This is the second post in a three-part series on Haiti. You may find the first post here.
Being in a place that looks so different from home is unnerving. Almost all of the roads were gravel, and the vehicles that passed us on the roads wouldn’t have been allowed on the roads in the U.S. Goats wandered the streets and ate out of the same trash people were digging through. There was rubble everywhere that made it seem that the earthquake happened days before instead of years prior. The faces of the people were often hard and weary. I felt guilty as I rode past them as they were carrying water from the distant wells they stood in line to use. I later learned that most of the wells weren’t filtered which meant that water to drink, water to bathe in, and waste water mingled together. Cholera is not the subject of books in Haiti.
The average family makes $400 a year in Haiti. I thought I had seen poverty before. But Haiti was unlike anything I had ever seen or could imagine being just hours from the United States.
Foyer Divin is the name of the orphanage that we spent time at while we were in Port-au-Prince. The orphanage was started by a woman named Judy who had a background in journalism but felt she was being called to do something for the massive orphan population in Haiti. Haiti is often called “the home of one million orphans.” With a population of less than 10 million people, that statistic is staggering.
Catch the Vision had arranged for us to bring supplies, clothes, and toys to the children. When we got to Foyer Divin Orphanage, which looked to be the size of a small 3 bedroom house, we were greeted by the beautiful faces of the 35 or so children that lived there. There were so many children there that some had to sleep outside in a tent. But at least at Foyer Divin, the kids had a place to sleep and a diet of rice and beans. I was nervous to open the door because all of the children rushed to the vehicles. They just wanted to stand close to us. We unloaded the supplies. We held hands. We played some games that didn’t need too much explanation. My French Creole was a bit lacking. Eventually, we gathered the kids together to sing some songs.
Before I left home, I bought little percussion instruments – maracas, tambourines, shakers – for the kids. Music has always been so important to me so I figured maybe music would narrow the language barrier. One of the girls on the trip played guitar so we began to sing to the kids. All of these faces looked out to us from the porch of this small building and listened and clapped with us. Some played their maracas. Some just sat on our laps. We began to sing Lord, I Lift Your Name on High. All of a sudden, these children started singing with us. They stood up and their sweet precious voices sang that sweet song and played their dollar store instruments like there was no tomorrow. If I tried to plan a “moment” in Haiti, it couldn’t have been any better.
I’m not what I would call particularly religious, and I’m not much of a crier. But those children, in their bare feet and unmatched clothes and dirty faces with huge smiles, put everything they had into singing that song. They had nothing to offer but their song. And it was enough. It was more than enough. It was everything that I didn’t even know I needed to see and hear. I put on my sunglasses and cried – for them, for us. I cried because it finally hit me that our circumstances do not dictate what we truly are or what we can offer to others. I cried because I can leave the conditions in Haiti, but they cannot. I cried because how can some of us have so much and be miserable, yet others have nothing and are able to share their love?
We spent the rest of the afternoon handing out clothes and shoes and toiletries. I got my hair braided by a sweet little girl who kept touching the messy braid in my hair as if to say, “Girl, let me fix this mess.” She did. After we left Foyer Divin, those children didn’t leave my mind, even as we visited other orphanages and hospitals. A few of us skipped the trip to the beach to return to Foyer Divin to spend time with the children again before we flew home. I just couldn’t go to a beach when those kids had such great need.
How can we fix it? What can we do to help?