Day 1 – Traveling to Haiti

Student Perspective 1 – Jonathan Breneman, Senior Economics & Business Major

Finally the day was here. After so much anticipation spread across several months, it seemed surreal that we were actually leaving for Haiti. The trip had been so far off for so long, the realness of what we were about to undertake began to hit me as we packed the 15 suitcases, ourselves, and our carry-ons onto the Westmont shuttle. At 4:30 in the afternoon our group led by Rick and Neile Ifland was heading from one of the wealthiest areas on the globe to the poorest nation in the world. I would be lying if I said there was no creeping fear in the back of my mind when I thought about trying to bridge this gap of wealth and successfully improve the lives of seven individuals through business. We knew that we were prepared as possible, yet that left more to the imagination than one would hope for as the situation on the ground in Haiti could honestly be anywhere. We all knew that in order for this to be successful God would have to make his presence felt in our work there, and as I am writing this back in beautiful Montecito, California, I can emphatically say that He did more than we could have hoped.

We arrived at LAX roughly around 7 pm, leaving us plenty of time as our flight had been pushed back from 9:30 to 10:30 due to pilot staffing issues. This unfortunately put our group in an incredibly tight spot regarding our connecting flight as we calculated we had about 25 minutes to get off the plane in Miami and get onto our connecting flight to Haiti. I don’t think any of us thought seriously about this at the time, but this would inevitably turn our first day of the trip from just any old long travel day to a certified adventure. The red eye flight was just as bad as all red eyes tend to be as most of us struggled through uncomfortable sleep while the others stayed awake enjoying Disney’s latest hit “Frozen”. After a little over 5 hours in the air, we landed in Miami and got our running shoes ready. We bolted off the plane and sprinted through the airport as our gate naturally was on the opposite side of the terminal. Finally reaching the gate and gasping for breath, we learned that they had decided to sell off some of our tickets as we had shown up later than they apparently thought we should have. Neile had been there telling them we were coming, bet because American Airlines overbooked the flight, there was no longer enough seats on the plane for our entire group. Professor Ifland and Spencer Dusebout stayed behind to catch a later flight, and as I was already on the plane I do not have the details of how that conversation played out, but I can guess that it was not the way that anyone involved wanted to start their morning…

The wheels of the plane screeched off of the runway as Miami, our professor and our classmate quickly shrank behind us. It’s often said that a trip is not a true adventure until everything goes wrong, and we seem to be well on our way!

Student Perspective 2 – Spencer Dusebout, Junior Economics & Business and Religious Studies Double Major

The travel day I experienced was somewhat unique to that of my colleagues. Upon departure, we all shared mixed expectations, but were unified through mutual excitement and a common understanding that had been ingrained in us from the first class: “God must show up on our trip.” A delay in LAX meant we would barely make our flight from Miami to Port-au-Prince. In Miami, we heard the “last call” twice as we sprinted to our gate. We made it on time, but the flight was overbooked leaving Professor Ifland and I stranded in Miami. We were able to get on the next flight, but unfortunately we would miss our connecting flight with the group from Port-au -Prince to where we would be working in Port-de-Paix. This meant we would have to drive, which normally is a fine alternative for a distance of 102 miles, but I would soon learn that it isn’t that simple in Haiti. As we drove away from the airport, our driver informed us that the drive would take about 7 hours (3 on the good roads, and 4 on the bad roads). Driving is different in Haiti; there are no stoplights, stop signs, or turn signals. They simply drive and use the horn to convey their position to other drivers. Travelling on the smooth road presented an enjoyable way to see much of Haiti and to get a glimpse of the poverty and socio-economic framework in which Haitians live. It also was a great opportunity to hear from Professor Ifland about his heart in using business in a sustainable fashion to further God’s kingdom, which was the goal of the trip, and is the goal of our class. The smooth road did not last forever, and within about 5 minutes of driving on the “bad road” I had a good understanding of what it would entail. The bad roads consisted of dirt and potholes, which meant a bumpy ride, constant maneuvering, and dust. Due to the bumpiness, talking became nearly impossible, and sleep could only be enjoyed in 5-minute intervals. It soon got dark, which slowed things down even more because weak headlights can only illuminate potholes a small distance ahead. While the ride itself was rough, and left me sore for a few days and blowing dust out of my nose, it was seven hours of my life. Seven hours in a week of my life that was not about me. In that car I felt proud to be a member of Westmont College, a college where opportunities to engage and further God’s kingdom across the disciplines are plentiful, and many students engage in them. When we finally arrived in Port-de-Paix there was no triumphal entry, but we were certainly glad to put our travel day behind us and see what God had in store for our week.

Westmont in Haiti

We are officially under 48 hours away from leaving for Haiti!

On Friday, March 7, fourteen Economics & Business students from Westmont will travel with Professor Rick Ifland ’83 and his wife, Neile ’84 to Port-de-Paix, Haiti to launch 7 small businesses over their spring break using tools of microfinance and microcredit. Westmont is partnering with Waves of Mercy, a small mission run by Larry & Diana Owen, who have been missionaries to Haiti for over 35 years. Working with a small executive team of local Haitians to oversee the planning and training of local entrepreneurs, Westmont students will help train seven individuals identified by Waves of Mercy and community leaders in Port-de-Paix to launch seven small businesses over the course of the week.

Throughout the week-long trip, students will be helping develop business plans with the entrepreneurs, training them in concepts such as scenario planning, loan repayment, and savings.

Students will be updating this blog throughout the course of the week as Internet access is available, adding photos of their work with the entrepreneurs whenever possible.