Dreaming big is something I have been doing since I was little and honestly I think most of us have. Maybe you wanted to be a movie star or a famous singer– maybe you dreamed of the day that you would be on a magazine cover and everyone would know your name. Then you got a little older and maybe you decided that you wanted to be a doctor and save lives or start your own organization to change the world. And soon, just being in the spotlight is not so appealing because now you are focused on helping people or bringing help to those that cannot help themselves. The idea of dreaming big becomes so much more because it is no longer a selfish thought about just YOU it is a thought about helping those around you…
The alarm went off and today was the day. I was headed back. The night before I was so excited that I could barely sleep. Every time I go back to Haiti it feels as if it is the first time over and over again. The excitement overcomes me, the nerves creep in, and the hope for fruitfulness is always in the back of my mind. I arrive at the airport, grab a breakfast taco and board the plane. When I am flying by myself to Haiti I like to take a pause on the plane and reflect because this is the only time for the next week that I will be truly alone. I make notes in my phone or I will write something quickly in my notebook. Whether they are reminders, random thoughts or a mantra for the week. I enjoy taking this time to hone in on the expectations I have for myself and the week to come. The plane lands in Atlanta and I quickly shuffle through the airport to make it to my next connection. This plane is less packed than usual and I am comforted by the fact that we won’t be like sardines for the next few hours! I fill out my immigration form and settle back for the rest of the ride. I woke up to an announcement that we would be landing soon and I quickly sat up and peered out the window. There it was. Haiti.
As I exited the airport, I immediately saw two little familiar faces and I started holding back the tears. It was the two sisters that I have grown so close to over these past couple of years. We immediately hugged and then hugged one more time. It felt as if the three of us were in awe that we were back together again. Nothing seemed to have changed since December except maybe a few more paved roads and I did notice one traffic light! But, everything else was the same. The smells, the people, the street vendors–it was if I had never left. We pulled through the orphanage gates and as soon as I walked through the door more familiar little faces began running towards me and yelling my name. This is always an odd feeling because I never think they are going to remember me especially the younger ones but they do. After what seemed like a million hugs I had a chance to catch up with the older girls and check in on everybody. Even though I was just there in December the kids had grown so much! It was amazing to see them thriving and maturing.
I walked out of the courtyard and back into the building and saw our rep who has become one of my dearest friends. I ran and embraced him with a huge hug. I was just so happy to see everyone again. After we talked for a little bit and made a game plan for the week it started to get dark so the two sisters and I headed back for the guesthouse.
The next day was non stop. We went to IBESR (the central authority for adoptions) and visited several orphanages. These types of days are always a whirlwind but it is always wonderful to sit down with creche directors and get to know them on a personal level. Our rep and myself grabbed some lunch at the Apparent Project and continued discussing families cases.
After lunch we visited a couple more places and then back to the guesthouse I went. The heat and dehydration can be tough the first few days and I was ready to have a fan in my face and some Gatorade!
THE GROUP IS COMING!
I woke up the next morning completely ecstatic because everyone was arriving today. I would be doing three airport runs and I could not wait to get everyone here and get the week going! One by one they all arrived and finally we were all together. Everyone got their things settled, chose their beds and off to the orphanage we went. This was the first time for a lot of the group members to be in Haiti and to visit an orphanage. We did a lot of expectation prep discussing the country and the children. I reminded everyone before we walked in to be prepared for the children to run up to them, pull on them and for the overwhelming amount of noise. I also reminded them that these behaviors are not “normal” but it is all they know. I opened the gate and the kids came running…Every time I go to Haiti I get very overstimulated when I am at the orphanage and then it makes me think about all of the children. They are constantly living in this environment where there are children yelling, crying, laughing, toys being stolen from each other, clothes getting yanked down from the clothes line, nannies doing hair, an endless amount of laundry getting hand washed, the scent of baby powder in the air, dogs strolling around, some kind of meal is always being prepared and the noise of the city in the background. I sometimes wonder what it must feel like for the child/ren that finally get adopted and what they think as they settle into their new rooms. Are they overwhelmed by the quiet? Quiet is something they have never had.. Can you imagine?
It was starting to get dark so we all headed back to the guesthouse to get ready for dinner and take a moment to get to know one another. The exchanging of stories began and it was great to hear everyone connecting. My heart was so full. This is really where I have found my passion. Bringing groups here and introducing them to the people and country that I love so much.
From 7am to 10pm we were going non stop. Rooms were painted, a play pin was built, games were played, donations were sorted and nails were painted. It was a great balance of work and play during the week and we were able to accomplish so much! However, the thing I am most proud of is being able to find a paint for the rooms with a blue pigment in Haiti. Apparently, that is a task left only for the most determined!
We also made it to the beach! If you have not had an opportunity to visit the beach while in Haiti then you are truly missing out on one of their most treasured gems. Everything is so untouched. It is like night and day compared to the hustle and bustle you find in Port Au Prince. Unfortunately, it is about an hour and a half away for most people so some individuals living in Haiti have never even had a chance to see what else their country has to offer.
I was in awe of the hearts that were present for this trip and the connection the group was making. The projects were wrapping up and the week was coming to and end and honestly I was not ready to leave or have the group leave me. We had one more full day left and this was the day I had been anxiously awaiting. Monday we all got up early like we had been doing the past few days and loaded up to go to Gressier. This was my first time to visit this part of Haiti along with the rest of the group. A few months ago I read a book called, “Miracle on Voodoo Mountain” which was actually sent to me from a family I am currently working with. The note that came with the book read something like this….
Of course after receiving the book and this note, I could not wait to crack it open and learn more about Voodoo Mountain. And, I have never been more captivated or inspired by something that I have read. This book walks you through a young adults journey to find her calling in Haiti, discovering her passion, later adopting and so much more. In the midst of planning trip number two I knew this was a place that we should go visit. We arrived at Respire Haiti (the organization that was later started by the young woman in the book) and we were greeted by the woman I had been exchanging emails with. She stated that we would be walking across the street to take a tour of the property and see the school. I could not contain my excitement. As we walked up the steep rocky hill the book was repeated in my head and coming to life. I was walking the same path that she had while asking God why she was lead here. Chills went down my spine. We arrived at the top of the mountain and I was speechless and not just because I was out of breathe! The property provided school to around 500 children in the community, they have a feeding program, a medical clinic and a new library. They said that most of the funding came from the states after visiting churches and various groups that wanted to help give back. I could not believe that this entire organization was completely funded by donations and sponsorship. Although this is how most organizations in Haiti survive. But, when you see all they are doing and how they are doing it…well you know that God has his hands in this.
Our tour came to an end and we walked back down the hill and had lunch at the Respire Haiti Cafe. The food was amazing and an older woman working in the cafe made homemade cinnamon rolls every morning for those in the community to enjoy. If you are ever in Haiti and have a chance to visit Gressier make sure you stop by Respire Haiti even if it is just for the cinnamon rolls! The group and myself could not get enough. YUM.
We made it back to the orphanage to hang out a little bit longer but then it was time to get everyone back so they could pack up for their departures the next day.
The group left, the guesthouse was quiet and so many thoughts swarmed around in my mind. I have now brought 19 people to Haiti…19 people have been touched by the joyous spirit that is Haiti, had their heartstrings tugged on because of the reality before them, and have become better advocates than they were previously.
Will you start helping me help them?