I am leaving for Haiti tomorrow morning to film a documentary.
Since 2005, I have been involved with a non-profit organization called the Haiti Mission Project (HMP). Our group has been connected with churches, individuals and organizations in Haiti for over 10 years now, mostly through trips to Haiti, but also through the friendships that have grown out of those trips (both with other Americans from groups, but also with the Haitian people who we spent time with during the trips). We have even helped some of our Haitian friends come to the U.S. to visit, and because many of us have gone to Haiti several times, we no longer see our trips so much as “mission trips” – although we certainly do “mission work” while we’re in Haiti, currently including a building project that will include an orphanage, medical clinic and food storage/distribution center near Lilavois – but our trips are also an excuse to visit our friends.
The biggest struggle and frustration that comes with each trip is sharing what we’ve seen and experienced in Haiti with people back in the states, people who will never experience those realities in person. Perhaps some of you have experienced this same frustration after visiting other countries, or even different contexts here in America.
This frustration has been wearing one a few of us for some time now, and we’ve finally decided to try doing something in response. Tomorrow morning, I will be going to Haiti with a talented film student from California (and two others) to attempt to capture some glimpses of everyday life in Haiti by making a documentary. We realize that anything we capture will be from our perspective as Americans – how can it not be, since we will be holding the cameras? – but as much as possible, we want to let the Haitian people tell their own stories. We want the version of Haiti that is portrayed in the film to be as close to the “real” Haiti as possible. So we will have conversations with our Haitian friends and acquaintances (on film) to give them an opportunity to help us decide how to tell the story of their country…since after all, as the people of Haiti, it is their story.
We have spent enough time in Haiti to realize that hope is definitely alive and well there, and despite the difficult realities that many of them live in, the people still have plenty of energy and joy for life…even though many outsiders only see their country as a place of poverty and hopelessness. It is because of these misperceptions of Haiti (by the media, in the news) that we are going to Haiti to make this film. We want to uncover the hope and vibrancy of life that we have so often seen in a place and a people where others only see poverty and despair. That is what we want to portray in our documentary and instill in its viewers; a hope that might not necessarily make sense, yet undeniably still exists.
It happens to be my belief that there is no such thing as “false hope,” so if you see or meet someone who is hopeful, then that hope is not something you can take away from them. We see it as our role to share those stories of hope with others in hopes that they will be inspired to join us in our efforts (not only our efforts with the Haiti Mission Project, but several others who are working to raise awareness and make a difference in and for the people of Haiti and throughout the world, wherever people are in need).
Poverty, hopelessness and despair is not the only version of Haiti’s story that people should see and hear, because it isn’t accurate and it’s not fair to the people (both the Haitian people and people who have been working for years to help making a difference there). That’s why we feel called and led to make a documentary that shows Haiti for what it really is…a place of hope and joy amidst the obvious struggles and brokenness of everyday life. To do this, we will show some wide-angle images of the country, but more importantly, we will also zoom in on several individuals who each have a story that is worthy of being shared and heard. By showing both perspectives of the nation and it’s people, we believe stateside viewers will not only experience the brokenness and confusion that is often part of visiting a third-world country, but we think they might also get a sense of the overwhelming joy, hope and belief that is so evident in many of Haiti’s people.
There will be four of us flying into Port-au-Prince tomorrow and we will be staying for seven days (until July 2). In addition to myself, it will be the film student from LA, and two others from Minneapolis – a nurse and a teacher – both good friends of mine. It is truly humbling to be able to go on a trip and be part of a project like this, but it’s even more special when you’re going with some of your best friends. Please pray for our health and safety, and if at all possible, that we might accomplish most of our goals during the brief time we have there.