|Make two copies of each person's passport: one set to keep in the United States and one to bring to Haiti. If a passport is lost, this will help speed up the replacement process.
Sonlight recommends that each person in the group have a current tetanus shot. Each individual will want to consult with his or her doctor with regard to other shots or medicines that might be recommended. Many groups take Chloroquine for malaria. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!
You do not need a visa to travel to Haiti. Each airline passenger is given a tourist visa while on the plane en route to Port-au-Prince. It is a simple form that asks for names, US address, passport and flight numbers, purpose of travel and an address where you will be while in Haiti. The address to put on the form is:
#2 Rue Chalet
Some airports will let one person from the group check in everyone at one time. Be sure to ask! You might want to check the luggage tags as they are being put on your luggage. Check to make sure they have the right airport codes? For example: If traveling from Tulsa - Dallas - Miami - Port au Prince, the luggage tag would read TUL - DFW - MIA - PAP.
For international travel, you are permitted two pieces of checked baggage per person. We would like for each person in the group to limit themselves to one suitcase/trunk and a carry-on. This will leave one piece of luggage for supplies (if Sonlight needs you to bring in things.) Sonlight discourages bringing jewelry or other valuables. It is up to you to determine whether your group can bring walkmans/CD players. Some groups find they distract too much, while others find them useful to help fall asleep at night or during delays in airports.
Pack one change of clothes and any essentials in your carry-on/backpack. If your luggage is lost or delayed, you will have what you need for the night. You might want to consider packing clothes that can be left in Haiti and given away. Visitors need to dress modestly at all times, especially when swimming. No two piece bathing suits or bikinis.
Sonlight allows the leaders of each group to email the states as often as they feel necessary. There is also a phone that can be used for emergencies. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. The phone number is 011-509-268-5171. Sonlight discourages your group members from emailing or telephoning during the trip. It is a good idea for you to have some kind of email contact person who can then contact the parents/others of your group. This will help your group to stay focused on the mission trip. If you have any questions, please ask us.
Please let us know ahead of time if anyone in your group has special needs (physical, medical, extremely shy, etc.). If you have group members that suffer from asthma, they may want to bring an extra inhaler.
Talk to your group ahead of time about ways they can minister to the Haitian kids. Since we are an English immersion school they will be able to communicate with some Haitians from the start. If they have any special talents or abilities, maybe they can share those with a class. Be ready to tell a few Bible stories. They could practice with each other before they come. Each group member will usually be placed with a specific teacher who will include them in classroom activities. Encourage your group to have an attitude of a servant. Remind them that they are here to be stretched!
Plan to have a devotional time with your group during the trip. Group members could possibly share a devotion, discuss how they were able to serve, or what they learned that day. This is a great time to share in prayer and worship. It's a perfect way to draw the team together!
Put some time into your trip packet/manual. You might want to include enough devotions that you can start one week before your trip and end one week after your trip.
Before you leave on your trip, start planning the presentation your group will make after your return. Will you want pictures? Will the group members need to be prepared to give a testimony of their experience on the trip? Perhaps you could include a page in your trip packet where they can write out a testimony.
It will be important for you to have a debriefing time with your group. Once at the end of the week (to prepare for re-entry culture shock) and maybe again about a week after your trip. Your group is going to experience extremes in poverty, smells, cleanliness, etc. It is not uncommon to feel irritated or sad upon returning to the United States. Some in your group may be ready to head home and sell everything. Some may feel the need to let everyone back in the US know just how spoiled we are in America. Encourage them to take some time and re-adjust to being back before they offend too many friends and family members. Encourage them to pray and think about what God was teaching them on this trip. How is their life going to be different now?