Forever Changed by Haiti


Melanie Wylie

Junior Emily Wylie in Haiti holding the hands of children in a village in Haiti. The national language, Haitian Creole, is spoken all across the country and has a heavy French influence.

Emily Wylie, Sports Editor

Bridgewater, Va.- Songs, movies, TV shows and social media showcase fabulous trips across oceans and continents, but rarely explore life after the return. International travel not only leaves a mark on the places you have been but carries the impact home with you on the plane. 

Mark on the World

I had the privilege and opportunity to travel to Haiti on a mission trip with about 25 other Americans. Through multiple layovers, airports, police dogs, customs and passport checks, we arrived at Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. 

Stepping off of the terminal, I knew that I was a long way from home, and I was nervous about the upcoming week in a different country. I had to place my trust and safety in the hands of a group leader who had also never been to Haiti before. 

As we exited the airport and headed to the bus stop, we were greeted by Haitians, young and old, eager to see the new visitors to their country. I remember feeling afraid and overwhelmed by the newness of the environment and language around me, however, as the week went on, those fears ceased to exist. 

Throughout the week, we visited prisons, mental health institutions, orphanages, schools, villages, churches, parks and hospitals. We sang, danced, played, prayed and laughed with people from all walks of life through translators and mutual understanding. 

Junior Emily Wylie with a child namedZeila
Zeila is the child from Haiti my family has been sponsoring since the mission trip. Sponsoring has the goal of providing basic necessities to Zeila in order for her to live comfortably. (Melanie Wylia)

I will never forget the beautiful faces of the people I met or how it felt to hold hands with the compassionate Haitian people. 

While visiting an orphanage, we were able to set up a sponsor relationship with one of the children. I made friends with a little girl named Zeila. 

She taught me to sing a song in Haitian Creole, danced and played with my hair. To this day, my family sponsors her monthly in hopes to provide her with basic necessities and opportunities. 

We were in a village one evening and were about to dance and tell stories in a church. A few of us were sent out to invite children and families to attend. 

Eventually, a crowd of children gathered by the door of the church, but would not enter. 

It was discovered that these children would not go inside because their feet were dirty and claimed they would have to take a bath to be allowed in. 

This church was made of cinder blocks and dried mud. The windows were just holes in the wall and the floor was made of dirt. 

Even so, the Haitian villagers respected this humble church and the faith it stood for so much, that one must be clean before one can enter the house of the Lord, no matter what it is made of. 

One of the American team members had baby wipes in their bag, so the children lined up, and we wiped clean the feet of all who wanted to enter. 

Mark in You

This experience in particular still holds a special place in my soul. In Christianity, washing someone’s feet is such a humbling and beautiful experience. 

Just as when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, he showed compassion and the love of serving. 

In Bronx, Ny. in 2019 with a summer camp child named Sebastian
In Bronx, Ny. in 2019 with a summer camp child named Sebastian. In addition to my trip to Haiti, I have traveled domestically on mission trips. (Melanie Wylie)

I was blessed to participate in this opportunity and share my love with the children of Haiti. Because of this, we were able to experience joy and laughter with even more people than we would have been. 

These people and their country have forever changed my heart. I no longer aim to see the world from just my point of view, and instead, I am forced to acknowledge the billions of other people who are living, breathing and moving at the same time as me. 

It is so remarkable that so many people exist during the small timeline of our lives, yet we only meet a small percentage of them. 

The world is a big place, and even though Haiti is only .15% of the world’s population, my whole perception of life has changed, and I could never forget the people I had to leave behind. 

Haiti was a different experience than what I was used to, but the experience itself shaped me into the person I am today. I held the hands of people I will never see again, meet the mayor of Port-au-Prince, held babies, enjoyed new foods and celebrated life with new people every day. 

Mark at Home

Individuals helping in Fort Meyers, Florida
In Fort Meyers, Fl. in December 2022 to clean up after Hurricane Ian. This particular storm was the deadliest hurricane to hit Florida in recent history. (Melanie Wylie)

Since the trip, my life has changed quite a bit, especially through COVID-19 and everything else that life has thrown. However, the compassion I gained for others through my trip to Haiti has never changed. 

This trip has provided me with patience and understanding, both of which I have used frequently in the past five years. 

I have traveled domestically since Haiti on mission trips to New York, Washington D.C, Houston, Tx., Louisville, Ky. and Fort Meyers, Fl. 

Each of these trips has inspired its own lessons, but without the spark of Haiti and international travel, I would not have fallen in love with serving and befriending others. 

To this day, one of the greatest desires of my heart is to make sure everyone who meets me knows that they are loved, just as the Haitians made me feel loved. 

I encourage you to take every opportunity to travel and grow to learn that people are more than just statistics. Life is too short to live in a box, so explore and be another Eagle around the world.