Sometimes we give money to a charity and we never see what our money has achieved or hear about the people it has gone to. Sometimes we give money to large organisations and it disappears into a melting pot of corruption and bureaucracy. Sometimes we look at the bigger picture and feel that any contribution we make will be insignificant.

Random Acts may be a small charity but it has a big heart. Every penny raised goes to the projects it is supporting, all of the staff are volunteers. The Hope to Haiti project has been the most rewarding experience of my life. It’s been joy and hard work and heartbreak all rolled into one and I cannot wait to go back and do it all over again. VANESHA

“You’re going where?” This pretty much sums up the reaction of my friends and family when I told them I was going to Haiti. But I wasn’t about to let petty concerns like safety and cholera dissuade me from adventure!

It seemed absurd to a lot of people that I thought this service trip would make any sort of difference. But actually being there, seeing the kids we were helping to support and working on the buildings we were helping to construct made me realize that what we were doing was making a huge difference.

The people who went on the trip last year told me that they all connected to the kids. It’s not that I didn’t believe them, but I don’t think I really understood what they meant. But they were right. The children we worked with have so little, but they were so thankful and grateful for what we were doing.

It’s easy to lose track of the things closest to our hearts in these hectic times, but going to Haiti has helped me remember what is really important in life, and I am incredibly thankful for the experience.

As I started to fundraise for Hope to Haiti in March 2011 I wished to make a difference, to be part of something special, to help sweet kids in need and to go out of this experience more focused and strengthened. I was open for everything this journey would bring, I thought that it would not only make an impact on somebody else’s life but on mine as well. What I didn’t expect was that not only did I become a part of the project but the project became a part of me, of my personal development… and after I went back this year with Random Acts I found out that not only had I left a piece of my heart in Jacmel, that not only did the kids have a place in my heart, but that we all found a home in their hearts as well. I think one of the most touching experiences was coming back and seeing the kids running to me, saying my name, giving me hugs, like they’d been waiting the whole year for us to come back.

For me and the other returning volunteers it was like we’d never left, like the year in between didn’t exist; we just picked up where we had left off in June 2011. We knew already that we’d created bonds in the team which were lasting, but now we noticed that the same happened with the kids we had to leave back in Jacmel. And that motivated me even more. Everything we do, everything Random Acts does through Hope to Haiti is for THESE amazing kids, who opened their hearts and let us all in.

This is the moment where I come to our baby, the Jacmel Children’s Center! Last year we walked over an empty field, carrying the first rocks. This year we found the walls up. How that place has changed since we entered it for the first time and how amazing was the process to see for us who were part of this experience already last year. It brought tears to eyes – and the feeling and confirmation that we all together MAKE A DIFFERENCE! I still see me walking through the future rooms of the Children’s Center, imagining how wonderful it will be when the first kids finally move in.

Seeing the kids’ smile over a little gift or just love what we gave them, meeting their shining eyes and then seeing a future home for many of them makes everything so worth it! And with the knowledge and feelings of having bonded and left a part of myself back in Jacmel, it was much easier to say goodbye this time, because we knew it would just be some time ’til we return and continue. It was not a goodbye but more of a “See you soon!”

When I decided to go on this trip, in my mind, I was going to help the Haitians, do something positive for a people in need, step out of my comfort zone and do something that wasn’t about me or my immediate family but others, perfect strangers. At least that’s what I thought would happen. Instead, those people and those children changed my life. So much joy and love for life, despite all their hardships, they faced each day with a big smile and open arms. Despite all the damage, the poverty, the kids we met were simply kids. They wanted to do all those things that kids want to do, but they also channeled their energies into some of the most amazing art. As much as I would like to think that I made a difference in their lives (and I hope that I did even in some small way), I know that they have changed mine forever. They gave me a new love for life, an appreciation for the resilience of the human spirit.

Interestingly, something else happened on this trip that I didn’t expect. I knew that I would make some acquaintances on this trip, but I never imagined that I would make life long friends. I mean the kind of friends that become a part of your heart and soul. The kind of friends that you miss everyday and can’t wait to meet again. That is a gift beyond measure, and I have this trip to thank for that, too.

So, the trip that started as a way for me to “help a people and a country in need”, turned into so much more than I could ever have dreamed. Haiti’s people and children gave me new hope and joy, new friends that have become my soul mates in some way, and, yes, even a slight appreciation for Misha (but that’s a different story. I really pray that I made a difference, however small, in those people’s lives, because I owe them more than I could ever repay. I have Random Acts and the resilient people of Haiti to thank for that. I just hope that I made as much of a difference in their lives as they did in mine.

Haiti is an amazing place that gives you the opportunity to feel like the time you spend there, no matter how brief, really is important. The people there are facing so many disadvantages and yet, everyone is cheerful and kind, and more than anything else, grateful. They’re grateful for things we take for granted every day and it’s rewarding both to see how simple their needs are and to see how much more you appreciate your life and everything in it when you return home. Haiti is one of those places you can’t just go once. You find yourself in the airport trying to figure out when you can come back again or what you can do from the U.S. to continue the progress you’ve already given a hand in. Making people smile is the best addiction there is.

When I first considered participating in the fundraising for the Hope to Haiti drive last year, the $5,000 goal seemed impossible. So, I didn’t start out expecting to get as far as I did. Most of my family is struggling financially to some degree or another, and I don’t have any wealthy friends. Asking people I knew to donate was intimidating at first. But what I learned by the end, was that even people who are struggling to keep their heads above water don’t mind a request for help. The generosity of the people I reached out to was incredible. Having the opportunity to actually go to Haiti and meet some of the people who live and laugh and love there every day, while struggling against a crippling national poverty, gave me a fresh outlook on my own life. Our support has already made a positive difference in many lives, but there’s still a lot more we can do. Even if you don’t think you can make it to the goal that is set, or can’t go on the trip to Haiti, I would encourage everyone who has an interest, just participate and do what you can. And set your bar high! You can accomplish more than you think if you approach it with enough passion, energy, and determination.

When I think about the time where I started to work on the H2H-project I remember that I knew about Haiti as one of the poorest countries in the world and for sure I heard about the terrible earthquake. Going over I expected a destroyed country, very resigned people and consequential a high criminality and desperation everywhere.

But the people I met, especially the kids were so full of love which they gave us every day. And when you concentrate on this kids and that they are the future of Haiti, you really bring Hope to Haiti in bringing them hope for a better future.

Going over last summer was the most meaningful thing I ever did, it filled my soul and opened my eyes! I met people who inspired me the most and I made friends who I will never forget! I left my home in Germany without knowing anybody on the team and I came back with so much love in my heart, even sad or difficult situations were special because of going through them with a wonderful team around.

Back in Germany I read a quotation of James Matthew Barrie, which felt totally right for me: “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves!” Mr. Barrie- I agree. This is your time-let Haiti infect you like it did to me!

Travelling to Haiti in person was a profoundly meaningful experience. I left feeling such joy and gratitude for life’s spectacular adventure. Seeing, feeling and experiencing this challenging place, and meeting its people, who face such overwhelming problems with such a vast, generous, simple happiness, gave me a deep sense of perspective. It was indeed life-changing.
The fundraising, too, before we even left home, was an exciting journey as we stretched beyond ourselves and discovered that we are capable of things we never thought we could achieve. I invite anyone with a sense of adventure and a taste for making things happen to give it a whirl in 2012! CATHY

The Hope2Haiti trip with Random Acts was my first experience dealing with this level of poverty and at times it felt overwhelming to be surrounded by such obvious starvation for both food and care. A few nights concluded with us crying on each other’s shoulders, (from both emotion and affects from the heat), not quite being able put our feelings into words or why they were cutting us so deeply. Despite their situation, the children were full of joy and play during our brief stay there. They were welcoming, although there was a little frustration with the language barrier. The children loved hugging us and taking pictures, taking care to return the cameras to the rightful owners at the end of the day, and overall being more courteous than most people I know.
The children’s center was barely begun with only a perimeter wall standing at knee height. Our group was roaring to work, but at the rate we were working, we were (and this is straight from the translator’s mouth) “freaking the other workers out. They asked that you slow down.” As the heat started to take it’s toll on one volunteer after another, it was obvious slow and steady was their proven method.

Things you should know about the Hope2Haiti Trip:

  • If you are not of sound mind or have physical restrictions, this trip might not be for you. The week is hard, on both mind and body and it is not the place to fall into a mental breakdown.
  • The heat is intense and can knock you down flat. Bring hydration tablets and take water breaks. Even those in great shape were affected.
  • Take care to drink only bottled water. Malaria is present and caution is necessary.
  • Learn what Haitian language you can. Just basic communication
  • (words for water, what is your name, etc etc) will make a big difference.
  • The children will want to spend time with you. They don’t have much, but they have a surplus of joy and love to give.
  • Work slow and steady. The Haitian workers are able to keep going
  • all day because they work at such a pace. Even if you are taking a water break every 10 minutes and don’t feel like you are making a
  • difference, you are.
  • This trip will be emotional. It may be bonding with your fellow
  • volunteers, it may be seeing the children, it may be a side affect of
  • the heat, but whatever the reason, it’s okay to cry.
  • You will feel the effects of this trip for a long time after. Upon
  • coming home, my husband said I seemed shell-shocked. You look at things differently. You look at the price of a pair of shoes and
  • think “this could give a child an education for a year.” It is hard,
  • but at some point you will have to just go eat that sushi dinner
  • without worrying about the price.