Tag Archives: haiti

Haiti, Wednesday, February 22nd

9 Mar

For the women, we were given the luxury of staying at Bon Sam orphanage all day long.  It was the first morning that we didn’t have to be up and ready by 8 a.m. And even though we didn’t sleep in, we all sat around and chatted over our cups of coffee as we soaked in the morning sunshine and the sounds of the kids in school.  Oh, yes – in case I forgot to mention, there’s a place for school right in the compound and kids from the community are invited to attend as well.  It’s one big area and then they divide into three parts for the three different age categories.  They start the morning by lining up at the flagpole, they sing a song (we heard several different songs while we were there), pray and raise the Haitian flag.  They then go to their school and continue with the lessons for the day.  

A few of us chose to walk to the little store that was close by – we needed to buy a birthday cake because this would be the annual birthday celebration at Bon Sam.  Most children do not know their actual date of birth – nor do they know the exact year they were born.  So many times, the date of birth on their file is just an estimation.  Therefore, Second Chance Haiti chooses to celebrate everyone’s birthday at one time.  Even though it’s only a 15-minute walk to the store, we aren’t allowed to walk without our translator and security.  I found myself craving junk food I would never eat at home…..Pringle’s.  I bought Pringle’s every time we went to the store.  I didn’t eat the entire can and would share with everyone…but, still, Pringle’s??? Couldn’t figure that one out unless I just wanted the salt or the reminder of food from home.  I also would buy pineapple juice and a small bottle of Perrier and then mix the two; it was very refreshing.

We got back and then decorated for the birthday party.  Lots of streamers – party hats – goodie bags with lots of candy – gifts bags with presents – the famous peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – and then we had outdoor activities planned.  It was funny because some of the girls had made lots of pb&j sandwiches; however, as we started passing them out, we quickly found out that each child (from the littlest to the oldest) wanted at least TWO sandwiches. So, once again, we were making pb&j as quickly as we could until we had given everyone at least 2….I’m pretty sure several ate three.  And then, there was cake!  We sang the HB song and then enjoyed cake….even the dogs were given some crumbs.  Smiles were all around!

The sidewalk chalk was handed out and everyone found a spot on the concrete block wall to draw and that kept everyone occupied for at least 30 minute.  It was a beautiful wall filled with lots of hearts by the time the kids were finished.  Then we had soccer happening, whiffle ball being played, and double dutch jump ropes going round and round.  I think Summer and D’Anna were at their post for at least an hour.  Lots of laughter filling the courtyard as everyone enjoyed the beautiful afternoon.  Another group visiting from Georgia stopped by and they joined in playing with the kids and drawing on the wall.  It was very heartwarming to just sit there and watch the interactions between the “blancs” from the US and the kids of the orphanage just being present in the moment….playing, laughing, communicating even though we didn’t speak the same language.

It didn’t matter what was happening all around the world – didn’t matter what was happening back in the United States – didn’t matter what was on social media and what was on the nightly news – didn’t matter what was happening in the lives of actors, actresses, music icons, sports icons, and reality TV.  What did matter was the love that was being shared between everyone there – the smiles that were lighting up the eyes of every person – the squeals of laughter as the kids enjoyed the adults playing soccer with them, trying to jump rope with them, drawing on the wall with them, pushing the swing for them, throwing the whiffle ball to them, or taking fun selfies with them.  That was the most important thing happening in the world at that moment, and I’m sure God was smiling down on Bon Sam that day.  You see He holds a special place in His heart for children – He says He knows us before we are even formed in our mother’s womb.  When we take the time to love on a child, especially a child without a dad or a mom, we make Him happy and the world is a becomes a brighter place because of those interactions.  Those are the moments that will matter when all is said and done….it’s not important to me if I ever meet anyone “famous” because I’ve met the most famous people I ever want to meet and it’s those children at Bon Sam.

Haiti, Tuesday, February 21st

7 Mar

The day started bright and early as we loaded up the vans to start the day.  We collected the chickens and the goats and loaded them into the vans and on top of the vans and began our 45-minute drive to the village of Ti-Marche.  As we turned off the main highway, several team members chose to ride on top of one of the vans. So, again, we were very noticeable in our vans with the blancs on top of one and goats on top of another.  Lots of smiles and lots of waves as we drove through small housing areas and the “town” part.  

We arrived to the church where the pastor is the one who lets Second Chance know who in the village could use some extra help.  We began our parade of blancs carrying chickens, leading goats, and weighted down with 15-25 pounds of beans and rice in our backpacks.  And as we walked, our parade grew because kids and adults would join us to see what we were doing and where we were going.  They were also very quick to lend a hand to help us jump over a ditch filled with water or help us with a stubborn goat or cranky chicken.  Kids wanted to hold our hands and wanted us to take their pics and then see themselves on our phones.  I quickly learned that I couldn’t give something to one child because I would then be surrounded by 10 more and I didn’t have enough to give.  So, I will be making an Oriental Trading order before my next trip so I have something to give everyone!  They love watches, sunglasses, and bracelets.

We were out traversing fields and crossing little creeks for several hours as we were led to the homes of people who needed some extra love, some prayers and a little reminder that there are people in the world who care.  Most of the houses were one-room shacks made out of mud and straw….others were a little bigger made out of concrete block and tin roofs.  The views, however, were spectacular.  Mountains in the distance.  Lush vegetation – trees of coconut, mango, avocado, and lime.  Crops of beans, sugar cane, corn, beets, potatoes.  There were chickens, cows, pigs, and goats.  The children could run around and play and not have to worry about traffic and “city” dangers.  Far away from the loud noise and the hustle and bustle of the city.  It was so peaceful and quiet.  Beautiful blue skies – palm trees – sunshine – I’ll share some pics later…or go follow me on Facebook or IG.

We would give one goat to a family because they then would allow that goat to breed their neighbor’s goat and then the baby goats would be shared with others in the village.  I think that is what I found so overwhelming and humbling is that even though they don’t have lots of material goods…what they do have, they share with one another and will share with you.  I think we Americans could learn a lot about it being more blessed to give than to receive and how we really don’t need all that we have in our houses and homes – wealth isn’t measured by what we have but by the relationships and love we have in our lives.  We left Bruno (the goat) with a mother of 7 who is a widow.  If I had to guess the size of her one-room house, I would say it was a square of 10 feet by 10 feet.  I know it wasn’t very big at all.  Our translator would translate what our spokesperson would say and would translate our prayers, as well.  I was able to hug her and be the recipient of one of her beautiful smiles.  The $30 it cost to purchase Bruno seems so small in relation to what it means to be given that goat.

It was such an incredible experience to be introduced to the various villagers….to see their smiles…to feel the love that was so evident in everything we said and did that day.  We may not speak the same language but a smile and hug says the same thing in any language and crosses all cultures, ethnic groups, and language barriers.

We came to a house where a lady was being cared for by her daughters and we found out that she had been out in the field working that morning and had suffered a stroke two hours prior to our arrival.  Nate and Jeff are first responders and have careers here in the US in the medical field so they were able to explain some things to the daughters and to give some recommendations.  However, we all knew it wasn’t very probable that she would survive.  Strokes are the number one cause of death in Haiti – the risk factors are high blood pressure and sickle-cell anemia.  Average life expectancy is age 60 for men and age 65 for women.  It was a sobering moment as we realized she was only 52… Yes, there are lots of moments where the reality of things can be very overwhelming and seem so hopeless; but then you see the eyes of a child light up when you give them a piece of candy or a pair of sunglasses or take their pic and your heart begins to feel hope and purpose again and you know that those are life changing moments for everyone..and that it is your life that will be changed the most profoundly.

You have to have moments of fun and laughter – otherwise, the sad emotions could be overpowering.  We had lots of those during our days.  I think of D’Anna passing out bags of beans and rice from her backpack and instead of her backpack getting lighter…it seemed just as heavy as when she started.  What she didn’t know is that every time Nate took a bag out, he put a big rock in.  She just kept trudging along while leaning forward because of the weight on her back.  After a while, Nate finally fessed up, and she, along with the rest of us, had a really good laugh.

We left the village and traveled to a lookout point where you could see the mountains of the Dominican Republic in the distance (we were only about 45 minutes from the border) and could see Lake Enriquillo….it’s the largest lake and the lowest elevation in the Caribbean. It was breathtaking!   A stop to meet the baby boy born to Roger, another of their translators, was a precious reminder of the circle of life.  We drove back to the orphanage a tired, dusty, exhausted team but with happy hearts and grateful spirits.

I also have to share how one always wants to travel with Second Chance Haiti board member, Mike.  He brings the sour patch kids and the twizzlers.  He was on our van so we were the ones who got to travel with the good stuff! Lol!  On Sunday afternoon, the people in the other van thought they could confiscate the bag of sour patch kids and that would be permissible.  We tried to get them back to no avail…even sending our security person over to use her authority to hand them over.  Well, all it took was Mike walking over and holding out his hand – they had to return the bag to its owner.  That is why you want to be on the van with Mike! In all seriousness – sour patch kids, twizzlers, peanut butter, nutella, tortillas to the side and not taken into consideration – Mike is a man with a servant’s heart who is willing to use his skills and talents to make life a little easier for those with whom he comes in contact….whether it be helping a little girl get her stubborn donkey to start walking, constructing trunks so the orphanage has storage, or praying for a person in the village. Just don’t ask him to go back to the market to carry chickens!!! lol

Addition for Monday’s blog:

I forgot to mention one of the most important things we did that day at the FOSA orphanage (in my opinion).  One of our team members wanted to carry on a ministry that her friend’s mother had started several years ago.  She has passed away and no one has carried on this ministry.  Britt had purchased stuffed animals for all of the children there; however, as people who believe in the power of prayer and in the love of a Heavenly Father who can watch over these children, she wanted several of us to join with her in prayer.  We all held several of the stuffed animals and then took turns praying over those animals – we prayed that these children would be comforted when they were feeling sad and that they would feel peace on days when everything seemed chaotic.  We prayed that they would feel love on the days they felt alone and uncared for and that they would remember there are people in this world who care about them and love them so much.  Tears fell from our eyes as we listened to the heartfelt prayers of our fellow team members.  Knowing that we cannot be there in person to brush the tears away from these children’s eyes and we cannot be there to give them a hug and we cannot be there to comfort them in the middle of the night when they have a bad dream.  However, we know a God who can do that and we knew that the power of prayer can transcend miles and distance and can do more than what we can do in our own human effort.  So, I would ask that you remember these children every time you pray for your own children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, godchildren.  I know that it will make a difference!

Haiti 2017, Sunday, February 19th

5 Mar

I’ve been home from Haiti for one week; however, it has taken me the entire week to process, ponder and reflect.  Today as my Pastor started a new series, The Blessed Life, I knew I was finally ready to begin sharing my week in Haiti.  

This blog will be about our first full day in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti, which happened to be Sunday, February 19th.  We were up bright and early in order to attend Sunday morning services at the church our translator attends.  We arrived there around 8:30 but the congregation had arrived earlier for small groups.  The church was packed but they had reserved a space for us on the front row.  The church building made out of blocks – if I remember correctly, the roof was made out of metal.  There’s no air conditioning – only ceiling fans and some standing floor fans.  The Sunday we were there was the Sunday that the young people led the service from the singing to the speaking.  Beautiful voices filled the air as the Haitians worshiped God.  And although it was in French and I really couldn’t understand anything that was being said or sung, I could feel the joy, gratitude and love being expressed in their songs and words.  Their faith, their hope and their trust in God was very visible and evident in the way they sang and worshiped.

I noticed the joy on every face and I took note of how the people were dressed in their finest Sunday clothes….which don’t even get me started on how we Americans like to approach our church going in all of our casual, laidback attitudes and casual clothes as if we were spending a day working in our yards.  The colors of clothing were vibrant on the ladies and the men were wearing their suits and ties or slacks, dress shirts and ties.  It was very evident that going to church is very important to them and dressing for the occasion of being in God’s House is something that take as utmost importance.

After the service, our team served them sandwiches, chips and a drink.  I wish that I could have spent more time getting to know each of them but a quick “bonjour” and a heartfelt smile was all I had time to do.

We went back to the orphanage to change clothes and then head out of town to a remote village.  It was about 45 minutes out of the city;as we turned off the main road and drove on a dirt road for what seemed like miles and miles, we all questioned how in the world did they ever find this village to begin with!!! Nate and Jeff wanted to go back and check on a little toddler.  When Nate and Jeff were there in December, this little guy had fallen into a fire and was burned very badly.  Based on the severity of his burns, the toddler only had about a 10% chance of surviving.  Nate and Jeff did what they could and then they prayed for him.  Consequently, they wanted to go back and see how he was.  Well, the power of prayer was very evident because the little guy was well, walking, and the scars were so minimal…one would never be able to tell that he had been burned so severely in a fire.

Walking through the village where most of the houses were just little one-room shacks made out of mud with a straw roof, I was made aware of all the little things I take for granted on a daily basis.  When you go to one of these villages, your hand is very quickly taken by a child as you are walking.  All of a sudden there will be kids everywhere and they want to say “bonjour” and hold your hands.  Smiles are big and they are curious to see why the “Blancs” are there (french word for “white” and that’s what they call us!).  We had not had time to pre-make the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; however, about 8 of us got in the van and had makeshift assembly line where we used machetes and pocket knives to cut the bread and then spread the pb and jelly with spoons, pocket knives and whatever else we could find that would serve a purpose.  We don’t have an exact count but I know we made at least 200 sandwiches.  We gave those out along with chips and a drink and some candy.  Lots of smiles because everyone loves a good ol’ pb&j!!!

We got back to Bon Sam (the orphanage where we stayed) tired but happy – we enjoyed some Haitian spaghetti on the rooftop and then came the best part of the day….we would sit in a circle and go around and share what was our high for the day and what stood out in our minds.  Fabulous moments spent with people who have become friends.

I climbed into my top bunk bed and shrouded myself in my mosquito netting and fell asleep listening to the dogs barking…roosters crowing (yes, they were a little confused as to when exactly they are supposed to crow!)….sounds of Carnival…  Hoping and praying that no spiders or any other kind of creepy crawly animal/bug would wander in via the window right beside me.  However, I had the best view – as I looked out the window right beside me, I could see the stars and then in the morning I could look out the window across the room from me and see the sunrise happening with the mountains in the distance.

Today, in my Pastor’s message, this is what made me think of Haiti and the beautiful Haitian people:

“And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.  Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in such generosity.  For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.”  2 Corinthians 8:1-3)

I saw time and time again during my week there that even in their poverty they have overflowing joy and such generosity.  I watched the kids at the orphanage over and over again receive something and then very quickly share what they had been given with their friends.  They wanted to share what they had with us.  But what stands out to me the most is their overflowing joy.  I am purposing in my own life to be joyful…to have overflowing joy and to give freely from my heart.