The Bigger Story, Part 1

City CenterThe Presidential Palace
Presidential Palace, Port Au Prince, Haiti

Facebook post, March 23, 2010

Day 27. Feeling challenged by life in Haiti.

I landed 44 days after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit the nation.
222,517 dead. 300,600 injured and 1.2million displaced.

I was asked to join a small group of photographers to do a photographic survey of the country in order to develop a long term strategy for the rehabilitation and restoration of Haiti.

Port-au-Prince, HaitiDestruction from the earthquake around Port-au-Prince
Rubble in the streets of Port Au Prince, Haiti

The group was a part of PhotogenX, the ministry I traveled around the world with in 2007-2008. I had completed a two year commitment with them in April of 2009, so I was excited to reconnect and work on another project together.
Just prior to this I had been working on a corporate photo shoot, traveling the US and Canada for two months. To get a call like this was my dream scenario! Work my corporate gigs, then when the calls came in to “go”, I would go.

Our team worked hard for two weeks and accomplished our goals, getting the information needed for a presentation given to YWAM international leaders as well as international diplomats, business executives and media contacts to build within a sustainable long-term response.Latitude: 18.873954 North Longitude: 72.613167 West Altitude: 121ft009_Haiti2010_CarmenVaught

The plan was to stay for two weeks and leave with the rest of the team, but there was no way I was leaving! There was too much work to be done, and my heart was in it!
I extended for another 2 weeks, put my camera down and took on a new role.
A local orphanage became base camp for a lot of humanitarian workers from all over the world in which we all camped out in tents on the soccer field.

Latitude  18.584159º N Longitude 72.289473º W  Altitude: 59 ft
My home for 5 weeks in Port Au Prince, Haiti.
Soccer field at an orphanage. Home for me and many aid workers.

I love to organize, so one of the buildings which housed our kitchen, bathroom, and a medical supply store room received an overhaul. There was a steady shipment of water and other supplies to be distributed to neighboring villages and newly orphaned babies to be held. One of my favorite things we did was jump in the back of the truck at dusk, drum set and all, for worship night in tent cites! Ah! Take me back!
You cannot believe the resilience of the Haitian people! Not even two months after a devastating event and they are more joyful than most Americans in the lap of luxury.
I had and still have so much to learn from them.Saint Marc, Haiti Area and people around  YWAM Saint Marc

Another role that became a favorite was driving some of the nurses and doctors back and forth from base camp to the clinics. It took a week or so to convince the base leader to turn me loose, but once given the opportunity, I had a blast, feeling like a local.

Me on my 43rd birthday, driving the baby truck.
My truck! Transportation for many doctors, nurses and provisions to tent cities.

After about week three, I got word that an advocate against slavery was going to be in Haiti and needed a photographer on the ground. Well, here I am and since I just published a book with PhotogenX, bringing awareness to human trafficking, I pounced on the invitation and extended my trip for another two weeks.
This advocate was somewhat of a celebrity in the field and had a previous story picked up by CNN. I thought, “wow, this could be a great opportunity to get exposure to my work.”.

Without going into the details, it became very difficult to connect and communicate with this crew. I’m a tough one, driving my truck around Port-Au-Prince, but something just wasn’t sitting right with this one and I was never able to join the group for the project.

Frustration, exhaustion, and desperation set in. I had already been working for two weeks without my team, jumping in anywhere that needed help, so I think this disappointment broke me. I was ready to quit and go home. I remember crying in my tent, medicating on rationed Trader Joe snacks I had brought from the U.S., and asking God, “why in the world am I still here?”

I’m quite sure this was the night I posted that comment to Facebook.
“Day 27. Feeling challenged by life in Haiti.”

Today I reflect back on that time in Haiti to remind myself to keep going. To keep having faith that there’s a bigger story.

One of the most incredible stories of my life was just around the corner then, and I know there’s another one to come!

Tune in next week for part two of “A Bigger Story”.





Saint Marc, Haiti Area and people around  YWAM Saint Marc

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