After a quick name game, we loaded up the tap tap to go deliver water in City Soleil, the poorest slum in the western hemisphere. Our first stop was stop 17, which is where Healing Haiti built Hope Church and school- literally on miles and miles of trash! The second stop was at 4 Coffins because 4 people were killed at the same house a long time ago (we may have this story wrong, the group was a little confused by the story). The water truck proves to be a highlight of the trip for many. I am going to have Ronnie write about her experience on the water truck today:
Hi mom and dad it's Ronnie, and I haven't lost anything yet.
Anyways...as we boarded the truck, I think everyone was picturing and anticipating what was to come. As we entered into City Soleil, it was clear that we had arrived without even being told. The doors to the truck opened, and about ten kids looked up at us with big eyes and open arms. It was the kind of overwhelming that feels good; it's exciting and heartwarming all at once. It was a rush, climbing off the truck as kids were already climbing up our legs. I mean literally, there were four kids on me at one point. It's one of the first times in my life that I have actively wished for eight arms (or that I had been a body builder) to hold all the children looking up at me. Once the water was turned on and was flowing heavily from a hose into awaiting buckets, we began to take turns holding kids, holding the hose, carrying the full buckets, or putting the water bucket on top of the women's heads. Each of these jobs were so intimate and important. There is this rush where the weight of the bucket is forgotten, and the digging of the metal handle in your hand feels fine as long as the child has less of a distance to carry it. There was an intense intimacy when putting the heavy bucket on top of a woman's head, staring into her eyes as we hold it together. The non-physical aspects were what were distinguishably difficult, knowing that the plastic of the bucket would be digging into her head for the distance she still had to walk. I held the hose with the determined knowledge that as soon as the water ran out, no more buckets could be filled. We then received a tour of their newly built church/school. We were led to the back of the church on top of a hill of dirt and garbage where we overlooked the entirety of City Soleil. There was trash everywhere, lining the run down buildings and floating in the mirky water. We continued onto our second stop, and we continued with the same jobs: loving on the babies, carrying buckets, holding the hose, and lifting the buckets on the women's heads. This stop was more hectic, with even more babies to hold. It was crazy, every time I set a baby down to help with a bucket, I felt pulls on the waistband of my shorts. I looked behind me to find a line of babies holding onto each other as one held onto me. Amidst the chaos, I spotted a small little boy that was being pushed around for standing between the buckets and the hose. I grabbed him, and I felt his head lay on my chest as he closed his eyes and held my hand. I looked around to see everyone holding multiple children with smiles, laughter, and love in their eyes. Okay I'm moving on to the last amazing thing that happened, because I'm taking too long to write this. One boy named Alex started singing in Creol, and became frustrated that no one could repeat it properly. Then, he started to sing the song "this little light of mine," and we all began to sing along as the babies in our arms danced and smiled.
After our Water Truck experience we came back for a little rest. It is pretty hot here and it was nice to come back and just be. Some people napped and others journaled. We have an awesome place on the roof to hang out and relax and some of us did that.
The afternoon experience had the group split between the Sisters of the Poor- Home for the sick and dying babies and For His Glory orphanage. Claire is going to write about her experience at the home for sick and dying babies. Lindsey is going to write about For His Glory orphanage.
When we arrived, we weren't sure what the next hour would look like. Opposite to what the children were like earlier in the day, these kids seemed to keep to themselves more. I slowly ventured out trying to find kids interested in me (vastly different from several hours ago). I soon noticed a particular young girl. I smiled at her and said "bonjour." She smiled and repeated my "bonjour" in a whispered tone. Immediately she lifts her arms up asking for my embrace. I picked her up and began to walk around. We didn't talk much, conversations were limited because I only know two words in Kreyol (hello and thank you). Nonetheless, we found comfort in each other. I'd held many kinds in my arms that day, but this child stood out. She held on to me much tighter than the other kids; giving off a warmth that wrapped my body like a blanket. It was clear to me that this type of embrace was a rarity for her. She would burry her head in my shoulder for long period of time, unbothered where I would walk. Occasionally she would point to where she wanted me to take her. She told me to take her over by one of the rooms on the side of the building. As she peaked her head though the bars of the window, she yelled "loves me" then she paused and pointed to me while trying to get more children's attention. Once again she yells "Loves Me" while pointing to me.
Lindsey- message home
Hi mom and dad, I am doing very well here in Haiti. It is very beautiful here, lots of greenery and lots of mountains. Mom, you would like the house we are staying at because there are lots of dogs here. They are guard dogs but they are very kind. There is even a little puppy named Annie, who loves to chew on every one's shoes. It is only the second day and I have already have had so many amazing experiences and have made so many connections with others.
Hey guys, it's Claire! Me and 9 other people split off and went to the home for the sick and dying babies. You can probably guess how hard it was based solely on the name of the place but it was still an amazing thing to experience. When we got there, we started by feeding the babies with the Sisters of the Poor and workers. I fed two little babies, and one wanted to chow down on the bowl more than the food itself. It reminded me that all babies are messy, no matter where you are. After feeding them, we just held them close. Some of us held one baby that just spoke to us most of the time, and others, including myself, dispersed our love among the 30ish babies. They all craved attention, love, and human contact. With there being so many babies and so little workers, they often don't have time to just be held and receive the love they need. You could see their desperation for this love when they reached their hands up to be held, or were crying out loudly, or even when they stared into our eyes. Out of the several I held and loved on, there were a few that stay prevalent in my mind. There was this one baby girl that reached up for me to hold her so I did, she gave me the biggest smile with two front teeth just growing in. It made me sad because she was so happy and she could possibly see death in her near future, she didn't deserve that, none of them did. Another baby had a severe burn covering half of their head and face. There was one baby so skinny I felt like every time I touched her she would break. Lastly, there was a little boy who would always reach out to me and hold my hand and fingers, feeling his little fingers in my hand brought a surge of love for him. Also, there was a baby whose hand I held onto for a little bit, later we found out he had chicken pox, so I might come home with that! We later asked about what the babies were sick with since most look decently healthy, we were told that there was a range of things but most were fairly common things like colds and chicken pox. Due to the lack in medicine though, these common sicknesses go untreated and are often worse then they should be. By the time we left, most of the babies were crying because we had put them down. This made us all emotional and lead us to ask the bigger questions of whether we just helped or made it worse. We trust in God though that we are here for something bigger then ourselves and that everything were doing is for the better. (editors note from Mr. Dols- I am certain that something was lost in translation, meaning, the sisters would not expose our students to untreated chicken pox)
Mom, Dad, Grama and Bapa, Luke, and Emma: (make sure everyone gets my message!!) I hope you're all doing good and not missing me too much:) I love you all and I can't thank you enough for allowing to go on this trip. Im so incredibly grateful for this time and for you all as well. I have already received so much love and made so many life long experiences. And to Logan, I hope you're not missing me too much either, I'll see you so, so soon. I love you! (& I hope you like your letters:))
After experiencing these two amazing places, we returned to the guest house for dinner. The highlight of dinner was singing Happy Birthday to Laura. I remember spending my 18th birthday (a long, long time ago) in Mexico on a Lasallian Youth trip. Somehow, doing something awesome takes the sting away from not being at home for special days like a birthday! Pat and Ann- thanks for sharing her with us on this special day.
One of my favorite parts of the trip is giving our students the opportunity to meet with and hear the story of wonderful people that Joanna has met in the ministry of her life. Miquette came tonight to talk to our students about her story. She came from humble beginnings, in a town about 5 hours away from the Port-Au-Prince. Her sister was sick at an early age and because her parents couldn't afford to take care of her, they put her in an orphanage. Her sister and cousin were adopted by a nice family from Detroit Lakes. She stayed with her parents, sometimes not knowing if/when she would be fed for the day. The school that she went to had fees associated with it. Sometimes she would be in the middle of class and the principal would come to the classroom and pull her because they hadn't paid the fees. Usually it was before the big exams, which would force her family to beg and borrow to keep her in school. Early on her family believed that education was the only way out of poverty. Miquette wanted to be a nurse.
Sometime during her junior year the man that adopted her sister and cousin paid the family a visit. He asked her all sorts of questions about her school, her classes, what she was learning, if she liked her science classes. She thought all Americans were really interested in education. But he came to find out that he wanted to sponsor her to come to Detroit Lakes for her senior year. Although her sister was mortified, and she made some tactical errors (like using the boys bathroom because she didn't know there was a difference), she learned a ton and graduated. Eventually she went to Concordia in Moorhead, became a nurse, and decided she had to give back. Now she is running schools and programs for Haitians to get educated so that they can have successful lives as well. It is called TeacHaiti and there is even a book written about her!
We spent the rest of the night journaling, playing games and preparing for another exciting day in Haiti. Pray for us, we are praying for you!