Revelife editor-in-chief Rebecca just returned from a week-long mission trip to Haiti. This week, she will share with you a taste of what she experienced and learned.
"I am on a plane, across a distant sea, but I carry you with me."
-- Brooke Fraser, "Albertine"
When I originally considered the opportunity to go to Haiti, one of the things that tugged at my heart was a picture of a little Haitian baby. So innocent, having never chosen to be born in a place so desolate. I envisioned the children they show on those commercials asking you to spend a dollar a day to feed a child. They look so sad, and they cry while their bellies expand from extreme starvation. I prepared myself to see these things, fully believing that this was what I would encounter.
But the children of Haiti are just like the children here. They don't sit around moping, feeling sorry for themselves. They want to be loved and given attention. They want someone to kick a soccer ball their direction, or to chase bubbles and jump ropes. They giggle and laugh and even get a little catty sometimes -- things you could easily expect from an American child.
The closest we got to children who resembled those in the aforementioned commercials were at the Matthew 28 orphanage. While the children are fed and sheltered, not all of them were clothed. It was quite a surprise to get off the bus and see little Haitian baby bottoms running around the play yard, but once you get to know the little ones, you find they are just like any child. And they craved affection! It's amazing to me how bright a child's eyes can get just because of a little hug. Such a beautiful sight.
We were lucky enough to be able to spend time with children at two other places: New Life Orphanage in Port-au-Prince and Kris Sel Espwa, a Catholic school for children in Bohoc, Haiti.
New Life is like an oasis in Port-au-Prince. On the other side of the gate, cars are honking, animals are roaming the streets and chaos is pretty much everywhere. One step into New Life, and you're greeted by the site of a gigantic mango tree, underneath it a circle of benches on which sit the children of New Life. Although many of the children at New Life are healthy, the orphanage has a special ministry for the children who are the most difficult to take care of: the orphaned handicapped. Several children are wheelchair-bound, suffering from cerebral palsy, autism and other various health problems. They arrive malnourished and are nursed to health with great care and compassion.
Kris Sel Espwa (Christ is Hope), while not an orphanage, still plays a very important role in the education and future of the children of Haiti. This Catholic school works to give children of all ages the basic education required for higher education. They are taught in French -- rather than the local dialect of Haitian kreyol -- and many also learn some English. These are important lessons for children to learn early so they can be accepted into other schools in the future.
Outside of the classes, the children of Kris Sel Espwa are so unbelievably normal. I distinctly remember Ruben, a boy who spoke surprisingly good English, asking me my name and then following me around the school as we spent time with the children, insisting that he
needed to translate for me. He's an ornery kid, but his intellect and education will get him far. He's the future of Haiti, and he seems to be off to a good start.
When we were leaving Kris Sel Espwa for the last time, the children sang to us a good-bye song which brought tears to my eyes. Here I was, with every intent to serve these children and love them as deeply as I could, and they were serving me instead by appreciating me, thanking me and loving me in return. It was more than I ever could have expected.
I love these children because they are not so unlike ours, but they are at a disadvantage. Education isn't always easy to attain, and many schools receive countless applications for the few spots they have open. My hope for these children is that all of them will one day receive the highest possible education and begin to invest their knowledge into the villages they came from, much like those who returned home after the earthquake have done. They are the future of Haiti and the hope for a better life.Have you ever spent time with children on a mission trip? What did you do? How did it affect your perspective on children in impoverished cultures?