MONTROUIS, Haiti (KTRK) --Summer break is winding down, and while some kids spent the last few months shopping and sleeping late, one group recently returned from a trip they will never forget.
The local teens traveled to Haiti on a mission to help change the lives of a group of orphans. The impoverished country is still working to rebuild after the deadly earthquake four years ago. While on their trip, there were constant reminders that these kids were far from home.
Riding in the back of a loud diesel work truck was far from the air-conditioned, seat-belted vehicles they're used to. Sweating and sitting on wobbling chairs, volunteers from the Houston non-profit Help For Haiti, Inc. were now in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Their reasons for coming on the trip were all very different.
"My dad sent me here because he said I'm ungrateful," said 18-year-old volunteer Bria Adams.
She, like many others, had never traveled this far outside of their comfort zone and were unprepared for what they would face when they got to the third-world country.
"I didn't think it would be this bad. I didn't think it would be this hot," said teen volunteer Billis Gordan. "It smells like the outdoors, and I kind of smell a lot of dog poop and stuff. It feels muggy."
Not having electricity or technology was definitely not something they were used to.
"This is the first time I've been away from my phone," said teen volunteer Zarissa LeBlanc.
Perhaps one of the most difficult things for the teens was living without central A.C.
"My night was horrible because I didn't bring a fan. I couldn't feel air, I thought I was dying," said 18-year-old Bria Adams about battling her mosquito net at night. "I think I started crying. I was aggravated not getting any sleep."
Their mission was to set up a summer camp for about 70 children who call Haiti's Canaan Orphanage home.
"All of the kids have been rejected, some of them since birth. So they don't know the true meaning of love. They don't know what true love is," said Sister Gladys Mecklembourg with the Canaan Christian Community.
It didn't take long for the volunteers to bond with children on the playground and in the classroom.
"We're at an orphanage and the kids just want to be hugged, they want to be touched," said president of Help For Haiti, Inc. Johnny Jones. "They want to smile at you, and how can you not react to that?"
It was a tough adjustment for these Houston teens, but their mission to help change the orphanage ended up changing them.
"The thought of not having your parents, you know, and they can still smile and live another day, and I don't know how I would get through it," said an emotional LeBlanc.
"It makes you realize how much you should appreciate your parents," Adams said. "I would talk to my parents more. I don't really talk to them now that I'm older."
Just when they thought their goal was to bring happiness to a group of orphans, they left with a renewed happiness themselves.
"Just seeing what they go through and how they're still happy. Their happiness makes me happy," said Gordan in tears.
Orphanage in Haiti:
Local group that travels to the orphanage: