Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Home from Haiti...wrap up & some photos

I've shared some intial impressions while we were in Haiti, but thought I'd give more of an overview of the work being done there, what was accomplished on this particular trip and where we go from here...

T & I arrived on Saturday afternoon (7/24) w/ Scott Vair, VP of projects for World Orphans. We did some basic preparation @ the guesthouse, for the full team to arrive the next day.

In Haiti the time is the same as it is here in TX, CDT. However it is east of the US, so the sun comes up @ 4:30 am!! In order to beat the heat, church services begin @ 6 am. We were invited to a beautiful church service, by the Haitian OVC director, Ron, & were the only fair-skinned worshippers present. The service was in Kreyol, with a rare sentence or two of English thrown in (I assume for us).

 Sunday afternoon, we did a little shopping for the guesthouse, and made airport trips to pick up the other WO staff members, & Phyllis Kilborn, an expert on childhood emotional & crisis trauma, and the rest of her team.  

The main objective for the week was to hold a 2-day training session for up to 70 Haitian pastors & church workers that are caring for the children in their OVC program. Culturally, the Haitians "press on" & don't deal with their experiences.

But the pastors repeatedly expressed their thanks in being given knowledge & "tools" to help the children cope with what they have experienced, as they see it coming out in many unhealthy ways. Some admitted that they were glad for the information, and planned to apply it to their own family's trauma & grief.

The second day concluded with the entire group writing down something they would like to leave with God & put in their past in order to heal.
They placed it in a balloon, & released it over the city... 

In the afternoons, on the back benches of our sessions, there always seemed to develop an entourage...of kiddos.
"Stevenson" drawing on my notepad, became quite an attraction, kids appeared from nowhere wanting a turn. He also became quite the little photographer:

( Me w/ Scott, Kate, & Erin - the WO crew!)

Once the conference was over, we put on our hiking shoes.
Wednesday we spent the entire day traveling from home to home to visit with families of children that various churches have identified as the most "vulnerable" & enrolled in the OVC program. All of the children are at least single orphans, some double (no living parent) and are being cared for by extended family who love them, but have no means to provide. Typically these children would be out on the street, or dropped off at an orphanage due to sheer poverty.

World Orphans' model realizes that it
is best for any child to stay with someone who loves them...
especially in times where they have already suffered so much loss & insecurity.
So, they have organized a framework of partners in order to provide these children with 1 good meal a day, schooling at the participating local church, appropriate medical care, and trauma counseling. Most importantly, this is all provided by their local church, whether they attend there or not. This ensures that the program will be ongoing, culturally appropriate and supports the Haitians in caring for their own. Each of the participating churches does have an American partner church to lift them up in prayer, provide finances to administer for the orphan care expenses, & to visit in teams for further encouragement and hands on support.

As we are talking about the most vulnerable, you can imagine that most of the homes we visited were in the tent camps. It was over 100 degrees out, there was no shade other than what tarps provided. The tents have little ventilation, and by mid-day were well over 120F inside. We asked a mom how they live in the heat & she replied "we stay outside, walking around most of the day", they just go there to sleep @ night. Some had a makeshift bed inside that typically wouldn't hold the # of people that were living there.

In the photo above this is the grandmother of two little girls in the OVC program, the younger, Lorena, I carried out to her home. She & her grandchildren have no bed. All 5 of the makeshift tent inhabitants sleep on a piece of cardboard with a sheet over it on the ground. The night before it had rained, the ground was damp, I took note of gaping holes in the tarp "roof" of their home. However, this was the stop where we pulled up, & when Lorena's older sister saw her grandma from the bus window, she bubbled up & began calling out with delight to see her!! Both of her daughters were killed in the earthquake, she takes care of their children, as now they have only each other.

 Holding little "Lorena" on my lap, as we visit her home.

So, you can see how important this work is...
It is often much easier to just set up a big home & start filling it w/ children, to feed & clothe & protect, but that's not always what is best for them, certainly not permanently.

Thursday our stay came to an end, we flew home with our heads & hearts spinning about the work being done. How might we step in & fill the gap with running the guest house for teams coming to support their partners, freeing up Ron for his main responsibilities, and walking alongside the churches & families as they endeavor to meet the needs of these precious little ones?

Next step?? Nothing we saw or heard in Haiti told us that it was "undo-able". Difficult? Absolutely...but worth stepping out of our "comfort zone". In fact, our love and admiration for the Haitians has grown. It is clearly a time of greater need than ever in Haiti. From what we saw it will take years and a lot more support (in every form) than anyone can imagine, for them to find their country recovered & we pray, blossoming with faith & hope!

Life goes on in Haiti, despite the destruction...
Please continue to keep HAITI in your prayers! While you are at it, you may want to lift us up a little more too. We'll spend a few more weeks in prayer ourselves, discussing things further with World Orphans, sharing details with the kids as they start arriving home next week, & ultimately make the BIG decision!??