At the end of April two contingents of soldiers from the BDF Light Engineer Company were deployed as part of a task force to Haiti, to participate in the rebuilding effort along with the Louisiana Army National Guard.

Last week Thursday 7news got a special opportunity to join the thirty light engineers as they completed week three of their four week rotation.

Special correspondent Janelle Chanona flew to Haiti on Thursday morning and was back by Thursday night. Here's her story from that whirlwind visit:

Janelle Chanona Reporting:

Our journey to Haiti begins as we board a United States military aircraft at the Phillip Goldson International Airport.

For much of the three and a half hour flight to the capital city Port-au-Prince, the only view out the window is the wide blue expanse of the Caribbean Sea.

Then suddenly, Haiti's mountainous landscape comes into focus.

Haiti boasts the proud history of being the first republic to be controlled by a black leader following a successful slave revolution in 1804. But the pride of such independence has long since been replaced by the shame of more political violence and corruption, poverty and natural disasters than any other Caribbean nation.

For decades, the United Nations has spearheaded numerous peacekeeping and poverty relief initiatives. In 2008 alone, four hurricanes devastated the impoverished country. When the earthquake hit on January 12th 2010, it severely crippled an already struggling state.

In the aftermath, Haiti's friends rushed to render aid to her more than nine million citizens. The presence and assistance of international organizations and military forces has been a stabilizing force on the island.

For the past month, Belizean soldiers have been hard at work in Gonaives, the fourth largest city in Haiti as part of New Horizons 2011.

Military Liaison Officer - Nugent, Louisiana National Guard
"We got twenty nine Belize Defence Force personnel that have been working alongside US forces on those engineering projects."

Along with their Japanese and Columbian counterparts, the Americans and Belizeans are constructing two medical clinics, a school building and bathroom.

Brigadier General Dario Tapia, Commander, BDF
"It's a good signal to the country that we have the will to be able to assist them in a time of need because it could happen to Haiti today, tomorrow it could be Belize."

Like many Caribbean countries, there are many similarities between Belize and Haiti. Even from the air, beautiful beaches beckon tourists, market scenes are little more than organized confusion and a helicopter landing always draws a crowd. But just beneath the surface lay the scars. Many important buildings, including the international airport, are badly damaged but are still in operation. Tens of thousands live in tent cities. Bridges traverse dried up rivers. Because deforestation has claimed the majority of the forest cover, when the rains do come, flooding ravages much of the country. The hurricanes wiped out much of Haiti's agricultural crops. Today farmers fight the drought to produce banana and grain.

Tens of thousands of Haitians have fled this reality for greener shores, including Belize. But what you may not know is that Belize has had a yearly military presence in Haiti since 1994. That year, Commander of the BDF, Brigadier General Dario Tapia, then a young captain, served as a peacekeeper in Port-Au-Prince.

Brig. Gen. Dario Tapia
"The challenges remain, it hasn't changed. A lot of people are without jobs, you fly here and you can see how barren the mountainside is. It has not changed much. Much has been achieved but there is much to be done in Haiti."

And as task force commander Colonel Kenneth Donnelly explains, military missions like New Horizons are a win-win situation.

Colonel Kenneth Donnelly, Task Commander
"To give soldiers an opportunity to deploy into an austere training environment and conduct a training exercise that gives back to the community- new schools, new medical clinics."

Haitan citizen
"You came to save us."

And according to residents in the area, the new facilities are eagerly anticipated.

Guerea , Translator
"He said he didn't have a Government that support the idea of having a clinic everywhere. He said thank you for building the project."

While interaction between the locals and the soldiers has been limited but the Belizeans say the experience has been overwhelming.

Corporal Freddie Villeda, BDF
"It's heartbreaking because there is real poverty here. We don't see this much in Belize. So you feel broken hearted when you come by the roadside and you see little kids begging for food, begging for this and that. It's something sad."

Janel Chanona
"How you deal with that, when you start getting down?"

Corporal Freddie Villeda
"Well, it just gives you more courage, because when I'm on my site, I work harder because I know that both this school and this clinic are for them."

Armed with that sort of motivation, the soldiers are three days ahead of schedule. Commander of the Light Engineering Company Captain Thomas Cal says the support back home helps his troops concentrate.

Captain Thomas Cal
"Those are the wives, the sons, daughters, parents, the immediate families and extended families because without their help, we wouldn't be able to focus here and work hard on the day to day basis."

This mission is Lance Corporal Cynthia Salazar's second visit to Haiti.

Lance Corporal Cynthia Salazar
"Some of the kids allow me to listen to the music and bring fruit and mangoes for me to eat, that's the only thing I have from Haiti. The mangoes and listen to the music, that's all."

Janelle Chanona
"So which ones are nicer? Belize mango or Haiti mango?"

Lance Corporal Cynthia Salazar
"Belize mango. (laughs.)

My own interaction with the children living near the work site didn't include mangoes but showing them their pictures on my digital camera was a hit.

Belize's role in the Haitian crisis is small but the big picture here is that to bring true and meaningful change to a country with this many challenges will take cooperation on every scale from everyone willing to help. From Port-Au-Prince Haiti, I am Janelle Chanona for 7 News.

That first contingent of soldiers is scheduled to return on the 28th of May, while the second contingent will deploy tomorrow and return on the 25th of June.

Channel 7