When Karyn Altman, our VP of Business Development, booked a cruise on Celebrity Solstice for a well-deserved vacation, she had no idea she would be part of a humanitarian voyage to anÂ earthquake-ravaged country. Here is Karyn’s first-hand report from Labadee, along with her compelling photos of relief supplies bound for Haiti.
Report from Haiti by Karyn Altman, Seasite VP of Business Development:
This is one of three photos of water and other humanitarian supplies being delivered on Celebrity Solstice to help with relief efforts in Haiti.
It is so surreal to watch the devastation on CNN from the comfort of my stateroom and then to arrive at this beautiful beach playground on the other side of the very same country. Before we docked at Labadee, I was happy to receive the special notice from Celebrity Cruise Line that 100% of all net revenue from the port would be donated to the relief efforts. Also, the cruise line made it very easy for passengers to donate directly to the Food for the Poor’s Haiti Relief Fund via a charge to their onboard accounts.Â That helped tremendously, in spite of the bittersweet experience.
I wandered through the crafts market knowing just how much our dollars mean now to those who are working and living here on Labadee. As I compared two hand crafted bowls, a young man asked if he could help. I looked into his eyes for a minute and asked where he was from (knowing of course that chances were it was Port a Prince) which it was. I took a breath and asked quietly ” and your family?”
“All are dead ” he responded. It was difficult to hold back the tears.
One lady asked the shopkeeper if she could pay with a credit card.
“No, I’m sorry” said the lady behind the counter surrounded by hand woven bags and painted souvenir shirts that say I was in Haiti.Â “We cannot take your credit card because we have no banks.”
Overall, it was very gratifying to see how many passengers were returning to the ship with their arms filled with purchases and shopping bags from the local vendors and artisans. I was also happy that most people appeared to be tipping generously when the local staff graciously helped with beach chairs and offered assistance with directions. Although the total amount of our contributions and purchases are a small drop in the bucket needed to help this devastated country, every drop counts and we could see that our being there did in fact, make a difference.
Yesterday I returned home and unfolded the beautiful painting I had purchased on Labadee, and held it up on the wall of my bedroom. I knew that the memory of that bittersweet day and the warm, grateful smile on the face of the artist when I agreed to the purchase, would remain with me forever.