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Grace J. Palmisano Center for Campus Ministry

Reflections: Chelsea Jacoby

So many of the Haitian people touched my heart and made me a better person without even knowing it, and for that I am forever grateful.

Can you share some of your thoughts on the trip?

Whenever anyone asks me how our trip to Haiti went I honestly can’t seem to describe it any other way but absolutely amazing. The people, the experiences, the new found friendships, the food, the scenery, the acceptance into the Haitian community, the praise and thanks we got for our contributions, the knowledge gained, I could go on for days, but everything was just purely amazing. I thought our trip was remarkably successful and more than I ever could have imagined. I don’t want to speak for everyone, but in my eyes everything I could have hoped to accomplish while we were down there we did and that itself is an incredible feeling. As a small group of seven individuals we had the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the Haitian people and we did.  I am so ultimately proud of everything we’ve done and cannot wait to go back with bigger and better goals/plans and relive the life changing experience all over again while touching the lives of others.

What type of work did you do there?  

As part of the Athletic Training group, we worked with groups of health care providers and helped educate them on ways to treat and prevent back pain. In Haiti, not unlike the United States many people suffer from back pain, but unlike the US, those in Haiti who are fortunate enough to see a doctor are given treatment plan of about two weeks worth of ibuprofen and are sent on their way. They have little to no knowledge of orthopedic exercises or rehabilitation techniques that aid in treating the pain without use of NSAIDs. We held two educational seminars at different health clinics where we taught them basic exercises and stretches to relieve back pain due to either flexion or extension. These seminars were extremely beneficial to not only the Haitian healthcare providers and future patients suffering from back pain, but also to us. It gave us a chance to learn about their culture especially in regards to the limitations they run into with health care, and also allowed us to gather information on how to adapt our future educational seminars to their needs. For example, aside from the ample amount of people suffering from back pain, many also endure painful knees, shoulders, and wrists, due to the demands put on their bodies everyday for survival, so we plan to cater rehabilitation programs to treat conditions for those body parts in our future trips. 

What type of preparation did you do before you left? 

Before we left we had large group meetings with the seven of us once a month where we were given insight on the history of Haiti and a general cultural overview, and the three of us involved in the athletic training portion met every Friday as well. One of the things the three of us worked together was formatting a rehab program for the low back whether their pain be flexion or extension based, made the finalized plan culturally sensitive in regards to choosing certain exercises over others and also changed the scenery and clothes on the figures demonstrating the exercises. In addition to that we came up with injury scenarios that we felt we could possibly run into on our trip and practiced going through an entire evaluation with the understanding that they will not speak English nor do we understand Creole. Learning how to go off of physical/facial queues rather than verbal was a huge battle and the practice turned out to be extremely beneficial. 

Why did you go?  

All of my life I have yearned to help others, whether they be family members, those within my community, or even those I have never met. I have worked with many different fundraisers in efforts to raise money for cancer with participation in multiple Relay for Life events and even helped raise money to provide bricks to build a school in a third world country. But I want to do more than just raise awareness, put donations in an envelope, and send it off. I applied for the Merrimack in Haiti Service Trip with the hope that I would be able to go there, touch one person’s life and witness the difference I helped make possible.

What impact did it have on you?

To say this trip was life changing doesn’t even begin to describe it. Traveling to Haiti and experiencing the things I did, was more than I ever could have imagined and I want nothing more than to be able to go back and do it all over again. It is going to sound cliché but I boarded the plane at Logan Airport the person who I’ve obviously been my whole life, but when I arrived back at Logan six days later, the same person didn’t return. I came back more appreciative of EVERYTHING, more loving, more understanding, more accepting; I came back a better person. I once read a quote that said, “Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our heart and we are never, ever the same,” and that couldn’t be more accurate for me. So many of the Haitian people touched my heart and made me a better person without even knowing it, and for that I am forever grateful. 

Any other reflection?

Throughout the trip I was on an emotional roller coaster to say the least. I was jumbled up with so many feelings at once all the time. Seeing the extreme poverty and the conditions so many Haitian people have to live in brought me to tears multiple times, but throughout the week those tears stopped. I came to realize that regardless of what these people don’t have, whether it be a sturdy home, clean clothes, food, or clean running water, these people have something most Americans don’t, and that is pure happiness. I can honestly say that throughout the entire week I can’t think of one person who I saw while I was there that wasn’t smiling.  Poverty is defined as living off $2 a day, but the people in Haiti live off less than $1 a day. To put it into retrospect, their healthcare workers, those considered a little well off, make $400 a year.  So if the people in Haiti, those who are completely consumed in poverty and have little to nothing, can be so ultimately happy and truly grateful for anything they can get, why can’t we as Americans be as happy as them when we have all we could ask for and more? This trip made me draw a fine line between want and necessity and it was a lesson worth learning. After a week in Haiti, I came back to the United States with a new found understanding of the world around me, a grasp on how fortunate I truly am, a love for providing service to others, multiple long lasting friendships, acceptance for others, and a desire to return to Haiti and provide all the help I can give to them.