The Recap.

I am sorry it has taken so long for me to blog about my past trip. This is a long one so get comfortable. 

Traveling to Haiti has quickly become a part of me. The excitement that fills me as I prepare to travel and the anticipation of when I will be back have become very familiar feelings. This past trip was different though…this trip provoked emotions within me that I have never felt before.

The countdown began. I was one week out from traveling to my favorite place in the world to be with the most amazing children and to see individuals again that I now call my friends. The WhatsApp messages were rolling in, donations were packed and goals were set; I was as ready as I could possibly be. A few days before leaving I had a conference call with the group joining me in Haiti and that is when everything got really real. I was going to lead these people in a foreign country…I was going to show them around, be their point of contact and coordinate our daily activities. WOAH. I started reflecting as the departure day got closer, “What was I thinking??” Prior to leaving I was filled with anxiety and for those of you that think you know me well you might think that I am an extrovert. I love talking with families on the phone, sharing stories and really getting to know everyone. However, news alert, I am not an extrovert at all. But, I looked at this opportunity as a growing experience; A chance to raise awareness, connect with new people over a cause and country that I care so much about, and a chance to impact those around me.

With all of these thoughts and emotions swimming through my head I boarded the plane in Austin, TX with a final destination of Port Au Prince, Haiti.

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The plane began descending and as I peered out the window I felt at ease. I was back. I exited the airport and hopped in the back of the truck. I felt the hot sun beaming on my face as we drove through town and headed to the guesthouse. I could barely sit still–I was so excited to see the kids and get to work.

I unloaded my things at the guesthouse, changed and immediately headed out to one of the orphanages. This particular orphanage is small and has very limited funding. The children always seem happy, well fed and loved by their caretakers but their needs are mighty. The orphanage has two floors and around 30 children. I gave the orphanage director supplies for the kids and we discussed projects that needed completed around the facility. This orphanage does not have much outside help and doing anything so much as putting new paint on this walls is extremely expensive. We headed outside to the porch to talk more and a little one followed behind us. The children began peering around the corner seeming to wonder who we were and what we were doing there. Now, most orphanages in Haiti that do have outside assistance the children react to newcomers in a very different way. They may run up to you, yelling “blan!” or do anything they can to grab your attention. They want someone to pay attention to them, play with them and interact. However, because these specific children are not used to new people they were shy and more reserved. And, after the many of orphanages I have spent time in this was almost unfamiliar because it is not the norm of a Haitian orphanage. The little one that followed us onto the porch stood by my chair holding onto the arm. He was about three years old and was sucking his thumb and occasionally rubbing his eyes. This sweet and curious little boy eventually climbed into my lap and as I began rocking him back and forth while speaking to the creche director he quickly fell asleep. In all the chaos that is Haiti, I often find a lot of peace and this right here, was one of those moments.

We traveled back to the guesthouse and I prepared for the group to arrive the next day. I reviewed flight itineraries and the schedule, drenched myself in mosquito spray and went to sleep.

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I woke up early full of excitement for everyone to arrive. I got dressed, headed down stairs for some traditional Haitian oatmeal (my favorite!) and headed over to the orphanage to start some projects while I waited for the group to arrive. Trip after trip we went to the airport and just like that everyone was here. IMG_1468.jpg

That night as we all ate dinner for the first time together, reviewed our purpose for all being here, the vision of the trip and the schedule for the week.

Day one. Day two. Day three.

The trip was officially in full swing. Everyone filled up their water bottles and we headed out to the orphanage. I honestly felt so powerful. All of the anxieties and worries I had before were completely gone. My group was here and I was leading them around Haiti. I had prayed night after night about this and God guiding me and us through this experience and I knew that no matter what might come up in the trip I was not alone–I had Him.  We walked through the orphanage gates and many “bonjours” were exchanged. The kids saw us and screams came from all directions. This alone can sometimes be the most overstimulating part of the trip. Walking up to the orphanage everyday and especially the first day. This is what the kids wait for…for groups to come to hold them, rock them, throw a ball across the courtyard, talk to them and love on them. This is their norm and it is all they know until they are reunified with their families or a forever family is found for them. And, sometimes, this is all they will ever know. This is the sad reality of not just orphaned children in Haiti but orphaned children all over the world. For some of these kids, the only way they will ever know to truly love will be a very surface level definition of love. Yes, they may remember you trip after trip and some of the kids may eventually attach to you but you always leave and this is something they have become very accustomed to. We continued walking through the orphanage and I introduced various kids to the group and showed them around. We also had the privilege of having a family join us that was there meeting their child for the first time. In the past three years of working in adoption I had never been given a chance to see a child and a family meet for the first time and this experience shook me to the core. I saw a family who had been praying for this child for 5 years finally see him walk through the doors of the orphanage and as I looked back at the family they starting falling to their knees. Tears were streaming down their faces and as I looked back at the little boy I was instantly reminded of why all of us who call ourselves orphan warriors do what we do. This little boy would soon be pulled out of an institution and placed in a family that would support him, love him and cheer him on everyday and that is why we do what we do. Now, as moved as the family was the little boy was confused. He had seen many of his friends have families come and he understood the process to an extent but they are always in awe/shock when someone has come for them. He was walking closer and closer towards the family and went straight to mom and gave her a hug. I think the reason this experience was so meaningful to me was not just because it was full circle and I was finally getting to see the whole picture but because as the little boy embraced his mom and I looked around at the other family members I could see the pain in their eyes, the joy, the love—every emotion they had experience together for the past 5 years. As the week went on I got to see this family become more and more of a family unit–a forever family if you will.

This was great for the group to see throughout the week too because they got to see more into the adoption world and advocacy efforts. We headed off to start on some projects and thought we would tackle the classrooms first. Then we moved onto the rebuilding the kitchen wall and worked on these projects for the next two days with exploring a little bit of Haiti in between. Throughout the week I saw the adoptive parents on the trip really start to connect to one another and conversations started happening involving widening age ranges, opening up to sibling groups and their ideals of what they thought they wanted in an adoption began to change as they met more and more kids and saw the needs of Haiti. From doing manual labor in the orphanage, to taking supplies to another, seeing the beach, eating pizza in Haiti and spending countless hours riding around in the back of a truck it was a quick glimpse into the country that has grown so dear to my heart and experience that I was so grateful to finally share with others.

A quote from one of the group members about her experience:

“Our orphan care trip was an indescribable experience that one can only appreciate by visiting.  The smells, the sounds, the touch of holding a child’s hand are experiences so unique to the orphanage and the island that they very quickly intensified the love I have for the child we have yet to bring into our family.  I cannot tell you how highly I recommend putting your trust and making this trip a reality, prior to your prospective match.  My ONLY reservation is, candidly, if you think you are anxious now about the length of this process prior to homecoming, just wait until you experience the love and gratitude for your visit in each any every child’s eyes.  It was a few days for the orphans, but it will last a lifetime for us.  It’s an experience that has changed our lives for the better, especially as an adoptive family to one of Haiti’s littlest blessings.”

If you have ever felt called to a place, a country, a cause…go explore it–discover that feeling. There is a reason you are being called in that direction. That is how I always felt about Haiti and now there is a reason that I am always saying, “see you later” and never just, “goodbye.” 

 

Trip number two is coming…won’t you join me?

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Haiti

I’m riding in the back of a truck and the smells, busy streets and constant honking always make me feel at home–as if I have lived a life before this one in Haiti.

But, this experience has been different for me. The group is all leaving today and I did feel somewhat anxious about how this would all pan out. Do I remember how to get to the guesthouse from the orphanage? Will they like what I have planned? Will the group get along? These thoughts swarmed through my head as I was waiting for everyone to arrive. Day one came and went and the rest of the days followed. Everyone was enjoying the activities and loving Haiti.

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I have never felt more joy than I have this week. I have had the opportunity to share something with an entire group that I am so passionate about and help ignite that fire in them as well.

Haiti is a special place and in my opinion you can’t even describe it–you have to experience it.

I will blog more about this week and what all has happened soon!

Third Annual Haiti Holidays!

Can you believe it is that time of year again?! Haiti Holidays is up and running for the third year in a row and I am so excited to see what these next two months bring! If you have been following my journey then you might remember some of the photos below.

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{First Haiti Holidays}

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{Second Haiti Holidays}

As much as we have appreciated receiving donations over the past couple of years, the amount of supplies has grown so much, that we no longer have a place to store items until I travel. So, this year we are asking only for monetary donations and gift cards (Walmart, Target, Amazon) that way I can purchase items before my trips and pack them up immediately. I am headed back to Haiti on November 30th so any gift cards or monetary donations that I receive prior to this trip will be used to purchase peanut butter, flip flops, medicine, formula, diapers and powdered milk. If there is something specific you are wanting to donate please contact me prior to mailing the item/s to our office so I can make sure we have space!

You can also order a Haiti Holidays t-shirt (via the link below) which helps give back to the orphanages as well. The saying on the back of the shirt is in creole and means, “Some things are worth the wait.” The shirts are available for purchase starting today (November 1st) until December 1st.

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Haiti Holidays Shirt!

The donation drive will run from today (November 1st) until January 1st.

As always, thank you for helping me, help them! #haitiholidays 

 

 

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I stepped off the plane and it was just how I remembered except this time I was alone. As I entered the immigration area I was pushed and shoved as individuals tried to get green forms and get in line to exit the airport. An overwhelming feeling came over me and I thought, “Can I do this? Can I really do this trip by myself?” I put a forced smile on my face and got in line to hand off my form and exit the airport. As I got on the escalator (that typically does not work) I felt the heat of Haiti hit my face. It was all so surreal. I was back in a place that felt so comforting but yet so foreign all at the same time. As I made it over to the baggage area my mind began racing wondering if someone was going to be outside to pick me up and how I would find them in the large crowd. Filled with anxiety I continued through the airport towards the exit. And, just like that I saw a familiar face and all of the mixed feelings I felt previously were gone. I knew I was supposed to be here and I was beyond excited for this new avanti.

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This second trip to Haiti was not only about adoption but it was also about finding comfort in being alone in another country. So comfortable that I would soon be able to lead my own group in Haiti.  I want to help bring awareness to a cause that many people do not know about, I want to show individuals another culture and I want to present an opportunity to be completely selfless.  This has been a dream of mine since my first trip.

Am I nervous to lead an entire group in a foreign country where I am not fluent in the local language? Absolutely. But, I feel like this has been my calling for a long time and instead of letting fear hold me back, I am letting go and letting God lead me.

{Pslam 46:5}

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Won’t you join me? December 1-5, 2017.

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*avanti- creole word for adventure 

 

the ripple effect.

Have you ever heard the phrase “the ripple effect” and how one thing that you do can create a chain reaction for other individuals and ultimately impacts those around you? That is exactly what ended up happening for two girls living in Haiti through my discovery of one simple photo on our server…..


I stumbled across this photo one day on our server while I was still working in the dossier department and had no idea at the time that one day I would be taking over the Haiti program. I remember turning to my co-worker who had worked here for several years and asking about them. When she did not know much of their story I walked down to the CAN room to ask the current Haiti case manager more about their story.

I am not sure what is was but this photo, the one you see below,  is the exact photo I found two and a half years ago. This photo forever changed my life and eventually ended up changing theirs…

Djolanda & Medjina

As I walked down to the CAN room and began asking questions about these two girls some statements were made to me that broke me to the core. “They have been available for adoption for a while but not many families want to adopt older children”, “if families want to adopt from Haiti they want little ones because you can still get young children from Haiti.” I walked back down to my office and could not get over what I had just heard. Families adopted older children all the time. I knew this because I was the one doing the paperwork for the adoptions. I saw it all the time and why had no one moved forward with them? Days passed and even months passed and I was constantly checking to see if they had found a family and the answer was always no. Everyday I prayed for these girls and asked God to bring them a forever family. The family I knew they deserved. I still did not know much about them but ever since I first saw that photo I could not get them out of my head.

Six months had passed since I started working in dossier and I found myself at a standstill. I had always worked in direct care so moving into an office type setting was hard and I was really starting to miss working one on one with clients and children face to face. I did a lot of soul searching and decided it was time that I started looking for another job. I was offered a job with a different company and came into work with a heavy heart to give my notice. However, God works in mysterious ways and clearly my work here was not finished just yet…One of the managers told me that a position was opening up in the office and that I would be a great fit. Also, with my background, it seemed like something I would enjoy a little bit more. The position was an International Adoption Counselor for Children of All Nations and this position meant that I would have an opportunity to match children from various countries with their forever families and counsel families through the process. I was immediately intrigued. I said I would like to take some time to think about it but by the next day I was sold. They offered me the position with CAN, I packed up my current office and moved down the hall. I was ecstatic for this new opportunity and role. I immediately wanted to be trained to take over Haiti.

As we began training I quickly realized how difficult Haiti was…The program had no structure, the timelines were long and current families had been waiting for what seemed like forever to be matched. Even though I tried my best to stay optimistic I was feeling a little discouraged and overwhelmed. As I learned more and started to develop my own internal structure working with the country continued to get easier everyday. Haiti was also in the process of transitioning into becoming a Hague country and even though this would mean the country itself would eventually have more structure no one really knew what that would actually look like moving forward. With the changes happening in country, cases stuck in IBESR (the central adoption authority) and the idea of hiring a new rep on the horizon I proposed a trip to Haiti…my first time ever traveling there. The trip was approved and I immediately went back to the same photo of those girls. I was going to meet them..face to face..the girls I had been praying for for over a year now.

I arrived in Haiti and below are some of the photos I took with the girls. Meeting them for the first time was like seeing old friends and we hit it off from the very beginning. They both spoke English fairly well so I had an opportunity to learn various things about them. Some of the things that I learned about them was that they both loved the color red, one wanted to be an English teacher while the other wanted to be a pediatrician, they both could not wait to have a car and they liked to have their nails painted. I spent time with them every day and when it came time to leave Haiti I was a mess. The oldest clung to me and asked me to come back for her birthday and if I could not do that then when could I come back. I told her, “this is not goodbye this is just see you later.” A tear streamed down her face and she gave me the biggest hug she had given me all week.

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I got back to Texas and I was beyond determined to find them their forever family. The advocacy began and I was constantly talking to individuals in country about their paperwork, working with marketing to promote older child adoptions from Haiti and even using my own personal social media for outreach. While the search continued I needed them to feel special, important and cared about so we mailed them birthday cards (see photo below). FullSizeRender (13)I came into work everyday praying this would be the day I got the call…a family specifically wanting older children…from Haiti. The advocacy continued, conversations were had but no one seemed to be ready to pull the trigger and move forward. Then, just like that, my prayers were answered.

I answered the phone and the woman on the other end went on to say that they were interested in older children, potentially siblings and from Haiti. I was on the edge of my seat and blurted out, “I am not sure if you would be interested but I met two older girls while I was in Haiti..They are amazing..I have been trying the entire time I have been back to find them a family..Would you be willing to think about it?” Immediately, the woman answered yes and said that after everything I said about them she had to take a look at the two girls I spoke so highly of. And, just like that the family applied, contracted and sent an email that included this, “Thank you so much. I couldn’t sleep last night because of our excitement and the weird path that led me to you. I’ve got chili bumps!!!”

I had found them a family.

 And, not just any family..The family I know that I had been praying for. I was beside myself…There are a lot of times when you are working in the adoption world that it feels odd. A lot of things you do, the advocacy, that extra email or phone call all impact the life of a child that you typically have not met. But, YOU are changing their life. And, sometimes it is really hard to wrap my mind around what I do and with their case specifically I could not even formulate words; I still can’t.

Time passed, the family completed their dossier and we suggested the match to IBESR. This is not something we are typically able to do but since the girls were older we knew we had more of a chance of IBESR saying yes. IBESR told our rep in country and the creche director that they agreed on the match and would issue the referrals so we waited and waited for the paperwork to come through.

Four months later we had a match.

Before the family was able to travel, another trip to Haiti was approved for me and I was going to get to see the girls again. It had been over a year since I saw them last and I started wondering if they would even remember me. I felt very emotional going to Haiti this time. I was traveling alone and seeing kids again that were now matched with my families. I had so many thoughts running through my mind but I just kept coming back to the girls. I arrived in Haiti and all the fear and worry I felt before was instantly gone–I was in my happy place and my heart was full.

We pulled up to the orphanage and so many of the kids remembered me and then I saw the two sisters…They immediately ran over to me and hugged me. It was like no time had passed at all. I was able to spend time with them everyday and I even had an opportunity to tell the girls more about what all I do and about their family. After the girls had a few days to process and continue to ask me questions about their family I asked the girls if they would like to “meet” their family by Facetiming them. They immediately said yes and so I set up the call. As we went upstairs to find a quiet place for us to call the girls said, “Can we call them mom and dad?”, “Is it weird if we tell them we love them?” A million thoughts were running through their minds and I could tell they were nervous. I grabbed both of their hands and said, “You can say whatever you want. You can call them whatever feels comfortable. This is your family. They chose you. You have nothing to be nervous about.” They both smiled and I pressed the call button.

My week in Haiti came to an end and I was devastated to leave. There was so much great work accomplished in one short week but it never seems like enough because the work that needs to be done is never finished. I stopped by the orphanage to say my goodbyes and with tears streaming down my face I got in the truck to head to the airport. All of a sudden I heard children yelling my name from the porch, the truck doors opened and I felt a lot of movement in the back of the truck. I wiped my eyes and looked around and there were a handful of children who decided they were going to go with me to the airport. One girl climbed into my lap and tears continued to stream down my cheeks. She said, “Why are you crying? Because you are sad to leave us?” I nodded my head yes and gave a her a big squeeze. She went on to say, “You do not have to go. We want you to stay.” That did it. The tears became a waterfall and I was officially a big emotional mess.

We pulled up to the airport and I gathered my things to head inside. All of the kids jumped out of the truck and grabbed me and then I looked up at my girls…Both of them had tears in their eyes and then they handed me the letters below. As I began to walk towards the airport, I waved back at them both and said, “Keep your heads up. Your family will be coming for you soon” and I walked into the airport.

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The adjustment coming home from Haiti is always hard for me. Not only do I miss the people and the country but the transition from life in Haiti to Texas is like night and day. Some of you that have also traveled to Haiti or other impoverished countries may have similar struggles. The realization of all the material items that we have that are a common “necessity” here in the U.S. that are unknown objects in Haiti is unreal. And, of course, the work becomes more remote as I am no longer on the grounds and able to push things along on my own or alongside our staff in country. It is an odd transition and it usually takes me a couple of days to shake the feeling.

After a long weekend of rest I was back at work on Monday and I was ready to take on the week. Calls were made, itineraries were finalized, flights were booked and the girls family was ready to travel. I think we were all a variation of excited/nervous. How would it go? Was everyone prepared? How would the girls do when they finally saw them face to face? There were so many thoughts running through my mind and then I got a call from the family. They were at the airport waiting to go to Haiti. I told them I would be praying for them and the girls and I could not wait to hear how everything was going.

I anxiously awaited to hear from them and then I received the following photos and a message that stated, “After five minutes they became part of our family. Thank you so much. We love you.”

This has been such a long journey for these girls. They have waited so long for someone to come for them and for a family to call their own. It takes a village to make each adoption happen and I know that God’s hands have been guiding theirs this entire time. It will still be a little while before they get to come home with their forever family but we are through the toughest part and I cannot wait to see how much they thrive when they do get to come home.


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We may have been separated by two different countries but I believe we were always destined to meet and be a part of each others lives.

one.more.week.

It is only one more week until we pair up with Kendra Scott! If you are unable to make it to the event but would like to still participate please complete the order form below and submit it to me or the address on the form prior to the event.

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Kendra Event

Thanks for helping me, help them!

reality of an orphanage 

I have had a blog post similar to the one I am about to write but I am hopeful that the following information may help families, individuals, volunteer teams, etc really understand what an orphanage in another country is actually like and how your involvement truly can impact these children’s lives. 

The kids are amazing. But, honestly amazing does not even begin to describe them. They are so resilient, full of joy and so smart. Most of the children hope to have a family in America and because of that they work extremely hard to learn English or at least enough to help communicate with their families when they come. They are so selfless.. Several times you will see the older children helping with the younger children by providing redirection, helping the nannies care for the babies, or simply entertaining the younger children. It is one big family unit. They ALL want your attention, hugs and affection. Now, that can be overwhelming for someone who has never traveled to an orphanage in another country because the amount of children that run up to you, pull on you and beg for you to pick them up is not only overwhelming but heartbreaking. You also might hear a lot of the children yelling “blan” when you enter a room or walk up to an orphanage which means white in creole.    Also, unless an orphanage has stateside help they are making it through everyday life by meeting the bare minimum and by meeting the bare mimimum they are surviving and actually doing very well for themselves. But, the bare minimum in another country looks very different than the bare minimum you might see in the states. 

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My journey in Haiti on my own has been a totally different experience than the first time here. I had to be more confident, totally independent and have a lot of faith in myself to succeed. But, the thing that kept me going was walking into the orphanage on day one and the kids actually remembering me… it felt as if I had never left. Immediately calling my name, giving me hugs, and holding my hand; I was home. Everyday I made a point to go to every room and say hello to all of the children because they ALL are important, kind and smart. Through this I continued to build rapport with the children and got to know some new kiddos along the way. A lot of things happened on this trip for my personal growth and the growth of the adoption program. 


As I left Haiti I was accompanied by several little friends from the orphanage and other children screamed my name as I got in the car. It was hard. The hardest of hard and I could not help but to cry. For a second I contemplated just loosing my passport…

The work here is extremely difficult and it is never finished but being able to truly connect with these children is what keeps me going and honestly I think it may keep them going too. Half of my heart is always in Haiti and like I told the kids, “this is not goodbye this is just see you later.” 

Till next time Haiti. ❤️🇭🇹