QU alumni Oluwatimilehin Ajayi works to help Haitian friends
What was your experience in Haiti?
My experience was great, rather adventurous! It felt like another world even though it’s a different country. I never worried about anything because of the relationships and bonds I formed.
What was your job in Haiti?
The organization I work with in Haiti is Religious Jesus Mary (RJM) Quest. It is so broad that they have unlimited jobs that you can gain multiple experiences from. We preach out Christ through serving the indigent by helping provide bills for medications they can’t afford, hospital bills, medicine prescription, articles of clothing and pairs of shoes, food donated to us by different countries and school materials to the children. My job with the organization was to work with the community agronomists on introducing a new source of protein which is soybeans to the community. I work with the research team and I also manage the communications between UIUC research team and some teams in Malawi and Ghana to compare which methods of farming works.
The ultimate goal of the project was to implement soybeans in our chicken’s diet and also start sustainable farming. We figured with soybeans we could make our hen feeds, and also sell to other farmers if they needed more protein for their hens. we also figured that the stem and leaves could serve as food for cows, goats, and pigs. We thought we could produce oil from it too. I’m currently still researching how oil could be extracted from the beans and we are looking forward to teaching the community how proteinous soybeans are to the community and how beneficial it is to farmers and their farm animals.
We also practice poultry farming and since the price of corn feeds appreciated, we figured soybeans would be cheaper and could help our chickens greatly in laying more eggs. The eggs we receive from the hens, we give it to the school we sponsor so the school could give to the kids with some rice or other meal for lunch, also we sell the eggs to different restaurants and the proceeds we get, we use it to get new hens, medicines and feeds for the poultry.
What was the best part of working with the people of Haiti?
My best part of working with them is that they are always eager to learn and they are very patient and understanding. Whenever I don’t understand a process or what they mean, they could explain it more than five or six times with smiles on their faces without being frustrated.
What is one story that you will carry in your heart forever?
The story I can never forget was when one woman told me all she ever worked for during her lifetime was destroyed by rain because the house at that point was built with dry banana leaves and tree branches. She said her faith in God is still strong and the last thing she would do is commit suicide because she knows each day will be better with God. I was shocked because she said the Haitians faith is so strong that depression and suicide is the last thing on their minds instead they believe tomorrow will be better than yesterday.
How did QU prepare you for this journey?
QU taught me the spirit of service. QU taught me how to be a leader. I never considered myself as a leader until I had a huge responsibility of leading 12 people to Haiti and back. I never knew I had it in me to raise $17,000 in two months with the campus minister (FR Bill Spencer) for the 12 students going on the trip. I never knew how to fundraise, organize events or bring people together. QU helped build my confidence and relationship with people and now I became an extreme social butterfly. It’s all thanks to my QU family that I was able to stand for something I believe in.
What was your day to day life like in Haiti?
My day to day life was going to work by 8 a.m. and finishing up by 11 a.m. On my way back from work I always encounter several people on the streets that I know and few that I don’t know but know me. I do visit some friends and families in their shops and homes if I haven’t seen them in a few days. Sometimes I take a peaceful walk in the evenings and sometimes I draw and paint with the youths depending on my schedule. Talking to the people and befriending them is the only way I could understand and learn their language.
In the evening I come back home and eat dinner with my bosses and other quests volunteers. After dinner, we reflect on our day and pray as a community, then play a game or watch movies before going to bed. My Saturdays are much more flexible. I visit the school we sponsor and help with morning lessons and organizing sporting events. on my way back, I visit a lot of homes to check on families, then the youth artists to paint and draw with them, later in the evening the quest volunteers and I could go to a pool just to cool off.
What do you want everyone to know about Haiti and your experience there?
Haiti is still one of the best countries I’ve visited so far even though it’s still developing. The people are so welcoming, They make use of this term “Lakay mwen se lakay ou” means my home is your home. The people are always there for you through your tough and difficult times, I never have to worry about hot water to shower because the sun heats up our water tank and it becomes warm during the day, They foods and fruits are all chemical-free, planted, harvested and cooked naturally and to top it Haiti has the finest sunrise and sunset views.
What is your next step?
Hopefully, I want to work for a year after this wonderful experience and pursue a Master’s in Foreign Affairs.