With travel to Haiti restricted this year, the Church of Ascension Youth Group (CAYG) decided to continue to support their partner community with a Bike4Haiti fundraiser. The team of eight high school students raised money for the bike ride from their church in Pittsburgh to the Haitian Embassy in Washington D.C., in hopes of raising money to help rebuild a school in Meloniere.
The team experienced a glimpse of a different life with the physical challenge of biking the 335 miles over seven days and the inconveniences that come with camping and traveling for a week:
- There was the torrential downpour that sent streams through Christi-an and Anne’s tent on our first night camping out.
- Ben, Mia, Lucca and Seb were all grateful for the spare tires they brought when their bikes had a flat (or two!).
- Not to mention the occasional bike accident – Mia almost ended up in the C&O Canal and Ben and Leah had too many close-encounters with the trail.
- Charlie got to learn how to be patient with those of us who were not ready to try out for the next Tour de France.
- We all learned how to do our daily bathing in nature as there were limited showers along the way.
All of these experiences (and more) exposed our need to be flexible – a need that is often highlighted when teams visit Haiti.
Beautiful misty mornings, sunset swimming (and ahem, bathing), and time away from the daily grind and distractions provided time for reflection and a sense of community that is also hard to find in our usual routines. We had the added blessing of Christi-An Hansley on our support team who provided stories about growing up in Haiti (and biking there) and even cooked the team a Haitian-style meal – mmm Spamgheti!
Upon reaching DC, the team quickly cleaned up and rode to the Haitian Embassy for a tour of the grounds and new art exhibit featuring impressions of Haiti from the Diaspora. What a treat to get a taste of Haitian culture –
- being greeted with typical warmth and hospitality, despite that we arrived after closing time;
- hearing the lovely sounds of Haitian Creole – as well as the women in the consulate singing Charlie a Haitian birthday song;
- listening to the “Konpa” music playing;
- learning about Haitian contributions to American culture (such as W.E.B. Dubois and Josephine Mary Premice)
- and getting a glimpse of Haiti’s rich creative history through the artwork at the Embassy.
The next day the team went back to DC – on the Metro, not a bike saddle to everyone’s backside’s relief! We met with advocates for justice and poverty alleviation at the Center for Public Justice and the ONE Campaign – learning about what we can do from the U.S. to have a positive impact in Haiti, our country, and around the globe. Our last stop was at Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ office to hear how she advocates for Haiti and Haitian Americans from her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Lucca did a great job of putting all these different pieces together and asking Rep. Waters’ staffer to tell us which way she was voting on a particular global health bill that we had just learned about that morning.
That night we celebrated with one last dinner – this time not over a camp stove, but at a Haitian restaurant where Ali and Christi-An introduced us to some of the wonderful flavors of Haitian cuisine.
While the whole team would have preferred to travel to Haiti, the Bike4Haiti adventure whet the appetite — not only for visiting our partners in Haiti, but thinking about how we live each day in solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world.