The Return of the First Professional US Fellow : “My volunteer work in Haiti, a transformational experience”

Estados Unidos
Vanessa Sweet was the first professional fellow from América Solidaria U.S. to set off to Haiti to start off a year of volunteer work at the WASH Project, which strives to improve the quality of life and health for the 2,000+ people who live in Boutin, Croix-des-Bouquets

Since mid-2010, cholera has ravaged the community of Haiti leaving a large impact on its people since the epidemic spread everywhere. Since October 2014 until earlier on this year, there has been a hospitalization rate of 57% and around 8,741 deaths.

With this scene before her, Vanessa ventured on what would be an experience that would transform her future plans and her view of Haiti. With a leadership role within América Solidaria’s WASH program for Haiti, Vanessa worked alongside a team with the goal of providing access to potable water, educating the community about health standards, and creating a safe system for getting rid of waste and sewage. “There were some very hard and disgusting moments that affect me even now. After each difficult experience, I had to take time to process everything because, for me, life was not like that,” says Vanessa, obviously moved.

Reflecting, Vanessa talks about the positive impact that having to live and work as a volunteer in Haiti for a year had on her. When she refers to the country, she talks about her beloved “Ayiti”, and she emphasizes that this has been a key year in her life and that she will always be thankful for this opportunity. “I hope that the next volunteers have the same transforming experience and that they continue América Solidaria’s mission over there,” she says with conviction.

For Vanessa, being part of this great project led her to a point where—for the first time in her life—she felt like her actions were aligned with who she was. “The person that I am inside was aligned with the person that I was projecting to the world. It is a peace that I had never felt before. This spiritual peace was something that my friends and family were also able to see. They could see the joy and passion I had for my work with the community in Boutin, as well as my love for the country.”

Now that she is back home, Vanessa admits that before leaving for Haiti she thought that she would return to the United States and continue along the same path she was on prior to her trip. Now that everything has returned to normal, Vanessa knows that she has many paths before her and that, despite everything she once thought, she is sure that the path she was originally on will not be the most appropriate one for her; rather, there are new directions that are better for her.