By Taylor Leyva
Going into this trip, I actually prepared myself a lot for the end of it. I knew that I would leave Haiti completely shattered and, in all honesty, it did take me weeks to sift through memories and feelings in order to piece together what I truly took away from the experience. Interestingly enough, what I didn’t plan for was the wisdom, joy, and sincerity that I encountered. There was so much about the trip that was heart-breaking and beautiful, seemingly hopeless, but inspirational.
Every time I think back to the experience, the children we met and interacted with always come to my mind first. These children were simultaneously so innocent yet mature beyond their years.
We had the opportunity to meet children from multiple parts of Haiti. From climbing jungle gyms, playing tag, and braiding hair at Grace Village to kicking soccer balls, dancing, and applying more semi-permanent tattoos than I could count in Kenscoff, each experience was memorable in its own right.
However, I don’t think anything really stuck with me like our water truck day in City Soleil and those we met there. There has never been a time in my life that I’ve had children run up to me with such reckless abandon and trust. They all want to be touched and loved, held, and given attention, but it was impossible to do so with every child in the small crowd that gathered. During this day we essentially filled bowls, plastic pools, and, most of all, gallon buckets with water and carried them to doorways.
It was always the children that led us weaving between dwellings and down dirt paths to some unknown destination. They would let us know if we’d gone too far and guide us away from places we didn’t need to be. I know many of the Vanguard Haiti team distinctly remember some buckets having a plastic handle and others just wire. I say this because these particular buckets were so much harder to carry! Still, the children would insist on helping with these, if not hauling the buckets themselves, as they knew our own inexperienced hands were already raw and swollen. The moment we’d dropped off a bucket the children would immediately reach their arms skyward, hoping to be held. They’d fix our hats and wipe the hair from our faces. It was these simple acts of kindness that I will never forget.
This is all among living conditions like we’d never seen before. This place where children walk barefoot along trash-laden and glass-littered roads. It was really hard to fathom just how different the day to day is from here to there, and it still is.
We talk a lot about grit and resilience here at Vanguard. What we saw from the Haitian people was anything but hopeless. It was life-changing. There is something so jarring about looking into a child’s eyes and realizing that she has already gone through more in life than you ever have and ever will, that there are things she has experienced that you may never understand. What I saw from these people was an unparalleled resiliency and amicability that will stick with me for the rest of my life. In the middle of all this is Hope. And I mean that literally. Hope Church, School, and Clinic, and Vanguard played a huge role in Hope Clinic’s construction and completion. This place, in the poorest slum in one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, now contains some of the best technology in the country and serves as a beacon of hope for this community.
Vanguard was a part of that. We were a part of that. Every patient who puts their trust in our care and each Vanguard tribe member who goes above and beyond for the practice every day has helped to contribute to this in some way. I can’t end without extending a huge thank you to Vanguard’s founders for allowing us all to be a part of their vision, something greater than ourselves, and for giving us the opportunity to have a tangible, positive impact on the world at large.
The 2020 Vanguard Haiti Team
Vanguard Skin Specialists partners with Healing Haiti to support a medical clinic and maternal health program in Haiti. If you are interested in supporting Healing Haiti or going on a mission project with them, go to www.healinghaiti.org