Morgan Wienberg, Haiti, 2010 Earthquake, and Emotional Connections

Morgan Wienberg is the Co-Founder, Coordinator, and Head of Haiti Operations for Little Footprints Big Steps International Development Organization. She was kind enough to take the time for an extensive interview with me. Please find part 3 here, and 1 here and 2 here.

11. Jacobsen: When the 2010 earthquake hit Haiti, you noted the prominence in the media of the event as a salient thing for you. You said, “I wanted to help. I wanted to help in a bigger way than just sending money. I wanted to connect with the people.” From 2010, after graduation from high school, you traveled to Haiti for a trip. You interned with Mission of Hope Haiti. What seemed like the appeal of Haiti at the time?

Wienberg: At the time of the earthquake in January of 2010, I was about to graduate from high school. I planned to attend university in the Fall. I had this freedom during the Summer to travel. I always wanted to travel to Africa and work with kids. When the earthquake hit, my attention turned to Haiti. It was closer. It seemed in desperate need at the time. The timing coincided with the freedom to travel.

12. Jacobsen: The children seemed like the core connection for you. What emotional connections came out of this first trip for you?

Wienberg: I always, always, always, loved children. Since I was 12 years old, I would babysit a lot. I always loved looking after animals or children. Actually, from grade 5, my name was “mom” because I loved being maternalistic and looking after other people, even as a child. When I went to Haiti the first time in 2010, I had three roles as an intern.

I was working with patients in a prosthetic lab. When they received new prosthetic legs, they would stay for about a week in the compound. I stayed there too. I would look after them. I made sure food and hygiene items were there. I helped them with practicing their walking. Also, I was involved in teaching an English class to a group of young adults in the community.

I did not speak Creole at the time. I used French to teach the class. I was afraid at the thought of teaching a class. I did not feel qualified to do it. I graduated from high school two weeks prior to the experience. I thought, “They do not know English. I have English to offer them. They are eager to learn from me.” It helped build the confidence in the beginning.

The third role was starting interacting with this Haitian-run orphanage. I found out about the orphanage through an organization. I worked with the organization. When I visited the orphanage for the first time during the first visit, it was the worst conditions for human beings. I had never seen anything like it. I’d visited ten villages. All inhabitants were amputees. I visited other orphanages, where things were horrific. It needed more sustainable support.

Candy and holding the kids are not enough. People would cry about the horrific conditions and then leave. They did not do anything about it. I could not observe the children’s livelihood and then leave them. This specific group of children living in the orphanage became the motivation to return to Haiti. They changed my whole life. The thought, I could not forget about them and continue with life without changing the situation for them.

That’s changed my future forever.

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