Though these first few missions in Haiti were fairly unsuccessful in terms of making money or recovering a lot of valuable artifacts, my dad Greg Brooks says that it didn’t much matter to him. He still believed there was a way to make his business plan work, and in the meantime he was getting to see a beautiful country and meet some of the most wonderful people in the world. My dad has traveled a lot in his day, mostly thanks to being in the Marines in his late teens/early twenties. Out of all the places he’s gone, Haiti is the poorest and the most heartbreaking, but in other ways the most uplifting. The people here are truly rich in spirit and love, and this was obvious to him from the beginning. Haiti is considered a third-world country, meaning it is underdeveloped economically and the majority of people living there live in a tremendous state of poverty. Many families live in huts with dirt-floors, and not having enough food or water is a common issue.
The people of Haiti were fascinated by my dad and his crew. A lot of the children had never seen a white person before, and they would shyly hide behind their parents while staring and yelling “Blanc!” (French Creole for “white”). Many of the men would row out in their small boats and offer to help the crew. People were friendly and giving, despite not having much to give.
On the 1995 trip to the South shore of Haiti near Les Cayes, my dad visited a small village that was remote and poorer than some of the others he had been to. The people in this village didn’t have clothes, and they lived in small shacks with flimsy roofs. Despite not being able to speak any English, one family invited my dad in for a drink. They got out a straw case and pulled out three orange drinks in glass bottles that they had been saving for a long time. They gave my dad one and were beaming with happiness, so glad that they got to share this drink with a visitor. It didn’t much matter to them that this was one of their only possessions.
After making so many friends in Haiti, my dad made sure to bring as many supplies as he could whenever he would visit. He would bring food, diapers and clothing. Whenever he would see men in boats near his ship, he would give them as much rice and Spam as they could fit in their boats. He went to the orphanages and gave the children coloring books and candy. The crew also noticed that women would have to wade out in the water to get to their husbands on their boats. They constructed a dock for these women, so they wouldn’t have to walk through the water anymore, and so the men would have a place to leave their boats when they weren’t using them.
No matter what treasure the ocean would or wouldn’t yield, seeing the happiness and friendship in these peoples’ eyes was enough to warm my dad’s heart and make each trip more special than the last.