Today marked our 4th day in Haiti.
Monday, the first day, was full of travel, getting acquainted with our team, and much laughter. Seriously, this team is borderline ridiculous at all times. Someone is always laughing. I’m thankful our team has come together as it did.
Tuesday was our first day out in the field. We went to the catholic mission hospital (Home For Sick and Dying Children, aka HFSDC) and La Pherre orphanage.
HFSDC is always a hard place to see. Kids who are malnourished or sick with other diseases that, most, would be easily curable in the United States. We take so much for granted.
Souri in Haitian Creole means smile.
That is the first thing I saw walking into the room I was assigned at HFSDC. A little boy just grinning the biggest, toothiest grin at me. The majority of the other kids were crying or raising their hands to cue someone to pick them up. This is all they want: human touch.
I picked him up and noticed his diaper was sopping wet. With close to probably 75 kids there and 10 sisters (total guesstimate) to take care of the kids… I’m guessing they get changed only a couple times a day.
The parents of these kids are only allowed to visit for very limited hours each day. Then they must leave, which results in many meltdowns as I’m sure anyone can imagine.
During our visit, we were able to help out the sisters by folding cloth diapers while they prepared lunch. Then we were able to help feed the kids lunch. The first child I was instructed to feed was coincidentally that same little boy who grinned at me when I walked in. He ate like a champ. The next little girl however… well, girlfriend wanted nothing to do with the hot dog piece in her rice/soup concoction.
After feeding the kids lunch, we were on our way. In our wake, many crying kids who didn’t want us to leave. This breaks my heart every time.
We ventured back to the guesthouse to do a quick “costume change” and gather our supplies for our visit to La Pherre orphanage. Orphanage visits are among my favorite parts of the trip. I always feel like I can connect with a couple kids more closely being in a smaller group of kids.
We brought face paint with us.
Of course this resulted in pandemonium and extra long showers for all. The guys had face paint covering their whole heads.We also brought jump ropes with us which created many laughs and gave most of us a good cardio workout. So many smiles from all of us.
Wednesday was our first water truck day. This is always a physically and emotionally draining day. Words cannot describe what you experience in Cite Soleil. It’s the poorest of the poor. Most people live in tin shanties and don’t have basic necessities such as clean water.
Seeing kids chew on bottle caps or pieces of plastic is not uncommon. They chew on these to trick their stomach into thinking they aren’t hungry. They are also fed dirt cookies as a way to trick their bodies into thinking they’ve eaten food. It is beyond words. It isn’t fair that people live this way.
I wish everyone would have the desire to experience this just once in their life. Pictures don’t do it. Second hand stories don’t do it justice. Video won’t cut it. Until you are there actually experiencing it first hand, I don’t believe anyone can fully understand it. Even after experiencing this for a second time, it still almost doesn’t seem real to me. Surreal is a good word for it.
We did 3 different water stops where we bring a 3500 gallon tanker full of clean water to different areas of Cite Soleil. Here we help fill buckets, carry buckets, keep people in line and play with the kids.
As you enter Cite Soleil you can hear little voices chanting “hey you! hey you! hey you!” until you stop the truck. They flock to the back door of the tap tap, hold up their hands and just wait for someone to pick them up. This is all they want: to be held, loved, and noticed.
The kids LOVE taking photos and seeing themselves in them. It makes me wonder if some of them even know what they look like? Something we see more than enough of each day: ourselves.
Once the water runs out, we load up the tap tap and head out. It’s not an area we can linger in. In fact, most other missions groups are surprised we even go there. I was surprised, they were surprised. These people need our help and love the most.
The boy in this picture is from our second water stop. He had been trying to cling onto our teammate Nicole as she was trying to simultaneously hold the water hose and hold a child. When another little boy had tried to steal a woman’s bucket, the woman ripped it out of that boy’s hand. She flung the bucket backwards and this this boy square in the head. He immediately started crying. I’m so glad I saw the whole thing happen because none of the other people of Cite Soleil even flinched. This boy couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 years old and he had no one to console him while he cried. I would have been crying if I got hit in the head that hard with a bucket. I ran over to grab him as he held his hand to his head in pain. He cried for a while and eventually settled back down. These are just some of the little things that break my heart. When I hurt as a kid, and sometimes even now at 29… all I want is my mom.
We started out our day by making a trip to Apparent Project. It’s a shop that hires Haitians to make jewelry and other such metal and clay art. We go to see the behind the scenes of where and who makes these. This shop is amazing. I’d buy one of everything if I could!
After this, we travelled over to Juno’s orphanage. This. Is. My. Favorite! I was so looking forward to seeing the little boy Edmison who stole my heart back in March.
As we approached the orphanage and the gate opened, I kept looking for him. He’s easy to spot because he’s the littlest.
I couldn’t find him.
When we got off the tap tap, I kept looking around for him. I said hello to and hugged some other kids I remembered from the last trip. Still no Edmison though. Finally I asked a little girl Julie, who spoke relativelg good English. She said something I couldn’t understand, but I could tell we were both talking about the same little boy.
I grabbed Brunet, one of our translators, for help. He asked the girl where Edmison was, she said he was at the hospital. He was sick. And my heart absolutely sank. I keep praying for him everytime I think about him today. I know “minor illness” for us in the USA can be something life threatening for Haitians. I don’t know that this is the case for him, but either way, I pray his body heals fast for that sweet boy.
Despite this sad news for me right off the bat, we had such a fun time at Juno’s. The kids are all so sweet and so fun. It’s so fun to joke around with them. A young girl named Julie came up to me right away and I remembered her from my last trip! She was one of the girls painting my nails last time.
We brought stickers, markers and rolls of paper for the kids to draw on. And then we gave them the friendship bracelets Nicole had gotten from some kids back home that made them. They LOVED them.
The kids at Juno’s always sing for us. This makes me smile so much. When we did our nightly slideshow, as one of our teammates said “I don’t know who’s smiles are bigger in the pictures.” It’s so true. I think they give us even more reason to smile than we do for them.
Our final stop of the day was Gertrude’s orphanage. This is an orphanage for handicapped and physically disabled kids. Not an easy environment for most to feel super comfortable in.
But thank God it’s not about our comfort. These kids need human touch the most. We spent our time mostly wheeling kids around in their makeshift wheel chairs. (Some are made out of plastic lawn furniture, that’s been actioned into a wheelchair.) I found my main man Phonsley right away. It was so neat to see him again. I’m not sure what his exact disability is, but if I had to guess in my non-medical knowledge, I’d guess he has cerebral palsy. He’s not able to walk or hold himself up. He laughed as I bounced him around on my knee and loved zipping around in the wheel chair and “honking” at others who got in our way.
I got on the tap tap after Gertrude’s and I felt like everything had been zapped of me. I was sweaty, tired, hungry but so filled with joy from these kids.
We got home, ate an authentic Haitian dinner (my faaaavorite!! because: fried plantain) and then decided to go over to the nearby hotel to swim. We were able to take a few of the neighbor boys, one of them our good pal Dickinson — such a sweet kid! We had so much fun there, but mostly, I enjoyed watching the excitement of the boys as they got to come with us. We paid their way in and bought them cokes. They were just thrilled.
I hope to write more of my adventures while I’m here, but its busy busy busy. Friday is water truck again, and Saturday we take our trip to Grace Village. Please keep our team in your prayers that we continue to stay protected and healthy, as well as renew the health of a few of our team members