This morning, I intended to share this delicious Giada DeLaurentiis Eggplant Capanata recipe and sort of brag about the fact that I am “woman hear me roar” because I’m making an Thanksgiving appetizer that will also double as a fantastic leftover dish to add to pasta (okay, so I still kind of roared). But right as I started to craft the post and upload my ever so stylized and glamorous iPhone -push the mess aside so it looks just like Pinterest minus the blur photos, I remembered the date:
Exactly one year ago today, I went to Haiti.
One year ago today, (which happened to be the week after Thanksgiving), I went to Haiti with Ladies’ Home Journal and Crocs Cares to deliver 5000 shoes to school children. While a bountiful recipe can be a great reminder to give thanks for the luxuries in life we often take for granted, I have so much to be thankful for and my journey to Haiti is one of those blessings.
Happy Thanksgiving and Much love and peace.
When I was first contacted by Susan Pocharski, Entertainment Director at Ladies’ Home Journal, asking me if I’d like to join them, CrocsCares, and Feed the Children for a trip to Haiti to deliver shoes to school children, I was beyond honored and thrilled. Opportunities like these are rare and there wasn’t an ounce of hesitation when I leaped back with YES! In addition, I was going to be traveling with Real Housewife of New York, Countess LuAnn de Lesseps and mom bloggers, Nicole Feliciano and Catherine Connors, both whom I look up to and admire greatly. I could hardly contain my excitement.
Minutes later, of course, (being me), I was scouring the CDC and US Embassy websites for up-to-date info on all the shots I may need and the security precautions I should take. After all, I thought, Haiti is the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere. Surely, there’s a lot to take into consideration. But in reality… there’s not much disease or security measures to take into consideration anymore than any other poverty-stricken and under-developed country. A country lacking infrastructure means more than unsettled financials, it means unsettled people… and therefore, I’m assuming, unsettled tourists…
Once we got through customs and outside of the airport, it seemed like instant mayhem. While I certainly wasn’t expecting a JFK type arrival with a Carmel Car & Limo to greet me in a luxury sedan, I wasn’t necessarily expecting a mob, of what I think was mostly men, covering the walkway in which we had to walk through to get to our cars that would caravan us through Port Au Prince to our hotel. People were shoving, grabbing bags, even yanking us here and there to come with them. My travel companions, including the lovely Sally Lee, Editor in Chief of LHJ, however, seemed unfazed. Though I did my best to cover it up, I knew she could tell I was nervous, and I definitely was embarrassed. Buck up, Jenny, buck up. But, I felt so far from home… already. Perhaps it’s because Sally had visited Haiti before, I thought… and as an activist, many other third world countries, that this sort of chaos doesn’t penetrate anymore… This is Haiti, everyone kept saying. It’s just chaos.
And it was. During the nearly 2.5 hour drive to our hotel in Petionville (which is approximately 5 miles away from the airport), it was instantly obvious that the devastation from the earthquake in 2010 is ever-present. Tents on the sides of the road, a completely non-existent National Palace and rubble… still… rubble and crumbled facades. What kind of state will these schools be in that we’re visiting? What kinds of needs will these children have that we’ll be delivering shoes to?
Oh, how I couldn’t wait to see the children. I realize it sounds dramatic and maybe a little cheesy, but truly: I needed to touch a child. I needed to see the one thing that I knew would calm me. Of course I was missing my son, but it wasn’t a homesickness that made me ache to get to these schools… It was a need to find a commonality. A need, for even if only an instant, to connect with a group of people whose lives are so different from mine, simply from a survival standpoint. The love of a child though, that binds us together. It really makes us the same. I’m not here to see the devastation and report back. I’m here to give something.
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