My Draw to Haiti

I’m not exactly sure what it is with Haiti, but I’ve always been drawn to the country in some existential way.  I’ve felt a pull to Haiti long before its disasters made news or aid agencies drenched the streets.  I always knew that I had some sort of purpose for Haiti, or that perhaps Haiti had a purpose for me.  When I found out my sister had decided to get married in the neighbouring Dominican Republic I knew I had to take the opportunity to cross the border and attempt to get a grasp on understanding the country and what has brought my thoughts so closely tied to it constantly. Now that I’ve left the country, is that tie with Haiti cut or strengthened? Only time will tell.

Haiti, Dominican, Border

The border getting into Haiti

The Plan

Initially I had decided that I was going to put my camera and notepad down and get my hands dirty a bit.  I wanted to contribute in any way possible, I wanted make a difference.  However, I was struck by the realization that perhaps the greatest benefit I could be to Haiti in the short time I had there was to get in the trenches and do some good old fashion reporting.  Haiti still finds itself in the headlines from time to time, but we often hear very little about what’s going down on the ground level.  I wanted to get in and see some volunteers in action, I wanted to see how people are responding to aid, I wanted to see what’s working and what’s failing, and most of all I wanted to understand what makes this place tick. I wanted to give people a direct look into the eyes of Haiti rather than an overview.

What I Did in Haiti

  • I spent time in an orphanage covering a dance program called “The Groove Method”.
  • I stayed at the Haiti Communitaire compound which houses a number of different organizations. The compound is more than just an organizing of resources, it is a community, a family and the people involved in this project are doing some great things.
  • I visited an orphanage for really young children and did a reading and colouring session with the program “Future for the Kids”.
  • I contacted Sean Penn’s people, but he wasn’t available for interview on the days I was around.
    Haitian Girl

    Little Haitian girl at the groove method program

  • I walked through perhaps the most infamous “slum” district in Port au Prince “Cite Soleil” and learned about what a program called “Leve Soleil” is doing in that part of the city.

What’s to Come?

There will be articles on Haiti coming from a number of different directions over the next couple of months and I hope that those interested will follow along intently.

  • “The Groove Method”:  Next week I will be posting an article on about my time following “The Groove Method” dance program at an orphanage in Port au Prince.  There will be a video in that article as well.
  • Beds for the Kids“: One of the organizations I worked with “Future for the Kids” mentioned to me that one of the projects that they are working on is trying to get bunk beds for one of the orphanages we visited.  At the moment the kids all sleep on the cement floor.  When I heard about the situation I thought, “My readers can get me a camera I’m sure they can get these kids some beds!”.  In the next couple of weeks I will start the drive to get these kids some beds to sleep on.
  • Haiti Communitaire: Resources, Empowerment, and Community“:  In two weeks, I will be talking about the effort be undertaken by the group Haiti Communitaire which is really inspiring. I stayed on their compound my entire time in Port au Prince
  • “The Faces of Haiti”: Either next week or the week after there will be a photo essay on the faces of Haiti which I think you’ll really enjoy.  The smiles of the children in Haiti were especially inspiring.  I don’t think I’ve ever laughed, smiled and felt so inspired in my life than I did around the kids at the orphanages and on the streets.
  • “The Heart of a Community”: One of the features of the April issue of Vagbaundo Magazine will be about a man I met by the name of Willio.  He took me into the infamous neighbourhood of Cite Soleil and showed me around.  I was searching for a magazine story while there. Little did I know before starting the day the article wouldn’t only be about the neighbourhood, but my guide’s vision to lift that neighbourhood up.  Truly inspiring stuff, I promise.
Haitian Boy

I may have taught this boy to make funny faces… definitely the cutest kid in Haiti

Stay Tuned

My time in Haiti was really far too short, but I was under some serious time constraints.  However, in that short time I got a great understanding for the situation on the ground level.  My experience in Haiti was so sobering and humbling, but at the same time it was one of the most inspiring places I’ve been.  Please stay tuned for the rest of this journey.

Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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  1. Wow, what an inspiring piece – great photos too, the little boy is so cute. I think these people have become a little forgotten about lately, well done for shining a light on their plight again.

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    • Thanks Fiona – Yes, I think the media sauntered off soon after the “dramatics” of it all were over.

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  2. I’m really looking forward to reading your articles in the coming weeks. Reporting what’s happening is just as important as getting your hands dirty. I was watching a documentary on the progress in Haiti a few weeks ago, and it was a reminder that there is still a long way to go. We all need some reminding once in a while.

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    • Yes Audrey… a VERY long way to go. And the truth is that there was likely a long way to go before the disasters happened. It’s sad that sometimes it takes a disaster to shed light on issues, and even sadder that once the disaster is out of the minds of the general public the issues slip the minds of the media as well.

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  3. Yes, reporting the truth is important. You will, actually, surely do more this way, although getting your hands dirty might have been more satisfying I’m sure it would have left you wishing that you could have done more, whereas this will be ongoing. I look forward to reading some unbiased information.

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  4. A photographer friend went to Haiti just after the earthquake to document some of the orphans being brought to Miami. She was profoundly impacted. Thanks for these images and information, and I look forward to others.

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    • Leah, the Children of Haiti will somehow manage to inspire us, that’s an amazing thing.

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