We very rarely publish personal human interest stories outside of the domain of the industries we cover on a daily basis, but in a recent conversation I had with Entercom Operations Manager Mike “OD” O’Donnell, I was so heartened by a personal experience he related to me that I felt compelled to share his experience with the numerous industry people who visit this site, many of you who also know OD so well.

I’m going to let OD take it from here, because only his first-person account of the recent mission he participated in is the only prose that could truly do his story the justice it deserves. — Fred Deane

I recently went on a mission trip that was organized by my church in conjunction with a Christian organization called Convoy of Hope which operates out of Haiti and several other poverty-stricken countries.  It was a group of thirteen people from my church and we went to a specific orphanage in Cabaret, Haiti that we have been supporting for two years now. Through our church’s efforts, we basically fund the fifty orphans in this orphanage to eat every year. Believe it or not, it only costs about $120 to feed one orphan for an entire year, so our church has been taking care of the entire orphanage.

We thought it was a worthwhile project to undertake because we wanted to build them a kitchen and an eating area because they don’t have anything at the orphanage to facilitate this.  They basically cook on charcoal in the corner of the building and the fumes go everywhere and there’s nowhere for the children to sit when they eat.  This orphanage was the perfect choice because it gave us the opportunity to meet, minister, and get up close and personal with the children we’ve been feeding for the past two years.

We spent a full week there and in order to break up our days we would spend half the day doing the work at the orphanage and the other half doing ministry at the school the kids attend.

This was the first time I’ve done something like this. A big motivation for me is the fact that I’ve been itching to do something more with my life by getting out of my comfort zone and doing something that really helps those in need.  I also wanted to do something that was related to my faith and I felt like this was a prime opportunity for me to put my instincts into actions.

As I reflected back, it was an extremely emotional and powerful week.  I had never experienced in my life the emotions that I constantly went through. I was completely broken to the point of tears which could have happened at any time through the entire experience. However, by the end of the week a genuine sense of hope came over me as well.

It’s a life-changing experience to go there and witness the kind of poverty, deprivation and hopelessness that exists on the island. However, on the other side of that you meet these kids who are very strong in their faith, they know the bible, and they’re thankful for what they have…and what they have is not so much.

“We worked so hard that my work boots fell apart!”

They’re also very proud of their country and love their country. So when you go down there and you realize these qualities they possess, it is a huge wake up call that made me stand back for a minute and say, “Wow, I have to get some of my own priorities straight.” These people struggle each day to find what we take for granted…water, food, simple medicine. Yet they go through their lives thankful for what they have and we’re upset because we have an issue with our iphone!  When you put that in perspective, it’s incredibly moving. For me, it was a huge emotional experience that has forever changed me. It’s taught me to have so much more compassion than I’ve had before not to mention the humility that has been brought into my life.

One quick anecdote that even further put this into perspective. When the schedule for the week is assembled traditionally with a mission trip, Convoy of Hope will provide a field team leader who guides you through and keeps our days on track. Your last day of the trip is typically a recreational day where teams will kind of unwind and go to the beach or do some sightseeing.

We decided we wanted to do an American pizza party for the kids. After consulting with the people from the Convoy of Hope, they mentioned to us that the kids really don’t eat pizza down here. So we found a place that could put together a really good Haitian meal including grilled chicken, rice and beans, plantains and vegetables. We brought all the food back to the orphanage and as we were getting ready to set everything up for the kids, our field team leader from Convoy (who does this all the time) looked at us and said, “This is unbelievable what you guys are doing. In all the years he’s been there he’s never seen any group do this.”

But the truly moving part of this was when he said, “You brought this food for these kids and this is like gourmet for them. I want you to reflect for a minute and think about the best meal you’ve ever had in your life. That’s what you’re giving these kids today.”

After this experience I highly recommend to everybody, at least once in your life when you’re ready for it, give a week of yourself and do service like this. Not only will you feel a sense of humanity in its highest state, you’re going to appreciate what you have when you’re done and you will be forever changed in your outlook on life going forward.