Our Trip to Haiti to Volunteer0
I had the opportunity to go with my mom and my daughters over Spring Break to Haiti with a group of 27 people that all came together through an organization called Child Hope. Other than our initial orientation last month, we are all just meeting each other for the first time. Below is a journal of our experience. It was a trip that created memories of a lifetime. It was also so special to watch my 13-year-old daughters engage and get so involved with helping. At the end of our week, they told me they would like to go there every year for Spring Break.
[Rachael] We left at midnight from LAX and took a flight to Miami and then on to Haiti. We landed at 3:00pm in Port au France.
When we arrived, Mr. Big took us to our “paddy wagon” and loaded all of us and our 50 pieces of luggage. The transportation is a large truck that is completely caged in. At first it looks uninviting but it is extremely practical and has great ventilation. It is very hot and humid here… 90+ degrees and 70% humidity. The roads are horrible…. You actually feel like you are on a roller coaster with all of the potholes. There is trash everywhere.
We arrived at the walled in and guarded “Guest House” tired, hot, and dirty and were welcomed by our house mom, Tammy Jo. It is a pretty, family style home. We were shown to our dorm rooms where we chose our bunk for the week. The bathrooms are standard but because of the water shortage, you only flush when necessary. I will not be washing my hair often because the water pressure is non existent as is the hot water and of course you cannot use the water to brush your teeth or rinse your toothbrush. Our beds feel a bit like a coffin with the low hanging mosquito netting but it is like being a kid again bunking with a bunch of ladies and having a slumber party.
I describe these conditions because of course it is not as comfortable as home however it is luxury compared to what we see on the streets. It is such a minor discomfort compared to what these families experience daily with a lack of food, homes and medical care. After unpacking, we had our orientation followed by a delicious Haitian dinner. Although we were all ready to pass out, sleep did not come easily with the heat. Tomorrow we will explore and learn more about the Haitian culture and the orphanage we are here to support.
[Rachael] Breakfast is at 8am promptly every morning. Now this was a bit confusing the first morning because although we all know there is a 3 hour time difference, we learned on the plane that Haiti does not do day light savings. So although all of our iPhones told us it was a 2 hour difference, we thought they were wrong. However we found out that the Haitian government decided on a whim after 7 years of doing things one way to switch to day light savings this year. Not a big deal for us but apparently it had caused some serious confusion with the airlines who had not been told at the time that there was a new schedule.
We headed out around 10am….
- 1st Stop – The Transition House
This is where the older kids from the orphanage spend time learning a trade so that when they graduate from the program, they have skills to go out on their own and get a job. They do silk screening, they build furniture, they sew, and they are now learning to weave. They are learning to manage bee hives. They are so open to learning new skills and the furniture they are making is impressive. Not only are they learning how to create, they are also learning how to value their product, their time, their materials so they can sell it. This program is so important because very few of these kids will have an opportunity to go to college. One young woman we met had just shown up the day before… She had tried to leave her baby at the orphanage because she has no money to support him. She was instead invited to come in and learn a trade so that she had a way to make money and in turn keep her child.
- 2nd Stop – Maison Luniere – The Lighthouse
This is a school created by Child’s Hope for the elementary aged children after the 2010 earthquake. With all of the schools being closed, they felt a need to get the kids back to their education. Kids from the orphanage attend the school as well as street kids. The street kids pay $12 a year and this is so that the families really commit to their child’s education. There has been a lot of thought and love put into creating this school. The walls are covered with children’s art work and each room is grade appropriate. [the older kids attend the local high schools and although the education is not the same, the kids are determined to graduate.] The Medical Clinic is also housed here. A small little area that is hot and stuffy and has 2 amazing American Nurses working in it. They take care of treating both the kids from the orphanage as well as some of the people from the street.
- 3rd Stop – The Girls Home
There are 20 girls ages 3-18 currently living in this home overseen by Haitian women. Each girl has her own bunk bed. The house is clean, bright and inviting. There is a framed picture on the wall of each girl.
- 4th Stop – The Boys Home
This home is directly across the street from the girls home and filled with 25 boys. We only were able too see the front because women are not allowed inside. Some of these children came from corrupt programs and orphanages where they were sexually abused so there is a huge sensitivity in how the homes are protected and the kids are cared for. We met a sweet little 4 year old boy here that we immediately connected with named Adonai. He had been brought in the night before by his uncle who said had been abandoned by his parents and that his sister had left him.
- They have to evaluate each child because although the desire to help everyone is there, they know they can only do so much. They want to make sure the children coming to the orphanage truly have no parent to rely on. Every place we went that is run by Child Hope is behind tall walls and guarded so that the children are constantly protected. Lunch… We lost our appetite a bit on our way home walking by the freshly slaughtered pig on the street that we could not help but see as we creatively navigated the deep mud puddles from last nights rain. We are loving the delicious fruit that they serve in abundance. After a little nap, we headed back out to spend time with the kids.
- 5th Stop – The Bends
This is a large cement area off to the side of the boys home that is used for recreation. There is basketball, soccer and volleyball being played between the kids and our group. Some of the kids borrow our iPhones fascinated by the games. Some of the children are shy while others come right up to you, hug you and just want to play. Although the native language is Creole, all the children are taught English and French so communicating with them is not difficult. Even though they do not have a single patch of grass in sight, that does not stop them from chasing the soccer ball in bare feet and being quite impressive with their skills. Dinner & Entertainment… Back to the house for some dinner and then we are off again to the Bends for an evening concert put on by several of the children that are learning how to play an instrument. This was so sweet. All of the children were present and singing and dancing. It is so sweet to see the way they look out for each other. That night we were around to cuddle them but what breaks your heart though are the toddlers who are yawning and sleepy with no mom’s lap to climb into.
Following the concert, we came back to the guest house and watched a CNN video done about Child’s Hope last year… I was even more awed by this amazing family that has dedicated their lives to these kids and what they did to help after the earthquake. http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/americas/04/19/wall.lighthouse/index.html
[Rachael] Today started with a church service that takes place at one of the schools. It is filled with NGO’s, Haitians, volunteers and worship is led by a Child Hope team.
Following the service, we had a wonderful Lunch hosted by Bill and Susette (CHI founders) in their home and really learned the history of how Child Hope was started. It is amazing how this family left the comforts of their home in the US with their kids to create a safe-haven for these children. What is even more impressive is how hard they have worked to create something sustainable both as an orphanage but also by providing them an education and then creating a way for them to learn vocational skills when they leave. Their goal is not to see all of these kids adopted but rather to create a sense of family for them so that they call it home and are nurtured into adulthood.because of this you do see children who are asking to leave but rather kids who take care of each other.
Bill, Susette, their volunteers and crew were here during the earthquake and they had to turn one of their homes into a triage for hundreds of injured people. It is amazing to hear the stories of the people they helped and those they had to turn away because of lack of food and medical supplies. The afternoon was spent getting to know everyone in our group and a visit to the Bends to hang out with the kids followed by dinner and a meeting every night to discuss the days experience.
We have had so much rain every night that the people that live in the “Tent City” are being washed out so once again Susette steps forward and is taking the kids into her home that have nowhere to sleep at night until the rain ends. Our group is taking night shifts to stay with the kids in her home as well.
Tent City is only a few blocks from here but is where the poorest of the poor live literally living in make-shift tents with mud floors. Ivans who is a Haitian wears many hats including going into Tent City and finding families that need help.
[Whitney & Ashley] On Monday we got busy… I scrubbed the floors in the guest house in the morning and my sister went to the school and organized their small library of books and my mom helped with the Transition program. Then we went to watch the kids for recess. We sat with them and they braided my hair.
Then we went to the feeding program where we handed out food and played with the kids.We also gave out toothpaste and toothbrushes and glasses that we brought with us. The FEEDING PROGRAM is where 150 street kids can go to get food three days a week: Monday, Wednesday, Friday. These are kids that are not in the orphanage but who may not have parents around and are not being fed on a regular basis.
After the feeding program we went into the TENT CITY. This is an area created after the earthquake for all those without anywhere to live. They are tents with dirt floors and when it rains at night, some of them flood. It was so sad to see how all of these people live each day. While we were there, we played with some of the kids that live there. They loved the attention.
After the tent city I went over to the Manesserro’s (founders) house to watch some tent city kids who had rain water rushing through their tent and had nowhere to sleep that night. Three of them were running high fevers and all of them had conjunctivitis but one had it so bad her eye was swollen shut. We got the doctor and nurses in our group and gave them medicine and bathed them but I was up most of the night listening to them cry.
[Whitney & Ashley] On Tuesday I woke up and stayed to help with the sick kids. Most of the day was spent at the girls house interacting with the kids.
When the other group got back from the Tent City, the doctor and I heard that the family that we took care of was sick again so we went to take care of them in the Tent City… we bathed the two sick ones but luckily the other two had gotten better.
[Whitney & Ashley] On Wednesday, we went with with the two nurses and doctor to see other areas which included an even larger Tent City which was huge and
stretched for miles with over thirty-thousand people living there.When we got there we noticed their were little houses and Euphriam our driver told us that a private organization was building tiny houses and relocating people from their tents which was very good news. When we were done looking at the tent city we went to Euphriams house and he showed us around telling us that he wished that their was no roof and just metal sheet because he was scared that if their was another earthquake that the roof would collapse on him.
After lunch, we headed over to the slums to pray for a family. In Haiti, the houses are the nicest, then it is the tent cities and at the bottom is the slums. In the slums people are so poor that teenagers walk
around naked and there are slave children (having child slaves and
abusing children is legal).
[Whitney & Ashley] On Thursday we went up to the mountain where Child Hope wants to buy a piece of property it is beautiful on the mountain side and it is cool unlike the stifling city. When we got to the little piece of property, there were vegetables growing and farm animals. We rode in the back of a truck which would not be legal in the states. As I looked on the road, there were street vendors and caved in houses and it made me sad. I learned that day that Haitian people who practice voodoo believe twins are bad luck so they take one and put food on it or put it in a pile of trash so that wild pigs will eat them. I learned that the Haitian government is really corrupt and that they do not do much to enforce the laws so there is no sense of feeling safe. I learned that they have the law that was made under Papa-Docks rule which is if someone does something to you, you can do anything back.
On Friday we said our goodbyes. We are going to miss all of our new friends.
While we were in Haiti we learned…
[Whitney & Ashley]
Many Haitians hate animals and there are so many stray dogs.
Haitians are really loud so when they argue it is kind of scary.
When you are in Haiti you smile and people smile back
it is rude if you don’t say hello (bonjour) while walking past some one.
The native language is Creole which is a little like a slang version of French.
Haitian roads are super scary. It takes a really long time to get places because there are very few rules of the road and there are so many potholes and very few street signs.
Many kids have so much love which is amazing because they have nothing.
I learned that I want to be a nurse and go back to Haiti to help.
All the boys we met are such gentlemen.
PEOPLE WE MET…
[Whitney & Ashley]
Jeff: a street kid who said he loved me like a best friend
Adonai: a little boy that arrived at the orphanage while I was there and I wanted to adopt him.
Eddy: a street kid who translated for us
T-Junior: a kid who was recently adopted into the orphanage is father is crazy and poured boiling water on his baby sister and killed her and his mom died, he was the sweetest.
T-She: a cutie that flirted with me
Wilson [AKA: T-U]: the cutest brothers whose mom was killed in the earthquake.
Jonas: a very reserved teenager
Estelline: the cutest 4 years old who was a growth problems
Bill and Sussete Manessero: the Founders of child hope
Ariana Manessero [their daughter] The girl who created Child Hope because of a vision at nine years old
Kenny: the funniest little boy who always wanted my iPod and was the Manesseros adopted son
Tami-Joe: the manager of the guesthouse
Cindy: the boy’s home “mom”
Franny: the Manesseros adopted daughter
Peter, Jenny, Joy, Jeffry, Sarah, Dr. Tom, Dr. Eddie, Rusty, Rebecca, Rachael, Kathy, Ashley, Whitney, Tracy, Laurie, Marina, Mary, Angelo, Andrew, Sherry, Rick, Katherine, Christine, Dag, John, Kirsten, Jane.