Bringing some joy to Haiti
And that’s just the way the former Brewer High School standout runner wanted it to be the summer before she went to the University of Alabama at Birmingham on a cross country scholarship.
Trotter decided to put her training plan on hold while she spent a week on a missionary trip to Haiti, a country torn by a Jan. 12 earthquake with an epicenter located 15 miles southwest of Port-Au-Prince.
The earthquake was enough to make Trotter change her plans. For years, she had wanted to go to Kenya for mission work but seeing the Haiti devastation on television led her to a new path.
“I really felt that Kenya was where I needed to go,” Trotter said. “I just loved hearing about the story of the country. That’s where I felt I should be but then the earthquake happened.
“I just felt the call to go there.”
The trip was an experience of a lifetime for Trotter, one that opened her eyes to the daily struggles people face in third world countries every day, but especially during times of natural disasters.
“You can’t be prepared for Haiti. It is just unbelievable,” Trotter said. “You hear people say that we take things for granted and when you see the sadness and the poverty of Haiti, it really puts things into perspective.
“To see this kid smile or to hold that baby for just an hour, the whole trip was worth it,” Trotter said. “It just takes little steps to make a difference.”
For the entire trip, Trotter was unable to contact her parents because of the lack of cellular service.
“A couple days before we left, I was getting a little homesick,” Trotter said. “I was so sad to leave Haiti, but I was also ready to come back home and see everyone.
But I still find myself wondering what is he doing right now. What is she doing? Are they hungry? That’s what’s hard to deal with.”
Trotter and her group were sent to a mountain village to help rebuild the home of a woman who lost her husband in the earthquake. Most of the week was spent hauling rocks and a concrete-like material up a mountain by hand to rework the house’s floor.
“Our job was to go and help build this house but we also went to build relationships and let them know that people care,” Trotter said. “We love you because God loves us and we want to share that love with you.”
Trotter quickly got back into the flow of life in the United States when she returned from Haiti, but it was obvious she was affected by the experience.
“I still don’t think I’ve processed everything we experienced in that week,” Trotter said. “Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the world before the earthquake. Before the earthquake, there was poverty everywhere.
“And now there were buildings crumbled everywhere. You would think that after six months you would start to see change. They just don’t have a system in place or anybody in place to guide them in recovery. It really didn’t seem like there was much being done.”
For Trotter, the country looked like the earthquake had occured a week before she had arrived and not six months earier. It was hard for the group to see any progress in repairing the devastated area.
“They just kind of use the fallen infrastructure as best they can,” Trotter said. “It was a lot like you saw on the news right after the earthquake happened. Six months later, it was the same.”
Trotter knew right then that she had made the right decision. She was called to Haiti.
“It was God just moving in me,” Trotter said. “I was just overwhelmed by Kenya. It was just God saying go be a part of that and serve me in that way.
“I had never flown on a plane before and I just hopped on a plane with 15 people I didn’t know and went to Haiti, a third-world country.”
Trotter’s group, made up mostly of people from the Atlanta area, got off the plane in Port-Au-Prince and were quickly met with people asking for help or financial aid. But the group was warned not to give money to those they met on the streets.
It was one of the hard lessons that the group had to face, according to Trotter.
“When you see that face and you have to say no, it’s hard,” she said. “That was something I struggled with the entire time I was in Haiti. We were there to help and give them love, not materialistic things. We couldn’t fix everything.
“But it was difficult.”
Trotter’s group of volunteers encountered a woman with a baby in the streets of Port-Au-Prince who asked for food for her starving baby.
“We could tell it was several months old, but it looked like a newborn because it was so malnourished,” Trotter said. “That baby was literally dying in her hands. We had to say no because that was the rule.”
Rules aside, however, Trotter just couldn’t accept the fact that they were being told to turn their back on another person in need.
“I just could’t handle that. I got in the car and broke down and cried,” Trotter said. “I just wanted to do something. I felt helpless.
“We were putting a rule over what God was telling us to do. We’re a Christian organization and we’re not going to feed this woman that was in our path? We just couldn’t get that woman out of our heads.”
After much prayer and debate, members of the group pooled their money and sought out the woman in the tent city where they had first seen her. But nobody in the area even knew the woman.
“We just started praying,” Trotter said. “God, if you want us to give this woman food, you’re going to have to bring her here to us at the right time.”
Twenty minutes later the woman appeared from a side street and the group was able to give her a little help.
“Her face that day was so desperate,” Trotter said. “When we saw her again, her face was so relieved. It was very rewarding to know that we can’t fix everything but we can fix some things when God puts a certain situation in our life. We just have to follow him in that one moment.”
“Those little kids in Haiti don’t get notice by anybody. Just a smile brightens their day. That might be the only time they smile that day, or that week. You have to find peace in that. Just a smile could change somebody’s life even if you couldn’t feed and clothe everybody.”
Port-Au-Prince, a city of five million people, has been inundated with the country’s residents who have flocked there for food and supplies.
Much of the city still lies in runs more than half a year after the earthquake and Trotter’s group had trouble traveling in the area. It often took the group almost three hours to go just 10 miles by car.
The tedious travel also gave the group an up-close look at the devastation in the country early in the trip.
“There were so many phenomenal experiences the whole time that it was hard to wrap your mind around it,” Trotter said. “We’re used to being able to go to the kitchen to get a glass of water and not getting sick from that water. I saw people walking around naked using the restroom in the street because they don’t have anywhere to go.
“All they know right now is chaos. They just cope with it the best they can.”
Trotter and her group stayed at Bethel House, the site of an orphanage run by a local doctor. The facility was basic, but it did have filtered water, toilets, showers and sinks.
From Bethel House, the group went daily to the widow’s house to work each day.
“Our job was to haul dirt, mostly,” Trotter said. “The vans wouldn’t go all the way up the hill to her house, so we had to hike a 1/4 of a mile up with sand and dirt to make a concrete mix to fill the floors.
“One day we carried dirt and sand up the hill the entire day.”
The work was slow and tedious, something the Americans weren’t accustomed to dealing with. Instead of being able to quickly move the dirt and concrete mix by heavy equipment, the group moved the materials up the mountain by shovel and bucket in an assembly line.
And the pace was frustrating.
“We didn’t see much progress as far as the house but somebody has to do that work,” Trotter said. “We didn’t go to Haiti to go take over. We came to offer assistance and let them know that we in America do care that they have done through this. Our main goal was to build relationships.”
Trotter was blessed to be able to build a rapport with the children around the mountain area where they stayed for the week.
“The kids would come around to see us,” Trotter said. “They would just cling to you, especially if they sensed any kind of love from you. They would hold your hand and sit in your lap.”
It was a week filled with plenty of special moments and that experience has opened Trotter’s mind and heart to further work in third world countries.
“My mind and heart has been opened to international mission work,” Trotter said. “God put me here in America to give me resources and a foundation, but he can also send me out to share with other people His love.”
When Trotter returned home to Somerville, she jumped right back into her training program for the upcoming cross country season. She’d missed 12 straight days of running, an activity that has been a daily part of her life since she got serious about the sport.
“That first day I ran was just awful,” Trotter said. “It’s been hard to get back into running.”
But she also knows that its not as hard as carrying dirt and rocks up a mountain path every day.