“My momma was my girlfriend, but she died in the earthquake. My daddy was my boyfriend, but he’s not here anymore.”

The conversation has been on repeat inside my mind for the last four years. In that moment, an 11-year-old boy absolutely rocked my world, accidentally exposing me to the sobering, heartbreaking reality of Haiti through his incomplete understanding of the English language. There, sitting on the uneven edge of a dilapidated wall in the tiny village of Minoterie, a little boy named Kanzi took Haiti from my head to my heart. You’ve seen the pictures. You’ve heard the stories. Poverty, homelessness and unemployment are rampant. Living conditions deplorable. Infrastructure nonexistent. But you don’t really get it. Not yet. You’ve got to see it for yourself.

Even in America, two-dimensional images of extreme poverty are not unfamiliar to eyes that have become calloused to the evidences of need. Honestly, I don’t know what to attribute that to. Are we a cold, heartless society? I would like to think not. Are we simply oblivious to the plight of the destitute? Maybe. Distracted by the trappings of our consumerism? Probably.

“But that’s only day one. The next revelation is overwhelming.”

Nevertheless, it doesn’t really hit you until you’re on a yellow school bus headed out of Port-Au-Prince, drenched in your own sweat, staring out at the tents, miles and miles of tents. Until you notice that even the cows are malnourished. Until you watch 15 people emerge from a hut that shouldn’t be able to house more than four. The moment when you realize that what you perceive as “unlivable” is considered “normal.” Whenever you reach your moment, it hits you. This is real. The pictures, videos, and testimonials don’t even come close to touching the reality. Haiti is a place in desperate need of help.

But that’s only day one. The next revelation is overwhelming. By day three, an even more astounding truth is making itself clear, they are happy. It’s inconceivable- how could they possibly be happy? They have nothing. Yet somehow, against all odds, they are content and filled with joy. By the end of the week, you realize that these incredible people. These gracious, loving, generous people, have given you more than you could ever possibly have given them. You went there to serve them, did you not? But you walked away having been served and ministered to in a manner far more significant than brick and mortar, food and shelter. They touched your heart and forever altered your perspective. You will never see the world the same.

“Though the nation may be in sore need of a great many things, it also possesses two resources that can neither be quantified nor monetized. A rich, vibrant culture and a resilient, generous people.”

Much is made of what Haiti doesn’t have. Though the nation may be in sore need of a great many things, it also possesses two resources that can neither be quantified nor monetized. A rich, vibrant culture and a resilient, generous people. The first time I went to Haiti, I set out unconsciously believing that I possessed a multitude of gifts that I could bestow upon a people in need (education, knowledge, spiritual maturity, technical expertise, etc.). But then I became acutely aware of my own cultural arrogance, realizing that deep down I believed that we Americans had it all right, and that we had journeyed there essentially as a generous act of cultural imperialism. The conviction of this self-discovery led me to the conclusion that it is they that had much to teach me, not the other way around.  The impression that the people and their culture have left on me is as remarkable as the nation’s beautiful coasts and as lasting as the sloping mountains.

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Despite the obvious challenges and disparities within the nation, the progress is astounding! Each time I have returned, the signs of growth and improvement are evident. Yes, this is in part because of the generosity of foreigners that have given of their excess time and money to serve the country. But much more so, the progress should be attributed to the incredible spirit of the Haitian people, who in their struggle have battled both internal forces of economic and political turmoil and the external forces of natural disaster.

“I pray that I can give back to Haiti a small portion of all it has given to me.”

I’ve been to Haiti four times and every visit God has touched my heart and revealed himself to me in the unlikeliest of ways. He has allowed me to forge unbreakable bonds with special human beings that are so much more than teammates and classmates. I pray that on this day, He will convict me, move me, shape me, and reveal himself to me like never before. I pray that I will be His witness through both my words and my actions. I pray that I can give back to Haiti a small portion of all it has given to me.

Note – Sooners For Haiti is a nonprofit organization organizing annual mission trips to Haiti with University of Oklahoma student-athletes. It began as Hoops for Haiti in 2010, when the women’s basketball team traveled to Haiti to work through Mission of Hope the spring following the massive earthquake that devastated the country. The trip has grown beyond just women’s basketball, and now includes members of the OU football, men’s basketball, volleyball, wrestling, track, gymnastics and soccer teams. This year was the eighth Sooners For Haiti trip. 

You can follow Ty’s adventures on Twitter and www.tydarlington.wordpress.com. For more on this trip, visit @Sooners4Haiti, @mohhaiti and www.mohhaiti.org.


  1. It is wonderful that Ty and the other University of Oklahoma student-athletes have been traveling to Haiti doing missionary work, and to see true third- world conditions, and have in the process of bringing relief to those who very much need help, have also learned from their experiences. While the people of Haiti are definitely lacking in wealth, material goods, natural resources, food, shelter, medicine, jobs, and almost everything else imaginable, they are not lacking in spirit, faith, and happiness. Yes, we Americans complain too much about every little thing, but look what these Haitian people have had to endure……I am happy for you Ty, and your fellow travelers, and are glad you all are young, healthy, full of energy, and getting the opportunity to see the world….good luck to you all! # Apopka Proud!

  2. Best wishes and prayers to Nikki Martin on her missionary trip to Honduras too! Just saw the posting on Apopka Critic’s website……#Apopka Proud!

  3. Oh also on Apopka Critic’s website the photo of the Wigwam Village…….my husband’s parents spent their honeymoon there…..LOL! For real! I don’t know when it was bulldozed, but I remember seeing those t-pees myself as I passed by that way, because my mother worked out that way, on the South Orange Blossom Trail, but not THAT way, if that is what you are thinking! I am speaking about she worked at the TSPS office at the telephone company way out there, as a long distance telephone operator!

  4. My mother used to leave out very early around 4 o’clock am to head way way out on the far end of South Orange Blossom Trail to her job at the telephone company. Once she left downtown Apopka on 441 there was not too much of anything until she got to the Fairvilla area. There were no cell phones back then. One morning in the pitch dark her car broke down up there near where the old 3 Star Flea Market is and she had to go walk and walk to get to a home, and knocked on their door, to get help, and she was very scared. Nothing but orange groves mainly along the highway, not like today! Plus she used to tell me about the hookers working the SOBT and when she had to stop at the stop lights out there, and how they would actually yell at her and act so stupid while working the street corners…….I was so happy when she retired.

  5. When my parents first moved here to Apopka, my mother used to work at the Orlando downtown telephone company right next to where the Orlando Public Library was and still is near Lake Eola. Later she had to go work at the TSPS telephone office out so far away on the SOBT.


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