, running the clinic, attending two church services, touring around the village, and spreading God's love to everyone we came in contact. 

We had two separate teams, a  dental and a medical. 
Bill, our dentist
Amanda, one of our doctors
Jonathan, our team leader and doctors
Since power was minimal on the island, our dental team only brought non-electrical items to work on the patients, which meant extractions only! With the cabinet full of only specific medicines, our doctors were only able to diagnose the patients with the available medicines to treat symptoms. 

Each morning right before the clinic opened, those who had been waiting in line for well over an hour to see our doctors, sang a prayer over us. Although we were unable to understand what they sang, almost each time it brought tears to my eyes.

Since I have no experience in the medical field, I assisted in the pharmacy filling prescriptions. Three of us juggled medicine bottles and plastic baggies to give to the local nurse. She would then call the name on the sticky note, which entailed their name, age, weight, diagnosis and medicine(s) they were receiving, and she would explain how to take the medicines and how often. 
Weslyn, the local nurse on the island
One of the biggest challenges throughout the mission was the language barrier. Local Haitians speak Haitian Creole, which is a spinoff of French. In past experiences where I have visited countries and/or villages that speak another language, I've usually been able to pick up on a few phrases. In this situation, I came into Haiti knowing, "Bonjour", "Bonswaa", "mesi", "no mesi", and counting 1, 2, 3. Leaving Haiti, I came back with just the same and barely any more. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to pick up on anything else. Luckily, we did have three interpreters with us while we ran the clinic and one of them stayed with us the entire time. 

The other position I was assigned for this mission was that of photographer for the team. Not only did I capture moments when our group was working with patients, but I was able to capture the beautiful smiles of those on the island.
Scott, a lay member and helped in the dental area
Technology does not exist, so the locals were thrilled when I showed them a photo I had taken of them. There were no mirrors from what I saw, so most of them had never seen what they looked like. Their expressions were priceless. I felt like I was able to communicate with the people through my positive, smiling reaction as I took their picture and shared with them. Only for brief moments did I have an interpreter with me to tell me what the kids were trying to tell me. 
Rob, one of our doctors, and the school kids with their polaroid picture
McFarlin Medical Team and locals who helped!
Leaving the island was bitter sweet. Our boat was launched and the sails were up, right around 7 a.m., and for the first time in months I felt at peace. It's hard to explain, but it was that feeling where all you can do is smile. 
We made it safely to the UMVIM guest house in Port-au-Prince and just relaxed. We had our last devotional and debriefing. Our team leader, Jonathan, explained to the group what we would encounter once we returned to the states. Our dentist, Bill, and I knew exactly what Jonathan was talking about. I wasn't sure if I would have a big culture shock coming back to the states like I did once I returned from Africa. Thankfully, my culture shock was pretty minimal. 

Will I ever go back to Haiti?? I have no idea what my future holds, but this was a really awesome experience. At the moment, I'm taking every day one step at a time, following God and trusting in His timing, but I can say that I would love to make my way back! I might even lead a mission team to Haiti! Never know :)

Until next time...



  1. I loved reading about your trip! And you took AMAZING photos! My two favorites are right after you mentioned capturing "the beautiful smiles of those on the island." Both of those pictures of the kids are priceless! Wow! I'm so glad you got the opportunity to go on this mission trip and that it ended up being everything and more that you were hoping for!

    1. Thank you so much!!! The people there were so happy and wonderful! It was hard to choose which photos to show! I'm so glad I was able to go too :) Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Awesome photos! I'm so glad you got to go on this trip and that they had you to capture the trip in pictures. It sounds like it was a very productive trip. Maybe McFarlin will return again.


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