Today was a rollercoaster of a day. After a nice breakfast as a group, we stared in wonder at the piles of gravel that had been dumped in the street and blocked the access of our tap tap (the vehicle that transports our group around) from accessing the street. These were not the little piles that we see on the American gravel roads, but rather about six feet high and taking up most of the street, as well as they had scraped away much of the street, so the curb was dug down about 18". We had to use the tap tap from the other Guest House, but the road was still precarious. The ladies gasped and expressed concern over the precarious ride while the guys seemed to enjoy the adventure. More about these roads later, though.
Our first stop brought us to a better part of the rollercoaster, though. We went to a small entrepreneural venture called PeaceCycle, which is a little business that started in order to solve multiple problems. They collect about 1,000 small baggies per day that Haitians use for fresh water (a similar concept to water bottles, but smaller and less packaging), and have a process to clean, iron, sew, and fabricate the baggies into amazing products, such as handbags, wallets, and my favorite, a wine bag to carry several bottles of wine! The little business employs almost 20 Haitians and reuses a product that would otherwise pollute the environment.
Continuing on our high notes, we stopped at a little shop called Papillon, another small business that provides jobs through a nice cafe and gift shop of locally made products. Their smoothies were wonderful!
Our rollercoaster crested as we went to Haiti Teen Challenge, which is a similar model to the Teen Challenges around the world with the mission to address and help young Haitians struggling with numerous types of addiction. The founder shared his story of being a pastor in America and coming back to Haiti with the mission of helping the youth struggling to break free from addiction, and he was proud to share the success they've had, spreading their message throughout multiple facilities and being a well-established church now, but his vision did not end there. He was a man of vision and action whose commitment has improved the lives of many, many young people and their families, which we heard directly from the emotional testimonials of some of their successes.
Having started our day mounting a challenging road, seeing a successful business, relaxing a bit, then hearing the emotional stories, we piled into the tap tap, and bounced along the roads to our next two stops where we'd split in two. Half of our group went to For His Glory Outreach orphanage and spent time letting the children there bring a smile to everyone's faces! While they were orphans, the children were smiling, very bright, and active, and enjoyed playing with the members of our group, demonstrating their mental and physical agility with games like jump rope, memory, blowing bubbles, and playing with a parachute.
The other half of our group went to the Home for the Sick and Dying Babies. This was a much more somber visit where we fed, held, and played with the many infants and toddlers who were in their care for illnesses ranging from malnourishment to terminal illness like HIV and others. We put on our brave faces and laughed and acted silly to bring smiles to the little ones' faces. The heroic nurses that work with these children daily are commendable.
After a somber ride home as we reflected on the activities of the day, we ended up with our tap tap getting stuck as it decided to rest on the precarious edge of an intersection due to the impromptu road construction from earlier. Luckily, we were only a block from our home base and were able to walk back while the driver worked the nimble little tap tap loose.
Our team gathered for some time to eat, pray, reflect, and decompress after what may well be the most emotional day of our journey. We look forward to being able to help in any way we can for the rest of the week, and it is days like today that we're brought with the saddest in humanity, yet reminded of the hope that exists. Hope that we who are able will lend their skills and resources to our brethren in places like Haiti to help lift them out of poverty. Hope that those in Haiti will continue their courage and resiliance, as businesses like PeaceCycle spring up and solve problems while providing meaningful jobs and income. Hope that the amazing technologies and abilities we have today will continue to bring solutions like clean water and infrastructure to alleviate suffering.