Many team members may be visiting a developing country for the first time. Team members will experience sights, sounds, and smells that, by Canadian/American standards, are considered unusual if not offensive. Piles of trash may line the streets of Cap Haitien and Ouanaminthe. Many donkeys, horses, livestock, and other animals are small and gaunt, and have ugly open sores on their backs. Many children are unclothed. Urinating in public is common. There is overwhelming poverty, beyond imagination. Try to look beyond these things to see the beauty and joy that is present in Haiti. Teams are encouraged to meet each evening for time to discuss the events of the day. This will serve as an outlet for the possible frustrations resulting from culture shock, as well as to promote an attitude of mutual support among team members.
Haiti has been plagued by political violence for most of its history since then, and it is now the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Its once majestic mahogany forests have been stripped by lumber merchants who did not care that the topsoil washed away, leaving a barren land, creating soil erosion and thus terrible agriculture opportunities and inadequate supplies of potable water. Voodoo is widely practiced in Haiti, even though the majority of the population claims to be Catholic. Haiti lacks the social infrastructure and government assistance to help with most social programs. Most hospitals and schools have been started by Western organizations. Currently the United Nations is the peacekeeping force in Haiti; its presence can be seen throughout the country. Most of the unrest and uprisings occur in Port-au-Prince.
The Haitian people are very friendly, and their culture is beautiful. Please, just remember that it is different from yours and be respectful of it.
People are generally very friendly. It is considered rude not to say “hello.” (Bonjour in the morning and Bonswa afternoon will delight the Haitians you greet.) A warm smile goes a long way.
Expect to shake hands with everyone you meet formally. Not doing so is considered rude. To reduce the possibility of transmitting communicable diseases, please remember to wash your hands frequently. The children at the orphanage (MADO) greet guests with a kiss; be respectful of their greetings.
Avoid eating in public in the presence of local people when possible. Many people you encounter will not have eaten that day.
Many Haitians will ask for money. “Give me one dolla” is the only English many Haitians use on a regular basis. Please do not give anything away. Bonne Terre’s goals are to give a hand UP to individuals through education, hard work, and respect. Our goals and philosophies do not include hand outs. There are long term effects after teams visit for both Bonne Terre as well as Haitians that we would greatly appreciate being considered.
Do not give out your address, phone number, or email address to anyone.
Do not discuss politics in public.
Some people do not like to have their picture taken, so ask first.
Please do not invite Haitians to the orphanage/guest house.
Haitians consider smoking or the use of tobacco products pagan activities. The use of tobacco products will not be permitted while visiting Bonne Terre.
You are welcome to talk with the opposite sex, but do not give any signals that you are interested in a relationship.
Urination in public may be seen.
When a guest at the MADO Guest House.
- The children at the orphanage have daily tasks that they are required to do; please do not interfere with their work or with disciplinary actions taken by Reverend Paul and/or his wife.
- The children at the orphanage and in the community may discuss adoption. NEHLM is not an organization to go through for adoption, nor an adoption agency. So even if Haitians state otherwise, do not discuss the topic; refer them to Reverend Paul.
Don’t be shocked to see women breastfeeding in public. Men holding hands with other men or a woman with another woman is common and merely a sign of friendship or that a private conversation is being conducted.
Bonne Terre’s purpose is not for the benefit of individuals to come to the States/Canada for any reason. Please do not provide individuals with money or promises of help.
Health and Safety
Your safety and health when volunteering at Bonne Terre Haiti is a priority. We therefore have put in place a number of guidelines meant to keep you safe and healthy when working with us.
A schedule is set each day, volunteers work together, travel together, etc. You will see and do a lot during your time at Bonne Terre Haiti however for both program and safety reasons, you won’t have the ability to wander around town or wander around the country on your own. All travel and activities will be done as part of a group.
Physical and Emotional Health
You need to be mentally and physically healthy and ready for this trip. The heat, new surroundings, new food, new sleeping arrangements, and active schedule can be physically draining. Being away from home, in a poverty area. If you have any questions about your physical or emotional readiness for this trip, please contact us.
Flexibility – we are on “island time” a great deal of the time in Haiti. We do our best to be as organized as possible however sometimes things will not go according to plans. Please be willing to go with the flow.
We are committed that volunteers of all faiths will be comfortable volunteering with us. Religion should not be an issue. Volunteers will be invited to attend church with the kids, and experience that part of the children’s lives. Christians will be able to hold a bible study during non-work hours. Non-religious volunteers will not be evangelized to, and not be pressured on religion. We will be respectful and accommodating of all volunteers’ religious beliefs and convictions.
If you are under age 18 you will need to contact bonne terre haiti directly.