We're honored welcome Olivia Millwood to GoGirlfriend to share her recent trip to Haiti. Olivia traveled to Haiti on a mission and her story will span three separate posts on GoGirlfriend – this is the first in the series. Thank you, Olivia, for all you do to make this world a better place and for sharing your experiences with GoGirlfriend.
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Haiti, calling all those who care
Have you ever been on a foreign mission trip? My recent trip to Haiti this past December 2012, was my first foreign mission trip. As a teen I'd been on several mission trips in the US and one reason I wanted to go when I first heard about the trip was because of the memories I have of those mission trips. I remembered how I felt after a week of helping others and I longed for that experience again as an adult.
One of the most personal aspects of planning to go to Haiti is simply making the decision to go. If you're like I was before I went, you've probably heard lots of negative things about Haiti. The stories are frightening enough to prevent volunteers from traveling there to help. They did me...
The hidden joys of a desperate country
My father, who has traveled to Haiti many times, talked about a different side of Haiti, a side that doesn't make the news reports. He told us about the joy of the people as they worshiped. He said he had never experienced anything like it and that he was sure heaven was filled with the praises of angels in Haitian Creole.
The more I listened, the more I wanted to go to Haiti but doubts still crept in. One day that all changed and I'm so grateful that I listened to the calling on my heart to go. I chose to take the journey and in return I was given a gift of a life time.
During the month of February, I'll be posting on GoGirlfriend, sharing my mission trip to Haiti this past December 2012. My hope is that my stories will motivate you to consider a mission trip or to help us raise money to build a new orphanage in Onaville, Haiti.
The start of our journey ~ Fundraising
Before we began our mission to Haiti, each team member committed to praying for the trip, for our safety and health and that God would guide us in our journey. We also had a group of prayer warriors made up of our church, friends and family, who did not go with us on the trip but committed to praying for our personal requests, safety, health, and protection before, during and after the trip.
We were told from the beginning that we each needed to raise $1,200 to go on the mission trip, which would cover our lodging, air fare, food, water and supplies. Our church, Piedmont Church in Marietta, GA was gracious enough to help us accept funds and also helped us with travel arrangements to and from Haiti. Piedmont Church also gave each member of the team a starting contribution to help build their fundraising efforts. The GA's (Girls in Action) at our church raised $275 for gifts to give to the orphans in Haiti by jumping rope. We held fundraisers at our work, made cookies and had a bake sale at church and office that helped get us to our goal to go on the trip.
I set up an online fundraising site at crowdrise.com and asked my online friends and community to help out. I was pleased with the results. I was so grateful for the people I've never met in person (my online twitter and Facebook friends) who gave just as easily as people I've known all my life.
Team members, meetings and training for Haiti
We had a team of 6 members. Four of us were family, my Mom (Nancy), Dad (Louis) and brother (Andrew). Two of the team members were a couple from our church, Blake and Erin Oleson. We met weekly for about 6-8 weeks prior to the trip for training and to prepare for what we would be doing while in Haiti. We discussed lesson plan ideas, craft ideas, games, songs, and how to prepare both mentally and spiritually for our trip.
When we couldn't be together in person, we used Skype. My father, Louis Chalmers had previously gone to Haiti 3 years ago in March right after the earthquake. He shared with us his experience from that trip and tried to prepare us for what Haiti was like.
We talked about our ideas for what we should do while we were there. We shared our fears and excitement and began to bond as a team prior to taking off.
Gathering materials for our Haiti mission
We were unsure of exactly what our daily activities would be when we got to Haiti because communication with Pastor Olistin (our friend, host and guide in Haiti) was somewhat limited before the trip. But we made a plan to do a form of vacation bible school activity with the children we met. We planned for about 300 kids from several schools and orphanages that we would visit.
Ladies groups, Sunday school classes, girls and boys classes and many members of our church helped us get the materials we needed for our mission trip. We were able to borrow some items for games and story time from a nearby local church. We shopped at the dollar store and found gifts to take to the orphans for a little Christmas celebration one day while we were there. A major part of the planning was just trying to be sure that what we took could be of use or some sort of fun for the kids.
Shots and passport info for Haiti
A visit to Haiti means a series of shots. Call your local health department ahead of time to set up a Foreign Travel Clinic appointment. I went to our local clinic in Marietta and had a really kind nurse explain what to watch out for.
- Don't drink the water
- Don't eat anything that has been washed in the water, like salad.
- Fresh fruit is fine if it has a thick skin like a banana or an orange
Depending on your personal history, you'll need 3-5 shots as well as malaria medicine (to be taken 2 weeks prior to the trip and for the following 4 weeks when you return home). We were told to carry Deet with us everywhere.
You'll need a current passport in order to travel to Haiti. The process was actually less painful and not nearly as difficult to accomplish as I thought. I made an appointment with my local post office and got my picture taken, paid the money and in a few weeks my passport was in the mail. I was so excited to get this official document in the mail and will never forget that my first ever stamp came from my trip to Haiti.
Packing for Haiti
I'm typically a last minute packer, so often I'll end up somewhere on vacation and have things that don't go together or have forgotten something really simple. But this trip was different. Once I decided to go, I began planning. I started thinking about the weather difference. It would be around 85-90 degrees while we were there in December. At home in Georgia, it was in the 50's.
Traveling to a third world country requires a different kind of packing than going on your typical vacation type Caribbean trip. Some extra items I included were: bug spray, suntan lotion, coffee packs, camping type gear, first aid kits, hand sanitizer (lots of hand sanitizer & wipes), liquid clip-on's with refills and baby wipes. We all checked one piece of luggage with supplies and give away items like clothes, shoes, toys, Christmas gifts and activities to do each day with the different groups of orphans. We weren't sure that anything we checked would make it so we only packed what we knew we could live without for the week in those bags.
Here is an excerpt from my #Hope4Haiti2012 mission trip journal on the day that we flew out December 16th 2012:
"On the plane rolling down the tarmac - small - no tiny plane to Miami... Brother in front of me, Blake and Erin beside me, mom and dad in seats beside Andrew. This is it! This is our crew... on the plane going to Haiti. #Hope4Haiti2012 begins now... is my heart ready?"
Please find out more about our organization and efforts and learn how you can take part in our goal to build a new orphanage in Onaville, Haiti.
About Olivia Millwood
Follow Haiti Orphans on Twitter: @HaitiOrphanHelp
Like us on Facebook: Help 4 Haiti
Read my blog: Swaygrl.com
Donate online: CrowdRise.com
Born and raised in North Carolina and attended the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a major in theater, I now live just outside of Atlanta, GA with my husband, son, two cats and dog.
I'm a team member of a lovely home furnishings' boutique, Niche by Design, located in Marietta,Georgia and am being mentored by an interior design professional: Award-winning designer Nancy Chalmers (who also happens to be my mother). I am a treasure hunter who finds the perfect wallpaper, fabric, furniture, accessories, and other unique items for clients. Mid-century-modern design is my absolute favorite style, yet I am very aware that the client should leave their mark on their home and not just their designer.Being a part of a family small business Chalmers Construction and Niche by Design for the past three years has prepared me for my client work with TrustWorkz®. I see the small business owner from a very personal perspective. I began a tweet-up (meet up for twitter) in the spring of 2011 in downtown Woodstock, GA called #ChirpWdstck where local tweeter's get together in our downtown for a social and fun evening once a month. In 2012 I was asked to be a finalist in the High Point Market Style Spotters contest on olioboard.com and was honored to remain in the top 8 of the contest for the entire 23 days of voting.
I am involved at Piedmont Church in Marietta GA, and sing on the praise team. I love reading, dreaming, dancing, crafting, beading, shopping, coffee, gardening, cycling, and traveling. The beach is my favorite destination and my favorite beach is anywhere along the North Carolina Coast.
I have been tweeting (@HaitiOrphanHelp) and writing Facebook posts for our Help 4 Haiti organization since my dad returned from Haiti 3 years ago and began to help support the orphans in Croix Des Bouquets Haiti. My father, Louis Chalmers, works with Pastor Esecouer Olistin of New Covenant Mission Baptist Church in Port Au Prince, Haiti to help provide food and shelter for the 175+ children in his care. We have set up fundraising for the orphans and are looking for partners to sponsor orphans for $35 a month. We traveled to Haiti this past December 2012 to share Hope for the Christmas season. My new passion is to help build the orphanage in Haiti. I will be assisting in organizing a benefit concert here in GA, in order to help raise the $100k needed to build and furnish this orphanage this fall. Our goal is to return to Haiti by the end of this year and help build the new orphanage in Onaville, Haiti.