It smells like bug spray. We must be camping, or in Haiti. There are similarities: lack of electricity, lack of internet connection, and lack of potable water. This is my first mission trip. I’ve been involved in many ministries but never before have I paid to travel to a foreign country to help others.
I didn’t see it coming but when my kids jumped at the chance to go on a mission trip to Haiti with Poverty Resolutions, because they wanted to help people, I was both surprised and full of joy at their desire. Although all of the kids wanted to go we decided that I would take Josh, our 16 year old, and Caroline, our 14 year old, since we had no idea how we would pay for it. Immediately the three of us were all-in.
Fast forward about two months.
Saturday and Sunday.
After a day of travel, we’re there. The sweating began and didn’t stop until we got back to the states. Shortly after my alarm went off on our first morning in Haiti, a rooster started crowing outside of our bathroom window. I’m not sure why, but he never came back on subsequent mornings. Maybe he was somebody’s dinner. There was large pig that we passed every day on our way to and from our work site. By the end of the week he wasn’t there. Maybe he was someone's dinner too.
While I was shopping for supplies for this trip I decided to buy some first aid medicine and equipment and throw in some of what I had at home including: a thermometer, tweezers, Benedryl, Band-Aids, bandages, Neosporin, anti-itch cream, etc. On Sunday, the first full day at the resort, we were swimming in the sea during our break time and Josh Stepped. On. A. Sea. Urchin. After wiping off his foot I counted eight imbedded spines from it. He was in a ton of pain which, thankfully, decreased significantly after a few minutes. Josh is the one who discovered Stinging Nettles when first moved to Germany when he was 8 years old.
I tried to get the Urchin-Spines out like I would a splinter but they kept breaking off and I couldn’t grasp them. One of hotel staff, who didn’t speak English, smashed lime guts all over the wounded site and told us to wait. No further instructions. His foot started to get red and swell so I gave him Benedryl and texted my husband to see if he could Google whether or not I had to try to extract the barbed spines. After many texts and a phone call the consensus was that I could leave them in but it’s recommended to use shaving cream and a razor to smooth the tips off and then the skin will absorb them. Google said he should be fine as long as he doesn’t get an infection. Yes, try to avoid having to seek medical care in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Monday was first official work day. We had a day of rest on Sunday because that’s what the Haitians do and we wanted to be considerate of their culture. Volunteers either chose to play with kids at the orphanage or help build benches. I pretty much have the whole how-to-play-with-kids thing figured out and I really wanted to learn how to do something so I went directly to the benches to get my hands on a drill and some screws. Our group built three eight foot benches on the first day and five more on the second. By the second day I knew the design of the bench and how to put it together. I learned how to use a power drill to pre-drill holes for screws, change drill bits and tips, and screw and unscrew with the drill. At home I can barely finish chewing a piece of food before someone needs me for something, and in Haiti, I. Finished. Something.
Tuesday and Wednesday.
|The church/school where we had VBS.|
One of the other team members arranged to have a Vacation Bible School for the kids in the local village while we were on our trip. VBS is something I’ve volunteered for many times and I wasn’t eager to volunteer for yet one more. However, I thought I could help with the intent to learn to how to organize and run a VBS- something else I could learn how to do. Now I know how to pull a two day VBS for 200 kids out of a suitcase.
|The Boy Who Shared His Food|
The pivotal moment of our trip occurred on Wednesday afternoon. As a few of us sat outside at the orphanage one and two year old children sat at the table on the porch eating their rice-and-bean lunch. Tim, a 16 year old team member, asked one of the boys how it tasted and then he mimed his question hoping that would translate to the toddler who only spoke Haitian-Creole. Immediately the little guy scooped up a generous spoonful of his meal and offered it to Tim. The boy never gets seconds and he offered some of what he had without hesitation. It was the perfect picture of heaven where there is a ton a food and everyone shares. The antithesis is a picture of hell where there may be a ton of food but everyone fights over it and no one eats. Heaven was portrayed right there in that Haitian orphanage.
|One and two year old children are sent out to the porch from nap time where they sit and wait for lunch.|
Thursday brought another new experience. As a retired nurse I was interested in Haitian medical care so I went to the village medical clinic with another nurse and his wife who were also part of my team. We watched a doctor treat many patients in the tiny, unpretentious, cinder-block building. Common complaints included fever, heart burn, and high blood pressure symptoms. One 34 year old woman came in from the mountain. It must have taken her hours if she came by foot down a rocky mountain path on the hot sun. She said she has six kids and her baby was at the orphanage.
|The Medical Clinic|
|One of four exam rooms.|
Because I have six kids I felt a connection and I asked which orphanage her baby was in. The doctor translated that her child was at the orphanage where our team was helping...where I was holding babies and playing with kids the day before. I asked her what the baby’s name was. She said Ashley. Ashley? Beautiful Ashley. I saw her yesterday. My teammate next to me had a picture of her on her camera in her hand. Would the mom want to see the picture? Would she want to know her baby was okay? As my teammate and I looked at each other wondering, the doctor assessed and released her. She was gone.
The children in the orphanages are destined to spend every day in the orphanage until they become an adult. Nannies take care of the kids but they come and go and they are not moms to the children. They are care takers.
That night I found out that Haiti will start letting Americans adopt Haitian orphans next year. Our family went through the entire adoption process a few years ago but we moved out of the country before we had children placed in our home. Maybe we can adopt Ashley. Maybe we can adopt Samuel or one of the sets of twins. Or maybe Baelan. He is the sweet 5 year old I held and played with that day who loved the attention because normally be he just stands or sits outside on a slab of cement with no toys and no mom.
The next morning was our last work day. We had one hour at the orphanage. I waited for the nannies to bring Ashley out but they never did. I don’t know why. I spent a few minutes playing with Baelan and he just wanted to sit on my lap and play with my cell phone. He cried when I had to get up to go. Did you know that it’s possible to fall in love with a child who isn’t yours in less than 24 hours? It is.
After a day of travel and a lifetime of memories, we’re home.
If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one. ~Mother Theresa
How can the poorest country in the Western
Hemisphere get out of poverty?