Reflections on the MREF Trip to Haiti: Plenty Meets Poverty

Reflections on the MREF Trip to Haiti: Plenty Meets Poverty

Last month, 26 market researchers from the U.S. and Europe traveled to Haiti as part of a trip sponsored by the Marketing Research Education Foundation (MREF).  20|20 was honored to have four of our team members among this group – Nicole Brandt, Jim Bryson, Aimee Carte, and Katie Greene – and each walked away with a unique perspective and lasting memories from the experience.  These are their stories.

Jim Bryson, Chairman

What happens when plenty meets poverty? Immediately upon leaving the airport, our MREF group encountered street vendors selling everything from souvenirs to mangos to chewing gum.  The drive from the airport revealed neighborhoods of concrete block homes in various stages of completion.  Goats, dogs, and even a couple of cows crossed in front of the bus before we even left the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

During the next four days, we visited The Joseph School (TJS) where poor children laughed, played and learned.  The group purchased books for the school because the school has no library. We brought food and toys to an orphanage 15 children call home.  We walked through narrow dirt passageways between concrete houses where mothers were washing clothes in large cooking pans, neighbors sat on old tires to pass the time, and barefoot children played in the streets and between the houses. We had the opportunity to play with the children at the school and those we met in the road.  We smelled the trash burning in the street and heard laughter of children playing in that very same street. The 26 of us on this trip experienced Haiti with all of our senses.

When plenty meets poverty, plenty is initially heartbroken.  Poverty is overwhelming.  The self-evident need makes plenty want to cry.  As plenty interacts with poverty, however, plenty realizes that poverty and happiness can co-exist.  Plenty comes to realize that happiness is not dependent on how much a person has.  At that realization, plenty and poverty become family.

Katie Greene, Research Manager

When I think about my role in research and our industry at large, there is a strong emphasis on bringing the human element back to the forefront. I can think of no better way to have established this mindset than my recent trip to The Joseph School in Haiti with market research colleagues from around the world. As the school seeks to develop leaders who can begin to lift Haiti up onto its own proverbial feet, we were all able to see what intentionality and setting aside our differences can do to facilitate long-lasting and sustainable change for a population who needs it.  Despite the poverty and challenges faced daily, these children are incredibly grateful. They are respectful of their teachers and peers, will tell you “hello” in three languages, and will shove their breakfast crackers in your face because they are just so happy to have something that belongs to them to offer the world.

I am inspired by how far TJS has come in my nearly five years at 20|20, and even more excited to see how we and our colleagues can foster the school and its endeavors in the years to come!

Aimee Carte, Project Manager

The best part of the whole experience in Haiti was going to visit TJS in person. The day we spent there started before the kids arrived, through dismissal. It was amazing to see firsthand the impact the school has had and will continue to have on these children. We watched the morning ceremonies which involved raising the flag, reciting the creed and singing songs (some in English!). We got to interact and play with the children, as well as read a book in English to each class. Seeing it all in motion, meeting the kids, and hearing the vision that the principal has for them brings joy to my heart. It was such an inspiring day and one I will always remember!

Nicole Brandt, Research Manager

When asked how the trip to Haiti was my immediate response is “Fun!” What made it fun was all the people who were on the trip with me and our shared experience and goals. It was such a diverse group of market researchers from different companies and different countries, but we were all there to love on the Haitians and serve in any way we could. Everyone was so genuine and truly there to give of themselves without expecting anything in return.

I feel a little guilty for saying the trip was fun, because I didn’t go to have a fun vacation, that wasn’t the purpose or goal.  But that’s why the fact that it was fun stands out to me so much. Despite the challenges the country and the students face, there is also so much hope.  I’m smiling now just thinking back about all the selfless people I was surrounded by, seeing the impact of the work we did and The Joseph School will continue to do, and feeling optimistic knowing that there are others in this industry that care about more than just making money and growing their companies.

It was wonderful to see firsthand the huge impact The Joseph School is having on the students and their families/caregivers, and I know that what TJS is doing will have an effect on Haiti as a country because of the students they help.