As I return to Haiti for my 3rd summer in a row, I can say with full confidence that I disagree. As my team of 17 rode the bumpy ride up the hill heading to Grace Village, my heart started to race -- not of nervousness, but of pure excitement. It had been a year since my last goodbye with all the precious faces. The large gate opened and there Grace Village was, appearing colorful, lively, and extremely welcoming -- as it always has. The kids were waiting for us under the pavilion hiding from the sun (it had to be at least 100 degrees). They were all wearing their new, blue "Camp Catch It" shirts that we delivered the day before. We all walked toward the kids carrying buckets full of sport supplies in each hand. Eyes began to widen as the balls, parachutes, bubbles, tap shoes, chalk, and costumes drew closer. The members of our team that had been to Haiti before immediately searched and reunited with the kids who they had made previous connections with and all the first timers were drawn in forming instant relationships.
We were given a tour of the orphanage, which encouraged one of our teammates, Scott, to stray away from the term "orphanage" and instead use the word "familyage". Healing Haiti strongly believes in family structure and the importance of a mother and a father figure in every child's life. Thus each dorm is given a "mommy" and a "pappi" for a feel for real life family living. Also we were shown where transitional kids (those that are older than 16 and supposed to move out of the orphanage) are being taught how to properly adapt and live on their own. Instead of sending out the transitional kids to fend for themselves outside of the orphanage, Healing Haiti understands the importance of giving the kids a proper education and multiple job opportunities.
Continuing with the tour, meeting cooks, translators, mommies, pappies, and more staff, we were given a glimpse of how many job opportunities Grace Village is offering to the people of Haiti.
We spent the next few hours attempting to play our "planned" games of basketball, kickball, and baseball, but finally gave in and joined in on the kid's favorite game: soccer. All of us who had been to Haiti before couldn't believe our eyes as we watched these kids play with such a difference in behavior in comparison to the prior years. The kids were respectful, joyful, hard players, compassionate towards everyone, and deep lovers and followers of Jesus. Each year I am shocked more and more by the transformation of these kids because of the staff here at Grace Village and the Healing Haiti workers and volunteers. These kids are educated, lively, and very hard workers. They are going to make incredible contributing members to the Haitian society one day. And going to bed tonight, I can't help but dread yet another goodbye with these very kids tomorrow morning.
To be clear, let me state once again: not all organizations and missions work accomplish the good they intend. However, Healing Haiti is providing jobs for and training the Haitian people, building "familyages", churches, and bakeries, educating youth, bringing water to villages that have absolute no access, making visits to homes and orphanages that need light and love, and most importantly: spreading the one, true Gospel and the love of God that is intended for every single one of us -- no matter where we're from.
P.S. Hi foe and mom :)