Sleeping with a mosquito net in a facility with no air conditioning was an unusual experience for Leonard Anderson. It was also a reminder.
Anderson has a place to live comfortably in Santa Monica. He has a job in finance in Century City. He has access to medical care. He doesn‚Äôt have to worry about his next meal.
But in Thomazeau, Haiti, where he recently spent a week as a volunteer on a service trip, he came to see those resources as luxuries.
“It would make one appreciate how organized things are in the United States and how good we really have it,” he said. “People there generally live in squalor. Most people have dirt floors. Housing is built with aluminum or metal plating. There‚Äôs a lot of poverty, a lot of people who are legitimately hungry. Any time you see anything like that, you are of course reminded of the abundance of where we live.”
Anderson, 40, served as an assistant in a medical clinic, helped out in a local school and visited residents in their homes during his trip to Thomazeau, which is about 25 miles northeast of Port-au-Prince.
The mission was organized by LiveBeyond, a Nashville-based humanitarian organization with a base in Thomazeau. The Christian nonprofit group provides medical care, clean water and education to impoverished Haitians.
Anderson decided to get involved after hearing about the trip from clients and friends who work as doctors in Santa Barbara.
“This was my first time really doing anything like this,” he said. “It sounded interesting.”
Anderson covered his own travel expenses and eschewed his phone to immerse himself in the community.
In the mornings he worked in medical clinics, where hundreds of patients were treated for common skin infections like ringworm and scabies as well as sexually transmitted diseases and other ailments. In the afternoons he made home visits, bringing food and hope to people who were sick, injured or shunned by their neighbors.
Anderson and his fellow volunteers also assisted at a school, where children learned in English and in their native Creole language.
“My impression was that the kids really liked it, they wanted to come and they were happy to be there,” he said. “I was surprised at how well the kids did. There seemed to be a real interest.”
Anderson spent nights in LiveBeyond‚Äôs house for volunteers, but he felt busy and engaged during the days. Interpreters allowed him to communicate with patients and students, and he was able to interact with local residents more than he originally expected.
“There are a lot of great people just in a bad situation,” he said.
Anderson, who attended Texas Christian University, is not a regular churchgoer but said he was impressed by the organization‚Äôs dedication to helping people in need.
“It‚Äôs admirable for people to work so hard and so selflessly,” he said. “They would welcome anyone, and I would consider going again. It was very rewarding.”
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.