Visit leaves local youth longing for Haiti

MANATEE — John Eibe, 21, came home from a trip to Haiti two years ago and gave the TV in his bedroom to his 10-year-old brother. He couldn’t watch cable and nibble chips while thinking of Haitians begging for pennies to buy water.

Bradenton’s Courtney Taylor, 23, calls or e-mails five teenagers she met in Haiti at least once a week.

Keith Nasewicz, 20, a University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee student, can’t stop thinking of the people he met in Haiti a few years ago.

“It doesn’t seem we have much of a choice,” Nasewicz said. “They are our family now.”

What Eibe, Taylor and Nasewicz have in common is that they all took trips to Haiti before the recent earthquake as part of their involvement with YoungLife, Wyldlife and College Life Christian clubs in Manatee and Sarasota.

All three, and perhaps a dozen other local youths who also took earlier Haiti trips, say they were deeply moved by their experience.

The students are now struggling to find a way to raise the roughly $1,300 they each need for a mid-December return trip.

“I know everyone is hurting. We’ll try hot dog sales, car washes, whatever it takes,” Nasewicz said.

Eibe, Taylor and Nasewicz all said they have no choice, they feel they have to go. They already have been told they will have to spend their week sleeping in a tent.

“This just isn’t about faith. This is about loving mankind,” Eibe said.

Taylor said part of the tug to return is the relationships have been built.

“We are still in touch with people we met there. I know that going down there is selfish on our part. We really can’t do anything for them long term. But they feel joy to connect with us,” Taylor said.

The Haitian youths they are going to see range in age from 9 to 18 in City Soleil, perhaps the poorest locale in Haiti.

The local college students did volunteer work at The Good Shepherd School, which was later flattened by the earthquake.

Taylor remembers on her last trip her group brought 200 Bibles to dispense to churches and in the streets.

“The coolest part was that they would say, ‘Give me Jesus’ as a way of saying they wanted a Bible,” Taylor said.

Nasewicz said all of the 15 are ready to sacrifice their comfortable life for a week to be with these youths they fell in love with.

“I didn’t realize that in the Third World there are children who are barely clothed with cuts and scrapes over their body who are still happy and grateful,” Nasewicz said. “It changed my view of what I take for granted.”

He said children would come to him and want to give him anything they had, including a piece of string or their only toy.

He gave away a pair of sneakers and the recipient wept, Nasewicz recalls.

“I turned around and saw him lift my old Nikes in the air,” Nasewicz said. “He was telling the world he finally had shoes.”

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be contacted at 748-0411, ext. 6686.