Monday, March 14, 2016

Haiti 2016 - Day 3

Day 3, Friday, though it's impossible to actually pick, was probably one of my favorite days. 

Friday the guys spent most of their time shoveling sand. I cannot tell you how hard these men worked! Seriously, they would take turns rotating through shoveling the sand, I'm not positive but I think I heard 6 minutes on 6 minutes off at one point (?). It was hot and sunny, but regardless of how hot or sore they got, all of them pitched in and gave it their all, not only in sifting and shoveling the sand but also in finding anything and everything they could to be helpful and useful. 

As the days ticked by, it was hard, to not get frustrated by the circumstances but the guys never let that give them an excuse to do nothing. They were there for a reason, and they knew that, even if they weren't sure exactly what the Lord had in mind. 

Friday morning, because the kids were off of school (due to Mardi Gras), we decided to visit the orphanage to hand out the pillow case dresses and underwear to the boys and girls there. We also wanted to make home visits to some of the sponsored students of those who were on the trip as well as those who were specifically sent gifts and letters from their sponsors. 

We loaded up the truck with everything we would need - suitcases full of dresses, underwear, backpacks filled with trinkets and treats for each kid, family care packages and reusable feminine products. As we were headed out (literally backing out of the compound) a couple of the families that we had on our list to visit walked in. 

One of the boys, Cene, is sponsored by Shaun (who was there in Haiti) and his family. Shaun had met his sponsored student the year before when he was in Haiti. His family had put together a package for him and we had a family package for his family. Cene came with his mother. 

There were two other sponsored students there, one with his mom, the other with her dad.

We handed out their gifts from their sponsors, family care packages, underwear for the boys, pillow case dresses for the girls, as well as reusable feminine packages to the women.

I have to insert here how amazing our translators were. Seriously. We had brought LOTS of reusable women's products with us, and we not only needed to hand them out but we also needed to explain how to use them. I would say the majority of the women didn't realize exactly how to use and care for the products, so the explanation part was crucial. 
Both of our translators were male. 
They were both helpful and gracious, making this process relatively painless and as comfortable as they could (for all of us). 

After spending a little time with the families, we continued on our way to the orphanage. Several of the men came along as well to help hand things out and to assist with "crowd control".

(The road up to the school and orphanage) 

Once we got to the orphanage, we had the kids line up in two lines - boys and girls. I was surprised to realize that there were more boys in the orphanage than girls. 

We had the translators go down the line and write the name of each child on their new bags. 

Inside of each of the bags were bubbles, sun glasses, hair clips, glider planes, jump ropes, balls, candy, toothbrushes, cars, raisins and crackers. 

Our hope was to give each orphan something that they could each call "their own", they have so few possessions and we wanted each of them to have something for themselves. 

We then went down the line and gave each girl a pillow case dress, and each boy 2 pair of underwear. 

The kids were beyond excited. I was worried that the boys wouldn't be as excited about getting underwear as the girls were about their dresses, but that was not the case at all. The boys were possibly even more excited!! 

Most of them were very grateful, it was hard to keep it together, emotionally. I felt so humbled at having the privilege to hand out these dresses made by women far more talented than I am who spent time not only sewing the dresses but also praying for each and every girl that would be receiving them. 

At one point, after each of the girls had received a dress, a little girl, who couldn't have been much older than 5 or 6 walked up to Tim who was standing next to me, she placed her hand on his side and looked up at him (she was so small standing next to his 6'2" frame), he looked down at her and smiled and she said in the sweetest voice "merci" (which means Thank You). Tim looked up at me, both of us with tears in our eyes.... it was one of the sweetest moments I experienced there. 

Almost every kid had said "Merci" when they were handed their new clothing, but for this little girl to seek one of us out, afterwards and to say Thank you, again.... it was genuine and sincere. We were so blessed by that moment. 

(The girls were able to look at pictures of the ladies who had gotten together to make their dresses, they were excited when they could find their dresses among all the others on the rack!)

Lavaud had come up to me later and told me what a blessing the dresses and underwear were for the orphanage. They had had new clothes in the budget for the students but had needed to cut it due to some other unexpected expenses. The clothes were an answer to prayer for the orphanage. God fulfilled a need without us ever realizing the need was there.

After handing out the dresses, we were able to spend a little time at the orphanage and play with some of their new toys. 

(Here the girls are showing me where they sleep)

It was in these moments that I really began to fall in love with the kids at the orphanage. The more time I would spend with them, the better I got to know them. I began recognizing their faces and their names (which is not my strong suit). Each and every one of them was full of life, with their own personalities. I felt especially connected to Dienaylo've (the girl in the red) who always seemed to find me and stick near my side. 

(We always got a nice "send off" anytime we would leave)

We left a little before noon to visit a few sponsored students before lunch. 

The first house we stopped by was near the school. We dropped off the gift sent by the sponsors as well as some of the other goodies we had with us (dresses, underwear, feminine products, etc.) 

The second house we stopped by happened to be the family that Tim and I sponsor. We sponsor twins, the same age as our daughter Alexa, a boy and a girl.

They lived quite a ways from the school. We were told later it was about a 30 minute walk. 

The twins, Sterlin and Sterine, are the oldest children in the family, they have 2 younger siblings. Their dad was very grateful and friendly, the mom was also grateful but far more reserved and quiet. 

The hardest part about the home visits is the unexpectedness. There are no home phones in Haiti, so it's not like they knew we were coming. As we walked up to the Damus home, the mom and our sponsored kids were in the house getting dressed in their Sunday best. They had about 15 seconds before they realized we were coming and they used it the best they could. Mom was busy brushing Sterine's hair, and had asked that we not take pictures until she was done. 

The sponsored families realize the importance of their sponsors and they want to do their best respecting the visits and the people who are coming. They don't have much, but they are hospitable, they usually would pull out a plastic chair for us to sit down at. 

Sterlin, the young boy we sponsor was smiley and outgoing. 

Sterine was shy, but did her best to follow her brother's lead in talking with us (through the translator). 

The entire family was a joy to meet. We had brought a bag of items for each of the kids. 
Sterlin got a soccer ball, shorts & a shirt, stickers, shoes, underwear, a pump, candy and snacks. 
Sterine got a family of dolls, stickers, a dress, underwear, shoes, candy and snacks. 

Both kids had huge smiles on their faces as they began to go through their bags. I think Sterlin was most excited about the soccer ball. 

The Damus family lived in a very quiet area compared to most of the other houses we visited. It was slightly more rural. We learned while we were there the family rents their home and that the dad was a wood worker, he builds furniture and does wood carvings. 

Saturday afternoon, after lunch, the ladies and our two translators decided to take a walk through downtown Hinche to see more of the area. 

We saw the justice building, the library, the catholic church, the supermarket and the park. 

I really enjoyed being able to see the area a little more. It's amazing to me the way things work there. How they do the things that they do. 

Everything seems different, most of the time harder, but they make it work. 

It functions for them, even if it isn't the most efficient or latest and greatest way of doing things. 

The sense of community in Haiti (though I really can only speak of Hinche) is much higher than anything I've seen here in the states. People don't just hang out at home or spend their time watching TV. People are out and about, not necessarily working, but socializing for sure. You don't have people walking around with their noses in their smart phones, they're always present. 

In some ways, you would think they wouldn't have the access to one another the way that we do (with all of our social media), but the opposite seems to be true. As we walked down the streets with our translators people they knew would walk up to them and shake their hands and talk, it may seem obvious and simple but it actually made me realize how little you see that here. 

Physical touch in Haiti is also much higher than in the States. It is not uncommon for two male friends to walk down the street holding hands (and for them to be "just" friends). They walk closer together. The sit closer together (which is shocking to me considering the heat). Hugs are common. Holding hands is common. 

It wasn't uncomfortable, but it was different. 
I enjoyed it. It made you feel and realize the sense of community and friendship that is present there, and it's something I wish we had more of here. 

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