As you may know, I have a bit of a travel bug and I’m always looking for places to travel. A few years ago I made it a personal goal to take at least one international vacation every year. My next international trip will be to Haiti. Haiti is a peculiar “vacation” destination, and the reason I’m going has to do with my last international destination: Panama. I went to Panama when I was visiting Costa Rica last year.
Bananas and Tourism
Costa Rica was lovely, but I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty during my time in Panama. You see, my trip to one of the most beautiful beaches included a route through Changuinola and its neighboring Chiquita banana plantation. As we rode through a long winding road, I saw hundreds of Panamanians living in shacks along both sides of the road, with the Chiquita banana plantation being on the other side of the shack strip. I didn’t say anything at the time, but it was disheartening to see. While the local area’s economy is supported by the banana plantation and tourism, I couldn’t help but feel as though the small amount I paid for my tourist fare wasn’t fair enough to the local community.
When I returned to the States, I did a little research on Chiquita, as well as their predecessors and saw they were in fact, guilty of some sort of shady happenings in the communities in which they exist. I’m not alone in thinking Chiquita could be doing something for local citizens and workers.
Not About Bananas
I tend to enjoy visiting countries where Brown people exist, mostly because I can blend in and not be bothered as a tourist. But, it’s obvious some Brown countries are going to have some problems. I first experienced this feeling when I visited favelas (and City of God) in Rio a few years ago. While it seems like I woke up and discovered ethical tourism, I decided I would cease my travel for a while until I could come up with a resolution about what to do when I’m traveling internationally. I didn’t want to be one of those people who visits a country to leech off the resources, for pennies on the dollar. There’s gotta be a way to help while visiting, no?
As this year chugged along, I still hadn’t planned an international trip, and I was beginning to think this year would go by without a trip outside of the country. I hadn’t figured out my ethical traveling dilemma….until one day the thought about a missionary trip crossed my mind. As you may know, I’m a practicing Christian. I have a few friends who have gone on missionary trips before, including my stepdad. I figured a missionary trip of some sort would allow me to go see the world, while also helping others. My NYC church didn’t appear to have any missionary trips planned, so I went looking online for some solutions.
Deciding to Go
At first I thought I would go to Africa, because being Black, we all want to visit the Motherland at some point in our lives. But I didn’t want to visit the Motherland just to gawk. Surely there could be something good I could offer while on my trip? Again, I prayed about this, though it was an afterthought. A trip to Africa could easily cost a ton of money.
Through a series of very fortunate events, Haiti blipped across my radar. A new friend in my summer bible study group was going to Haiti to provide free medical care to Haitians for a week in December (she’s a medical school student). She’d gone last year–before the earthquake–and was very excited to go again this year. She invited me to think about joining her on the trip.
I prayed about the decision several times, but was still hesitant. This would be my first missionary trip ever and my biggest worry? I’d have to raise money in order to go. This was a problem for me. A lot of people I know aren’t aware that I’m a Christian, how was I going to approach them and ask for money for a Christian missionary trip? Similarly, I don’t even know that many Christians, so it’s not like I could get all my funds from my Christian network either. Not to mention, I’d have to pay for my own plane fare ($500-$900). Sigh. It just seemed like a lot to worry about.
I thought about the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti earlier this year. While I gave money, supported Haiti via VSB, and speculated on the shadyness of Wyclef and his Yele charity, I also spent time watching the news and crying the days and weeks after the earthquake. I remembered stories from some faithful people who survived the earthquake and lived to tell about how God kept them alive. Some of their stories were amazing!
Anyway, I watched the video below, and that changed everything for me. This video is from last year’s trip (I found it during one of my late night incessant Googling fits):
I guess putting tangible faces to the effort is what did me in. I didn’t know how it was going to happen, but I knew I’d make it happen somehow. I asked God for one more confirmation that this was the right decision, and through a series of signs (including Gossip Girl) He confirmed it for me (yes, God spoke to me through Gossip Girl. Don’t hate, He knows how to get my attention, especially when I’m on deadline and I ask for a confirmation lol).
So, I’m Going to Haiti
And I need your help. Money, clothing, and Delta SkyMiles: I could use any and all of those things. I have to raise $950 for medical supplies and team lodging by October 15th. You can read my FAQ, and donate online over here on my ChipIn page. It will tell you more about the logistics of the trip, and what your donation is going to. We’re going to make this trip happen either way, but it would be nice to do it with your help. A few gracious friends and internet strangers have already started the ball rolling, which is awesome. I am eternally grateful to them, and can’t begin to comprehend the kindness of strangers!
Thanks for taking the time to read this very long post (and the long FAQ/Donation page). I’ll be writing more about Haiti as the trip grows near! Hopefully I’ll write/blog about this trip a lot more than I have with my previous trips.
Come back tomorrow as I have a BIG announcement related to my fundraising efforts! I have something great to share!