The only Caribbean colony to gain independence by force, Haitians are proud of their country’s status as the first independent nation in the Western Hemisphere. Corruption, dictatorships, and military coups have come and gone between waves of hope since then, giving this island nation a complex history that cannot be ignored.

But we’d also be remiss to ignore its beauty, its richness of culture and history, the tenacity of its people and the strength they’ve exuded for centuries. So before you rush out to see somewhere less traveled or volunteer where you think you’re needed, know your impact. Do your research. There is always more to a country than meets the eye.