Joliet West grad helps in Haiti before Harvard
BY Felix Sarver email@example.com July 25, 2012 5:48PM
Matt Koran (front) of Joliet interacts with the children at the Faith-Hope-Love Infant Rescue orphanage in Haiti. | submitted photo
Updated: August 27, 2012 6:03AM
JOLIET — After spending a week at an orphanage in Haiti, Matthew Koran didn’t want to leave.
The Joliet West High School graduate was in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, where many of the children either had no parents or parents who couldn’t take care of them. Many children were malnourished or on the brink of death.
Koran said the orphans wanted so much attention they would grab at people’s legs.
“You fall in love with each and every one of them,” Koran said.
Koran went on a trip to Haiti for a week with his friends and his aunt last June. He wanted to go in order to “recalibrate” his values. As a practicing Christian, he wanted to become closer to God before heading to Harvard University.
“I think it’d be great if I set all those values straight before I go off there,” Koran said. “So I don’t really skew those values and become someone I’m really not.”
He initially wanted to visit Africa after watching the Invisible Children documentary, but couldn’t find a good organization to volunteer for. He settled on Haiti as a friend of his aunt had connections there.
Home to 26 children
Faith-Hope-Love Infant Rescue allowed Koran to help out the orphanage.
The orphanage houses 26 children. Many them have mental and physical handicaps along with illnesses such as AIDS, Dorothy Peace, founder of Faith-Hope-Love Infant Rescue, said in an email.
Koran played with the children there and did projects like clear out weeds and paint a mural.
“Matt is outgoing and warm,” Pearce said. “He was great with the children.”
At the beginning of his trip, Koran remembers the shock of arriving at an airport in Haiti. Baggers would approach him and try to get his bags or pull him somewhere else. He saw two guys pushing one cart of bags and both were expecting to get paid.
Next, he was sitting in the back of a pickup and traveling to the Apparent Project, an organization that employs Haitians to make beads, to stay at their guest house and learn more about Haiti.
The streets were rough with rock and rubble. They had no lane markers and no lights, Koran said. Drivers wanting to make a right turn had to beep their horn.
“It’s kind of like an ATV ride rather than a car ride,” Koran said. “You are bouncing everywhere.”
While Haiti seemed like a dangerous place for Koran, it turned out not to be. He strapped a money belt beneath his shirt at the beginning of the trip but by the end he was holding his wallet and cellphone in his pockets.
Koran said the people in Haiti are more communal and reliant on one another than in other places. If people see one another on the street they may sit down and have a conversation.
“You wouldn’t really expect that from what they’ve been through down there,” Koran said.
After the 2010 earthquake, the Haitian government put displaced citizens in tent cities, Koran said. The tents were tarps on a wood post. The tents were supposed to be temporary, but instead they became permanent.
“You can’t even imagine living in something like that, and that’s what they do every single day,” Koran said.
The people of Haiti find a way to have hope in the harsh conditions they live in, he said. Words like hope, faith and Jesus are spray-painted on walls.
The trip has made Koran more grateful for all of the opportunities he’s had and made him realize he could easily be living poor outside the United States.
“It’s really eye-opening to what you have,” Koran said.