Knox teen finds BFF amid Haiti’s squalor
KNOX — Knox High School junior Taylor Quella has done many things to help others in her school and her community. Recently, however, Quella broadened her horizons and traveled outside the county when she was offered an opportunity to help people who not only lived outside her community but in another country.
“Dr. (Thomas) Browne is a family friend. He knew I have wanted to go to Haiti. One day, he called my mom and asked if I wanted to go. I was excited; and I was shocked that Dr. Browne would do that for me — he took care of everything,” Quella said.
Quella’s mom, Cathy Quella, said that while traveling to Haiti was something her daughter had wanted to do for a long time, she still worried about her daughter being in a country known for many health risks and violence.
“Her dad and I are very proud of her for going; it was a wonderful experience for her. However, she was gone for five days: Nov. 11 through the Nov. 15 — it was very hard for us since there is no communication; and the last time we heard from her was telling us bye and she loved us and was boarding the plane to Haiti. We knew she was in wonderful hands and was doing something good, but it is very dangerous there with the cholera and riots. So needless to say, it was the longest five days ever,” Cathy said.
Quella experienced a bad case of culture shock when she first arrived in Haiti.
“The smells of Haiti are overpowering and Haitians are waiting outside the airport trying to sell you things, carry your bags, etc. It was a definite shock at first. You can just see the devastation all around,” she said.
Quella said the purpose of the trip was to take care of the health needs of some of the Haitians.
“This was a medical trip. There was a group of doctors and people in the medical field that came down to set up free clinics that offered examinations and medicine to the Haitians,” she said.
Quella learned many things while in Haiti — one was to count her blessings.
“I learned how to make amoxicillin; and I also observed how to give checkups. One of the most important things I learned was just how fortunate I am,” Quella said.
The group also helped the people in the village by providing some food. However, it wasn’t the type of food that Quella is used to.
“We gave out rice to a lot of the Haitians we saw. I believe they just eat a lot of rice and bananas because there are banana fields everywhere,” she said.
Quella didn’t experience a whole lot of Haitian cuisine — but there were some things she was brave enough to try.
“We didn’t eat like Haitian-made food while we were there. Actually, the pastor of the group’s wife made all of our meals, and they were delicious. She cooked breakfast, lunch, dinner and desserts. I did try a milkshake from there — it was called ‘Bongu,’ which meant very good, I think. It was basically like strawberry milk in a can, but it was neat to try,” Quella said.
While Quella was only gone five days, there were many things about home she missed.
“I missed being clean the most, and also my friends and family,” she said.
Visiting Haiti had a deep affect on Quella.
“The thing that affected me most was seeing how they really have nothing. Their capital city of Port-a-Prince doesn’t even have like any homes .The people there stay in tents in lots off of the road. There are no nice buildings — there are little cement shacks and homes in ruins. The whole country is a mess, and it’s just insane to think that a whole country could be in that bad of shape,” she said.
One thing Quella found surprising was the attitude of the Haitians.
“We have it so easy in America, compared to Haiti. They have literally nothing there, but still they manage to smile as opposed to America some people have everything and do not appreciate it at all. I have learned to appreciate the little things more,” Quella said.
One favorite part of the trip was the children.
“I loved the kids. They are so welcoming and attack you. The just run up to you, ask your name, then drag you by the hand to take you with them. I passed out suckers for all of them. That is chaos. They don’t have anything, so when they get the chance to have something they go crazy,” she said.
The Haitian children expressed a great deal of emotion over receiving the simplest of things.
“There was one girl who I gave hair things to and she gave me a hug and told me she loved me,” Quella said.
While all of the people in and around where Quella traveled had hardship, she said some of the people’s living conditions were more extreme.
“We went to the orphanage one day and got to see what their living conditions were. Their kitchen was like a cement little room that was dirty and had some coals in a pit for a stove and a big bowl with old rice stuck to it. Their bedroom was two rooms connected, filled with bunk beds. There was writing on the walls, and it wasn’t very clean either. However, those kids had it way better than a lot of other ones. We walked through a village and there were kids running around without clothes and covered in dirt. I looked inside one of the houses; and it was a little stone hut with one room for everything,” Quella said.
Helping the people in Haiti was something that made Quella feel conflicting emotions.
“The experience of being able to help others, and make a difference in people’s lives was the most rewarding part of my trip. The most difficult part of the trip was feeling like I couldn’t provide them as much as they needed. Like I could have done more for them, but I suppose you can only do so much at one time,” she said.
One thing Quella did do that was unexpected was make what she calls a bff (best friend forever).
“I made a best friend forever in Haiti. His name is Job and he is 12 . He spoke some English so I could communicate with him. He was always around the house we stayed at; and I would talk with him when we weren’t doing anything. He was drawing one day, on a sticky label, and he wrote both of our names on it. He spelled my name like Telo, ha ha. I still have that label too. He was so funny and nice; and I hope to see him again. Oh, he loves Justin Beiber too! He sang nonstop; it was very entertaining,” Quella said.
Despite the hardships she witnessed, Quella hopes to return to Haiti someday.
“I hope to go back soon because I already miss it. It was such a great and rewarding experience, and I felt like I had made a difference in someone’s life and that is a great feeling to have,” she said.
Taylor is a junior at Knox High School, is in National Honor Society, SADD, is a varsity cheerleader and is first in her class. She is also the reigning Miss Kankakee Valley Outstanding Teen 2010 and will be competing in June in Zionsville for the Miss Outstanding Teen Indiana title. Taylor is planning to attend college to become a pediatrician and is really hoping to attend Notre Dame. Taylor is the daughter of Pete and Cathy Quella.