FABULOUS is the one word that comes to mind when we think about this trip. Ironically, fabulous is the one word we use to describe Britney. We don’t really know if it’s possible to put into words all the different emotions we were feeling as we touched down in Port au Prince that Saturday afternoon, for Taylor and Meagan this was their first trip to Haiti and the reality of being in the place where Britney took her last breath was overwhelming. For Carly, the last time she was in Haiti was during the opening ceremony for Brit’s Home and she didn’t know what to expect. As for Kate, she was in Haiti last March, but this trip was a much different emotion traveling with some of Brit’s best friends. We knew it would be a double whammy hit of emotions, not only viewing the severe poverty the people of Haiti live in but also being in the very place that Brit and her contagious wild at heart soul was taken from us. However, we also knew that she was there in spirit, sending her fierce and fearless vibes to us so we could experience Haiti the way she would have wanted us too. No hesitation, we were ready to take on this journey and eye-opening experience together.
Pulling up to Brit’s Home was incredible, seeing the photos on Facebook and hearing stories from others doesn’t compare to the reality that we had made it. Greeted by 66 beautiful smiling faces, along with countless staff members singing the most beautiful song brought tears to our eyes. After the singing was done they came running to say hello and embrace us with the best hugs, we felt so loved. Britney’s presence was all around, as we walked through the orphanage, everyone was so warm welcoming to us, singing and dancing and love filled the halls. We started the first night with a little prayer before we ate, the waterworks started as Carly shared her thoughts on how happy she was to be here with this group and the meaning this trip had for all of us.
Although we were only there for 5 days we really wanted to get everything in, we were determined to be up every morning... well almost every morning, to watch the sunrise. We wanted to get the full Britsionary experience, taking in all the sites, getting plenty of kid time and most importantly building a house for someone in the Grand Goave community. Although there is somewhat of a language barrier between us and the children, employees, and locals, we were lucky enough to get a Creole lesson from Frankie and Madonna. Let’s just say Brit definitely got a good chuckle out of that lesson. Some of us were able to pick it up quickly (Carly) and enjoyed the back and forth conversation while some of us (Meag) won’t be used as a translator anytime soon. Being able to hear the children practice their English as we practiced our Creole was a special learning experience.
While on the job site to build a home for an elderly woman named Antoinette, the Haitian workers would dance, sing and crack jokes. Even though we couldn't understand what they said, we couldn't help but laugh along with them because it was contagious. Building a house is hard work, and believe it or not we aren’t exactly experts in that area. Reality hit when Antoinette showed us inside of the house she was currently in, with a dirt floor, tin roof full of holes, a ‘bed’ made up of sticks and above her head was a bug net and when it rained she would get soaked. Building her new home would give her place to have a locked door, which she didn't have and safe place to lay her head. She watched each day as we built her home and so did the "neighborhood" kids. They would sit and watch and wait for the opportunity to hopefully get a p-willy (lollipop) we definitely enjoyed the breaks visiting with them. One of the children received a lollipop and as he was walking away he was licking the wrapper, he didn't understand unwrapping the lollipop, our hearts broke. We realized more and more each day how much we take things for granted; sleeping on a mattress, having running water and electricity, having hospitals that are easily accessible, having food and water whenever we want, having clean clothes and multiple at that. When we handed over the keys to Antoinette to her new home we couldn't help but feel so emotional and happy for her. That night it poured in Haiti and we couldn't help but think of Antoinette in her bed, hearing the rain hit her roof instead of her head. She could finally sleep in a dry and safe home.
Our final night in Haiti was full of laughter and dancing. A group of children took turns singing and the older girls showed us some dance moves, we gave them some good laughs as they attempted to teach us their synchronized dances to a multitude of songs. We all laughed more than we have in ages!
This trip was full of love, laughter, and plenty of tears. Each night we would meet for reflection and end up sitting around for hours sharing stories and memories we shared with Britney from grammar school to high school. We each have our own memories with Brit, and some shared memories. We reminisced about making up dances, cheerleading, middle school rivalries, boy drama, car ride karaoke in Gertrude (Brit’s first car, the white ford escape), bathroom talk, Wells Beach, ME and without a doubt a trip to the Steakhouse. Sharing stories with Cherylann that horrified her, in a good way we hope! With high school parties, proms & afterparties, prank phone calling, revealing all the white lies we told her to go to the college parties and other crazy antics we wouldn’t dare tell her when we were in school, we apologize for any gray hairs we may have caused. Through all the laughter that came with these stories there were also tears, we are all so happy to see this tragedy turn to triumph but we all agreed on one thing, nothing fills the void of missing Britney.
Before arriving at the airport for a final descend home we had one last place to visit; the Hotel Montana. Even though this place took someone very special from us, we couldn't help but take in what Britney saw in her final days. As we stood on the balcony staring off into the distance, we understood how it was possible to look above the poverty and see the beauty of Haiti. Haiti is filled with love and hope; the people do work so hard to get nowhere and everyone is so appreciative. Britney saw that and now we too can understand why she wanted to come here and build an orphanage herself. Although we would do anything to get Britney back, her parents fulfilled something that we thought was impossible, Brits Home is more than we ever could have imagined. To be able to create a place, a home full of consistency, comfort, beauty, and safety in a place with such few resources and opportunity is simply mind blowing. These 66 children will be able to learn, grow, thrive, and able to look forward to their futures and know they will be somebody. We would like to take a moment to thank Cherylann and Len first and foremost for giving us Britney, although our time with her short, we have memories that will last us a life time. We would like to thank you for creating a legacy to honor her and including us to experience Haiti the way she did. We love you guys and can’t wait for our next trip!
- Carly, Kate, Meagan & Taylor