BY SARAH SMITH
In my head, my One 17 Challenge was going to be a piece of cake. Five consecutive days of walking a mile and a half to grab a gallon of water from the grocery store and then trekking home doesn’t sound too bad, after all. With beautiful, sunny, and warm weather that most Michiganders can only dream of in early March, I left my house feeling invincible. Five minutes later I was bored…ten minutes after that a semi-truck came blaring through, spraying gravel in my face…in another fifteen my shoes (which have gotten me through some marathon days of sightseeing and traveling this year) were giving me blisters in no less than five places. Suddenly, the “Challenge” part of this whole experience became a little more real.
Strangely, though, it was through experiencing these frustrations that I was motivated to complete my challenge and complete it well. As I walked down Washington Avenue, I thought about how the simple act of taking steps can have such profound impact in the world around us. After all, Project 117’s story is one of the small steps taken after experiencing, first-hand, the injustice of educational inequality in Haiti. Because of those steps — and the diligence that dedicated visionaries showed in continuing to walk in the face of metaphorical blisters and semi-trucks — we are now able to educate 90 students. In turn, they will take their own small steps to create real and lasting change in their communities and will begin to recreate the Haitian nation after they leave our school’s walls. As I reflected on this, my steps began to feel like more than just putting one foot in front of the other. One step was for Prince. The next for Loudsaida. Esther. Woodeley. Mireille. I was walking not just to get some water at the grocery store...I was walking to make hope through education a reality for our students. And just as quickly as they appeared, those frustrations and setbacks faded into the background as I set my sights on what still needs to happen to accomplish this vision.
I’m so thankful that I’ve been given the opportunity to join Project 117 in the walk to bring hope through education to those who so desperately need it. Since joining the staff, I have been blessed and inspired by the dedication and selflessness I’ve seen. We describe Project 117 as a “movement of people who see hope through education,” but I’ve come to see that Project 117 is more than that. It’s a movement of dedicated servants to biblical justice. It’s a movement of ordinary people with extraordinary boldness. It’s a movement of people who are committed to keep walking when the weight of the water seems unbearable. And so I straightened my shoulders, readjusted the water I was carrying, and let this movement of people inspire me as I walked toward home...and hope.