~ by Diane Gaillard, On-Site Director at D2C ~
A leap year and time for all those willing to make a leap of faith into their future, well at least that’s what I did. Yes, for the first time in eleven years, I leaped again and did what made me happy, I moved to Haiti. I last visited Haiti when I was one years of age with my mother. She came to bury her late husband and I have very few memories left from that trip. So, after 36 years and 11 residing in Virginia, I decided to visit my family’s birthplace. When I arrived to Haiti my childhood memory kicked in as I was reminded of the smell the charcoal that I remembered all too well. The smell that lingered in the air as I flashback to what were part of my childhood memories of Haiti.
As we drove off from the airport I saw so many young children in the streets walking home from school. I smiled inwardly as I thought about how many little girls resembled me with the pretty hair ribbons that my mother used to put in my hair. I still laugh at this thought because I now seeing this every day.
I spent 14 days in Haiti in 2015 and fell in love with the people, its culture, and with the idea of moving to Haiti. Each and every day drew me closer and closer to the island and all it had to offer me. I remember praying and thanking God for finally blessing me to be here again. I tried to connect so many dots from my family stories to finding street merchants with goods that I use to eat as little girl when someone would come from Haiti. What I did realize was how much I appreciated this place, its fine culture and people. I felt connected to Haiti like no other place in my life. Haiti was calling me and I was not ready to leave it.
When I arrived home from Haiti, I couldn’t stop thinking Haiti. I wanted to visit and see more of the island. Fortunately, I was able to make a few more trips within that year. My desire to find employment and move to Haiti grew stronger and caused me to begin pursing career opportunities. Later that year, I found myself in a multiple transitions not knowing if Haiti was a good idea or if it would ever open up for me. With uncertainty, confusion, and trials facing me I received a text message one day from my niece living in Haiti with a link for a position in Haiti with a nonprofit organization called Devoted to Children (D2C).
The funny thing was I was on my way to a second interview when I heard back from D2C. I emailed the contact person on the ad asking if the position was still open. Shortly after I learned that the job was still vacant. When I returned to my office I immediately applied for the position with all faith that it was mine. The job description had my name on it. Not long after I heard back from the organization and went through a series of interviews with the leadership team. I embraced every call like it was my job and owned it. Finally, my breakthrough came and the greatest news came, the position was offered to me. I knew than it was my time to leap and step into what was destined for me.
I have now been in Haiti exactly three months and 10 days and I still wake up some morning not remembering where I am but when I do realize where I am and why, I am thankful! I work with eight beautiful children. They are my life day to day (even when I’m off). I went from zero kids to eight and now have this saying that I am living “The Sound of Music” at least that’s how it felt when I first arrived.
The children and the job keeps you engaged, busy, and there are no days alike. My adjustment period is daily, while there are things that I am now accustomed to, there are many things that I still have to learn and embrace about Haiti. For example, the weather is gorgeous however; there are days that are hotter than others which can cause extreme discomfort. Another thing is how much I miss the convenience of a local Walmart, mall, or movie theater. I crave American food, Chinese food and other dishes that I am used to eating. I have a new appreciation for the fruits that I find here because of how readily available they are for me to have.
Every day is adventure in Haiti, from what you experience, what you learn, what you will see or and what you may have to face. When my name is called (which is now “Madame Diane”) I often anticipate a problem and want to know the cost (inside joke). The staff and I are still adjusting as well as the children, however I think we’ve made that three month connection now.
I look forward to what the rest of year holds and all its adventures. Stay tuned.