Ahh, I’m back. What an amazing business trip to Haiti.
A business trip to Haiti? Isn’t that a place you do mission trips to instead? you might be asking.
Yes, it is a country that has had a lot of mission trips to, which is part of the reason why it took me 3 years to finally decide to sign up for a business trip to that country. Because I’ve learned a lot over the past few years how many mission trips aren’t the most beneficial, and, in fact, can be quite harmful to the local people of that country. So I was nervous to go on a business trip to Haiti because what if it wasn’t any different? What if it was more harmful than beneficial to fly a whole group of Americans to visit there for a week?
But I was glad to learn that it IS possible to plan a trip to a developing nation in a way that honors and gives dignity to those who call that place home.
And that’s what ultimately led me to decide to apply for this business trip because I had read enough on how Trades of Hope conducts these trips and they were really well thought-out.
But I was still nervous as I headed to the airport, wondering if this trip was going to be as good as I had read it to be.
And you guys, it was.
This was the most well-planned, honoring trip I’ve ever been on. And I’ve been on a lot of international trips.
Every day we spent time debriefing our time in Haiti and how to view this trip, this country, these beautiful people in a way that allows their full humanity to be seen and valued.
This was so different from the mission trips I had been on in the past, where poverty tourism was considered normal and okay.
On one such trip years ago, our big mega bus full of Americans drove up to a poverty-stricken neighborhood and opened the doors so we could get out and ‘tour’ their poverty homes, roads, clothes, and more. Back then I was a young teen who didn’t know much but I remember feeling uncomfortable… because we literally just pulled up to this neighborhood for less than an hour (to what? give high fives to the kids? to feel bad? to make ourselves feel better about our lives? I wasn’t sure) and then we pulled right back out and left them behind, never to see them again.
It felt odd to me then and I realize because it was purely poverty tourism that led to us either feeling guilty or grateful for how we live. Gratitude is a good thing, but not at the expense of feeling pity for others.
And that’s something else we talked about during our time in Haiti. We talked about pity versus compassion, a pity purchase from Haitian artisans versus an empowering purchase from them.
So when we visited the homes of our artisans, I love that our artisans had invited us. We didn’t just show up unannounced to ‘tour’ their homes and make Western judgments about them. We came as invited guests, partners in the business, and friends in the making, with the understanding that our artisans were thrilled to invite us into their homes. Because their homes and all their furnishings represented the fruit of their hard work, evidence of their steady income as artisans. And it was a joy to celebrate alongside them – to see all that they have been able to accomplish as full-time workers and international designers (see their beautiful pieces here!).
And I loved that this wasn’t the end of our time together. This was truly the beginning.
When we were eating lunch at a cafe owned and run by our artisans, one of the workers walked by our table and saw one of our teammates and said, “Hey, I recognize you” – and they realized they had met on her last trip to Haiti a few years ago. They hugged and laughed and caught up on each other’s lives, and it was so beautiful to witness!
THIS is what Trades of Hope is all about.
Providing opportunities for men and women to be the heroes of their own story. We’re not here to save them as much as we are here to partner with them. And this partnership is the beginning of a long-term relationship.
I’m so glad I took the risk on another international trip and found that a trip to a developing nation CAN be done well and in a way that honors the local people. These artisans are talented, brave people who have beaten the odds, and I’m incredibly humbled and honored to be their partner in this work.