Be the Cause

Haiti – Chaos marks the beginning

They say that things first need to fall apart before they can come together anew. Well, our journey definitely began by first falling apart.

Travelers trickled into LAX gathering their wits about the journey ahead. Goodbyes long said to loved ones, there was now only one path forward, through the American Airlines check-in kiosk.

Ten travelers made their way to the counter, each with one check-in baggage filled with supplies that we plan on distributing in the Haitian Displacement Camps. Of course I happen to go last, of course all my supplies happen to be in a cardboard box, and of course the American Airlines agent I approach happens to conduct the most thorough research on box baggage rules in the entire history of American Airlines flights. After 10 minutes of studying all the rules and regulations he determines that shipping boxes to Haiti is not allowed. We all winced as we see a box from a fellow traveler to Haiti pass by on the conveyer belt behind him. He proceeded to explain the extra charges we would have to incur in order to get our supplies safely to Haiti. This, after months of collecting and then organizing supplies was a little much, and two warriors quickly came to my rescue. For the next ten minutes I watched in awe as Sonali and Eli made a most impassioned case for allowing us to ship the box, or to waive any additional fees.

The discussion wasn’t really about a box, it had more to do with the responsibility that we all have to participate in things larger than us, and about feeling the need of a people far away. Even one pair of slippers that didn’t make its way was one little girl that would have to go without in an already dreary campsite. The appeal didn’t work. The American Airlines Agent even called in his supervisor who also just stone-walled our requests. Eventually we purchased a duffel bag and starting shifting the supplies over. The American Airline agent watching us leaned over, grabbed a few supplies and actually started helping us with the transition. At one point he was the one ensuring that we could fit in as much stuff as possible. Sure he still charged us for the extra bag, but who knows maybe a few minutes of helping-out is just what he needed. A small gift from us to American Airlines.

We proceeded through security, now late, ran to the gate, and boarded to find that overhead cabin space was unavailable. Eventually, somehow, we got to our seats and watched Los Angeles disappear behind us.

Forgotten luggage, un-abiding ticket agents, and barely boarding on time: just a beginning. I asked Sonali if the rest of the trip was going to be like this, she said “Wait till you see what’s in store ahead”.

I sat down and found two blankets on my seat. The lady next to me asks for one and of course I reply, “There’s an extra charge for that”.

Tomorrow, Haiti

12 travelers embark on a journey
They leave tomorrow
They wait in anticipation for the moment to arrive

Some of them are known to one another
they have traveled together before
to far off places like India and Sri Lanka

Some of them are strangers, meeting the rest for the first time

This time, they travel to Haiti
A place torn apart by earthquake, poverty and a health epidemic
But they don’t go to change Haiti
They go to find a piece of themselves hidden somewhere in the rubble
Where the lifting of a rock, cleaning up of debris, holding the hand of a gentle soul may remind us that each one of us is capable of giving in some way to one another

While there, the travelers hope to:
– Assist with Earthquake Clean-up efforts — Yes, even after a year and a half clean up work still remains
– Distribute supplies to displacement camps
– Provide instruction on the Cholera epidemic
– Initiate additional projects that might be deemed worthwhile while on the ground

Today, the travelers put in last minute touches to their packing
Tomorrow, a new beginning for all of them

More info on Haiti:
– Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere
– Population: 10M
– Between 50K to 300K died from the Earthquake in January 2010
– More than a million remained homeless one year after quake

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