Haiti 2014//Passion Project

It's been almost three weeks since I returned from working in Haiti and I've been at a loss of how I should write about this trip, these people and these stories. I've had a ton of friends meet me for coffee or dinner to hear my stories which I am so grateful for and I'm an open book for wanting to talk about it. My people know that I don't tell stories quickly-I tell them with all the detail for you to feel the moment, the situation, the intensity-I want you to love and ache and be as excited as I was. And putting all of those stories into words on a screen is hard. Anyone who has gone through an experience with a group of people that you're no longer with knows how hard it is to come to terms with the real world after that experience is over. It's a balance of wanting to let those experiences and relationships change you but at the same time, realize that the real life you return to is hard. Going back to running a business is hard. And time consuming. And frustrating when the world has taught us that emailing is more important that maintaining relationships and meeting deadlines is more important than being a part of a change in a broken nation.

So I'll try to show you with pictures and with words because that's what I do.

And I'll just say that isn't going to be the last post about Haiti because some big things are going down between our team and Child Hope International-the organization we worked with.

I could say that the heart of the trip was love or service or joy or any of the other genuine emotions that both our team received and we were able to give but from my perspective, it was about giving hope. Coming into the trip, our team didn't know what we were going to be doing. Heck, we didn't even know each other. We came from all across the continent as professional photographers and entrepreneurs (with a student, a firefighter and a few nurses sprinkled in) wanting to serve with the skills and talents that we had. What we didn't want was be there without a purpose. We didn't want to come in wearing matching t-shirts, hug the kids and disappear only to post photos on Instagram for our friends to double tap.

So we didn't.

For the week, we worked with Child Hope International, an organization in Port-au-Prince that encompasses a school, a clinic, a boys home, a girls home, a feeding program and a transitional program. As part of their schooling, the older kids take classes to help bridge the gap between aging out of the orphanage and heading into the real world where the unemployment rate is 82%. But as we all know, there is a large difference between merely knowing the skills of baking sewing, metal working, jewelry making, screen printing and computer tech and being able to use them to profit, thrive and grow.

So that's where we came in. Throughout the week, we were able to teach the kids business classes, help them verbalize and write down their why of why they do what they do and work with the staff to talk out obstacles and how to get over those walls. And of course, photograph/film all their programs for an upcoming (giant) project that we didn't even know needed to happen until the last few hours of our trip.

And the people…the people on this trip…gosh. We came from all over and connected immediately on so many different levels that I don't think I'll ever be able to explain to those who weren't there. They are SOLID, fearless, hilarious, boldly-loving, world-changing people that are some of my new favorites.

So here goes. The week in pictures from not only me, but my whole team of photographers (with a few stories thrown in). And team-thanks for helping me tell this story with your photos!

These tent cities were right around the corner from our guest house but not too long before, they were so many more. The government caused most to move out but some have slowly moved back.

The boys of Child Hope had the idea to start a feeding program for  kids on the street who normally don't have access to food. So, three days a week, they let in 150 kids for a meal and clean water. It was amazing to see only a small handful of boys (you can see them below in the yellow jerseys) managing 150 kids.

Two of the women who made meals for the feeding program were loving our cameras. We took photos one day and two days later were able to give them their own framed copy! Help-Portrait, Haiti style.

Even though these kids had so little, they took such pride in their space and belongings; such a humbling moment to remember that each item we own is so, so valuable.

Jane is a business coach in addition to a child photographer so she was able to walk the older kids through a business class of their own. She pushed into their 'why' of why they want to fulfill their passions, pulling out unbelievable answers. After that, she made them write their responses down. There's such truth in ideas becoming real when you write them down.

This conversation happened only a few hours before we flew back to the states and is a preview of something so, so good that is to come!

Photos and adventures by this fearless team: Josh NewtonDave Grube, Andrew Barlow, Chris Tyson, Jeremy Roloff, Jeremy Kester, Darryl Kuehl, Caroline Raush, Jessica Drogosz, Hannah Drogosz, Caitlin Woodsen, Taylor Jetton, Katie Eckel, Kate Meyer, Aundrea Shafer, Tamara Lockwood, Jane Ammon, Melanie Maczuga, Denise Saucedo, Alyssa Turner, Kelsey Goodwin or check out the hashtag #haitipassionproject2014 on Instagram.

Current update: One of our teammates, Darryl, is heading back to Haiti in April and would love your support (click here) if you feel called.

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