That’s how Sue Brimm, a staff member at Clarke Community High School, described her experience in Haiti this summer.
Sue was a group chaperone for a service trip her son Kooper Brimm, 15, and Weston Brokaw, 16, completed in Haiti from June 12-22.
Kooper and Weston are both members of Clarke’s FFA chapter.
The program the boys participated in was through the Sioux Central FFA chapter. They were with other students from across the Midwest helping to construct Sukup SafeTHomes, which look like grain-bin houses.
To be selected for the service trip, the boys had to answer a three-question essay about why they should be picked to help build homes in Haiti.
In 2010, a major earthquake struck Haiti with the country’s capital Port-au-Prince near the the center of the destruction. It was estimated 316,000 people died, 300,000 were injured and 1 million were left homeless by the disaster.
Kooper said the experience was fun, but there was a lot of work to do.
“Right when we got down there and stepped out of the airport, it was really different and kind of scary, a little bit, because all you could see for awhile was just people. It’s all people,” Kooper said. “Once we got driving around, it was pretty crazy to see the rivers of Styrofoam that were probably, like, six feet deep.”
He added, whenever people get food in Styrofoam to-go boxes, they throw the trash in the rivers.
The final day of the trip, the boys’ group made Sukup SafeTHomes. Officials told the group it could take all day to construct a house.
“Our group, we worked really hard, and I think it took us five or six hours to do it,” Kooper said. “I don’t think it was really straining.”
The majority of the time the group was helping out at a girls’ orphanage.
“I enjoyed working at the orphanage … and some of us started working on welding a new shed that they were building,” Brokaw said. “And, I learned how to weld better. I knew how to weld, but I wasn’t that great at it, I guess. So, that was fun.”
There were many things the group had to get used to during their time in Haiti.
Sue said the weather in Haiti was “extremely hot” and there was no shade. She added, one way to cool down and get shade was to climb up a palm tree.
Another thing the group encountered was “Haitian time,” Sue said. This means things move slower and people aren’t in a hurry.
“Down there, it was like, you get a paintbrush. Twenty minutes later, you get the primer. An hour later, you got the paint,” Sue said.
There was even a language barrier since locals speak Haitian Creole, which is a mixture of French and Spanish.
“The girls at the orphanage have had enough influence from people traveling down there,” Sue said. “They do pretty well communicating with us … and they instantly wanted a photo and your phone or your camera.”
Brokaw added, the girls wanted to take pictures of their toes, teeth and eyes.
Kooper said his favorite part was bonding with a girl named Mikiayla at the orphanage.
“From day one, she was attached to me,” he said.
Kooper and Weston are thinking of doing another service trip next summer.
As for advice for people thinking of doing similar service trips, Weston said to do research and ask questions.
“The thing I would probably say would be to just go for it and keep your mind open when you’re doing it,” Kooper said.