Kristin Tivener (KT) – You recently shared that you were able to travel to Haiti over spring break to assist with some mission work, could you tell us more about that trip?
Courtney Dorrell (CD) – I was able to assist with some mission work through an organization called Quest which is a Religious of Jesus and Mary collaborative mission. My boyfriend has been living and volunteering there for the last year so I wanted to help out over my spring break. I stayed in Gros Morne, Haiti most of the time.
KT – What work did you do during your time in Haiti?
CD – My boyfriend who majored in exercise physiology was working on two projects in this field so I was able to spend some time doing both of the projects his is involved in. First, there is a tree native to Haiti that the leaves contain all 20 amino acids. We would teach children how to harvest leaves, dry them, and then also how to maintain the trees. Once the leaves are harvested and dried, it creates a powder that can be given to children in schools as supplements. As part of this, we also were able to take girth measurements and do nutritional assessments in schools. While I was there, I was also able to create a recreational soccer league which was really fun! This involved 8 schools and we set up 4 teams for boys and 4 for girls. It was a really big deal in Haiti to have an organized sports for the girls because it is less common for girls to be in organized sports and education. We had 2 soccer tournaments, one on each weekend I was there.
KT – What was the background of other volunteers that you worked with?
CD – There was a wide variety of volunteers. One was someone going to medical school who worked in the hospital to transfer surgeries to the United States for those unavailable in Haiti. There also were several volunteers in psychology and social work who were offering English classes.
KT – Can you describe the atmosphere of the areas you were working in?
CD – Overall, children and adults all had very positive attitudes and were really open. Everyone wants to hold your hand, give you a hug, or touch your face. It was more common for them to be kind to a stranger than someone they knew. I felt safe and very welcome. It made a big impact on me to see how little families have and they are still so grateful. I remember one family with 8 people who lived in a 1 bedroom home with no furniture. This was not uncommon. Enjoyment comes out of the company people kept rather than materialistic things. It was hard seeing a lot of the children who did not have clothes or shoes, and were playing with trash for their toys. The people of Haiti described that they didn’t need money the most, they needed work. There are little opportunities to develop financially. There are current issues with the government, and many cuts have recently been made, especially in public schools. Teachers have not gotten paid for a year. Some are continuing to each without money but in tern, overall access to education is decreasing.
KT – What was your impression of the country?
CD – Haiti is such a beautiful country. There are so many beaches and it is on the Caribbean Sea. The land is also really mountainous. Roads are poor; it took about an hour to drive 16 miles. If there is rain, roads are washed out. the primary form of transportation is the back of a moto/dirt bike. Typically 3-4 people ride on 1 bike.
KT – Would you recommend this type of volunteer work to others?
CD – ABSOLUTELY! This was such an amazing experience for me. It is not hard to get involved, there are several connections to mission work in Haiti if you are willing to give the time. I am really thankful for the time that I was able to spend there. It made a huge impact on me. I remember returning home and thinking how many opportunities I have here in the US and being grateful for my education and all of the things I have here. My advice for anyone would be to go visit; and volunteer for whatever amount of time you can give!
The SMAT Spotlight is a series to highlight individuals, groups, clinical sites, and affiliations involved with the Sports Medicine and Athletic Training Department at Missouri State University.