Editor’s Note: Recently Katie Quartucci, a wife and mom of three, joined us on her first trip to Haiti. Her life got interrupted and rocked, which led to many life changes for her. We asked her to share her story…

What do you get when you take a thirty-something mom of three from suburbia with lash extensions and a need to rebel and please at the same time, and you throw her into Port Au Prince, Haiti with a group of borderline strangers? A mess. You get a total mess.

Not on the outside of course (at least in my mind), that wuld be too vulnerable for this people pleasing, vanity stricken, country girl. I had it all together. I had a great little family with a smashingly handsome and supportive husband. Why would a little, no big deal trip to a poverty stricken area full of beauty and tragedy throw me for a loop? Let me tell ya, the conflict and honesty this trip brought into my life has been both profound and conflicting. Really, I have had many days that I wished I had never gone because there is no going back. My life is forever changed. I love it and I’m frustrated by it.

After Haiti I could no longer go shopping (3 times a week) when I had a bad/good/stressful/great day. I just couldn’t bring myself to watch the Kardashians or spend $4.00 on a magazine, with less than stimulating content, just to shut my mind off. I would rather poke out my eyes then adorn them with Snuffleupagos quality lashes. (Okay that’s not true, to this day, 6 months later I still get misty over Haiti ruining my lash addiction.) Can I just take a second and say that I, in no way think that any of the afore mentioned magazines, shows, shopping, or lashes (*tear) are wrong or bad. After Haiti I just didn’t have room in my brain or time to contribute to those things and it bothered me. It bothered me that it bothered me. Follow?

How could I spend, in one month, the amount of money on lashes that it would take to pay a Haitian teacher’s salary? How could I go out and spend, spend, spend, on worthless vanity, the amount of money that could literally feed a precious Haitian child for a YEAR?! I was disgusted with myself yet I struggle to this day to change and grow and be better for the world and for myself. I could go on and on but I’ve been given a word limit, so I won’t.

So here is my list:

Ten things I hate about Haiti

  1. I cannot exercise outside without stopping 17 times to pick up trash and my weight is on the rise. Which means I may have to buy new clothes. (see number 5) Thanks a lot Haiti.
  2. My children now get the statement “get out of my sight” when they turn their noses up at food.
  3. Marshall’s and TJ Maxx’s stock prices have gone down since my trip.
  4. I cringe at water flowing from sprinklers on the STREET. There are people who would put their lips on the street for that water.
  5. A new outfit brings at least 48 hours of self-reflection and loathing.
  6. I get headaches from trying to cook dinner with the lights off. (If they can do it, I can do it)
  7. Guests now hesitate to check my expression before throwing things away at my house.
  8. Vanity has become a dirty word when it used to be cuddled and nourished with time and thought.
  9. We don’t give enough. We will never give enough. EVER.
  10. Rest in Peace beautiful Snuffleupagos. I love you so much.

It’s worth saying that balance is a new word for me. I will figure it out one day.

This experience of being stripped of a teensy fraction of my first world luxuries led me to the question of ‘What now?’ Thankfully a friend of mine, Stephanie, was asking a similar question. After chatting one day about Haiti she asked, “How can we help?” So, we looked on the Help One Now website and picked a project. Well, we kind of thought up a project with some insight from the staff at Help One. Picture this, a school helping to support another school! Not just any school but our own children’s school helping a school in Haiti. We could help!

With the support of our wonderful principal and the selfless giving of our kids’ teachers we launched the Schools for Schools campaign. Our goal was to raise around $4,000 in one month. These monies would pay four teachers’ salaries for the remainder of the school year at Pastor St. Cyr’s school, smack dab in the middle of a tent city, in Port Au Prince, Haiti. Our nine-year old sons, Jacob and Aiden, got up in front of the whole school and pitched the fundraiser. The slogan was; Pay a teacher. Raise a leader. Change the world.

Our school had recently started a Leader in Me initiative, empowering the students to take a leadership role in their school and ultimately in life. Needless to say, the thought of helping the children in Haiti through education went hand in hand with what our students were learning about leadership. Within one month we were able to surpass our goal and humbly support the tent city school teachers!

All of this by collecting change! A dollar here, ten dollars there made all the difference. Someone donated a pizza party for the entire grade level that raised the most money. By making it a competition with pizza as the prize, we were well on our way to meeting our goal. One student came to school sad because her family was unable to give any money. Our incredible teachers told her not to give up and to get creative. She did. She made her own signs and stood in the drop off/pick up lines at school and collected change. Another group of students decided to make duct tape trinkets and sell them to raise funds. Friends wrote blogs and shared the story via social media and the funds came rolling in. It was a huge success!

Haiti taught me that people are worth investing in. It doesn’t have to be the fatherless or the poor. It can be a neighbor, a stranger, or your own child. If you invest in others, whatever that means to you, then you are investing in an endless amount of ideas, opportunities and lives. All of this to say, we can never give enough but we can start somewhere. If you have an idea, explore it. If you have a story, tell it. If you want to help, start with one person. If you know a good lash person, let me know. Wait…no…I take that back.