I can say with confidence that of the three international mission trips I’ve been on with AGCI (the first one being to Ethiopia in 2008 and the second to Haiti in 2011), this one was my favorite.
On this particular trip we went to a different orphanage than on my first trip to Haiti. This time we were up in the mountains in a town called Petionville, about an hour out of Port-au-Prince. The orphanage is called Rivers of Hope and is run by Rachel, a native Haitian woman who has a strong personality and a strong heart, and cares deeply for each child. There are two homes: one is for ages 0-3 and the other is for ages 4-7.
We split our time well between practical projects that needed doing, and caring for and loving on the kids. One of our main projects was to create a play area for the kids in their space outdoors. We didn’t quite see that one completed, but there was a lot of backbreaking labor and at least one broken shovel that went into digging a trench for the cinder blocks to make a closed-in area. One project was to build a changing table that provided more space for diaper changes. Another project was building a play table for the kids that was immediately used and crayon-scarred. The guys also built a half-wall and a gate to separate the babies room from the toddlers room so they didn’t have to use a couch anymore. Our new friend, Jerry, from Arkansas, built some shelves in several closets throughout the home to allow better storage space. Greg, Paul, Katie and I all worked on organizing different parts of the storage room to cut down on time spent looking for specific toys or clothing.
There was a physical therapist from the Midwest who has been working with these kids for quite some time now and on the first night she told us a lot about how important it is for these kids to have physical touch. All day every day for them is spent in an orphanage where they have four to five caretakers who also have the responsibility of making their meals, constantly changing diapers, hand washing laundry, etc. After all this, as you can imagine, very little time is left for one-on-one contact that every child needs. So part of what we did there was give them just that. Even when there were three or four kids piled on one lap at a time, it was still significant for them to have a sitting lap to pile onto at all.
During my time in Haiti I enjoyed many things. I had a great time with the team having meaningful conversations, great mouse hunts, laughing really hard, and serving alongside each other. I love the sweet little kiddos and the laughter and joy they bring. I enjoy feeling useful and getting things done that are helpful long term. I admired the beauty of the country itself and the intricate artwork the Haitians create. I even loved the crazy ride to church in the bed of a truck with 15 other people going down one side of the hill into a valley up the other side. It was all great. But at the end of the day when I come home, those kids are still living their day-to-day life. They are excited to go to the doctor or hospital because that’s the only time they leave the orphanage. Several of their parents’ have brought them to the orphanage because they know they have a better chance of survival there.
So what hope is there then? I know this: God is good and He has commanded us to care for the orphans (James 1:27). Maybe you can’t adopt (or maybe you can!), but there are still ways. One way is to sponsor a child. What a sponsorship does is provide money so that the child can be better cared for. Ideally, if each child is sponsored, the orphanage can hire more nannies, keep up the home much better, pay for food, doctor bills, etc. Click here for more information and kids you can sponsor. Some of us live paycheck to paycheck, but some of them live meal to meal. You can also pray. Remember to lift up these kids and this nation up to God. You can also go and do similar things that I did.