There are hardly words to describe the impact of today. Whether it was a first time experience or a return trip, Cite Soleil (the poorest slum in the Western Hemisphere) made an imprint on our hearts which we will never forget.
Today the tap-tap took us to three different locations within Cite Soleil. The neighborhood is located at the western end of the runway of the main airport in Haiti. Construction of homes, for 52 families, began in 1958. Through a series of fires in a handful of slum areas, Cite Soleil grew. By 1983, it had grown to approximately 82,000 residence. Estimates today are over 400,000 people.
Our first stop, Water Stop 4: before we even got off the tap-tap, we were bombarded by a mob of little kids saying "Potem" (which means pick me up). Some of us scooped up children while the rest filled up jugs with water or carried water buckets for people. "Hey you!" is something we heard often as the children were trying to get our attention.
Hope Church: built on a dump... The foundation has over 80 feet of garbage below it. How ironic that something so beautiful and spiritual was built at a place that once had so little value. "Imagine the children of Cite Soleil having a place to know God, to be safe, to dream of a better life, to sit and breathe in hope...Imagine." Our group got to meet the Pastors, see the classsroom, walk through the clinic (which is still under construction) and we got to sit in the pews at the church. It was awesome! We felt peace and excitement for the people, especially the children.
Our second waterstop, Four Coffins: from Hope Church we walked to the next waterstation where a newly filled water truck was waiting for us; so was our largest crowd and longest line! At this point we were all hot, sweaty and filthy dirty from lovin on the kids and carrying multiple heavy buckets of water. But no matter the shape we were in, it was easy to be fully engaged and present.
Special Stop: the tap-tap stopped at a filling station where we didn't get gasoline, rather we picked up the final two members of our team: Beatrice and Tunji. They came from New Jersey and have family here in Haiti - how cool is that!
Water Truck Fill Station: Our next excursion took us to where they filled the water trucks. We got to see four huge trucks being filled simaltaneously. It was also time to clean up, hydrate, have a snack and bond as a team. We are all certain that the stars lined up right and that God had a plan to put us all here together - we were having such a great time!
The third waterstop: the people at this stop were a happy bunch, waiting for us in a calm and organized line. Like the children at the other two stops, the kids were eager to see us, friendly and highly affectionate. Though we were there to help them, their sweet little faces, hugs and smiles made us realize that they were giving us a gift.
Thankful: As we review the day we have many things to be thankful for: our Haitian staff who made us scrambled eggs, oatmeal, pancakes and freshly squeezed juice for breakfast and chicken yakisoba for dinner, our drivers and guides who got us safely through town and taught us about their city, our Leaders, Tamara and Kristin who prepped us with everything we needed to know to be well prepared and finally, our team, who came from Minnesota, New Jersey and Canada; we worked together cohesively, with purpose and we had fun!
Until tomorrow... Bondye Beni Ou (God Bless You)
Linda and Jeanna