I haven’t yet talked about (on my blog at least) what really stirred my heart in Haiti because I’m still processing so much of it. I think that I’ll start talking and see where we go…
Beside the house where we were staying lived a little family. It consisted of Joseph (age 12), Fleurant (age 8), Willflure (age 4) and Daphta (age 2) along with their mother, Florene. One of the guys on our team was the first to win the two oldest over by making paper airplanes for them to fly around. After that, all four of the kids would come over to our house and hang-out on the steps whenever we made ourselves available. As the days went by we grew closer and closer to these four children and while there was a significant language barrier, James and Joseph were able to get quite far conversing in French. Joseph had gone to school for a little while but could no longer afford to considering their dad hadn’t been around for 3 years.
On our last day in Haiti I had the opportunity to go over to Joseph’s house with a couple of other people on our team. It was behind a wall and a bit further up the hill so we really had no idea what kind of living conditions these kids were dealing with. When we came around the corner it was apparent that there was little, if any, money and calling the small building a house was a stretch. There was one itty-bitty chair outside and a few buckets turned over, a crude dinning room I guessed. Their mother, Florene, came out and began rattling-off in Creole thinking we knew what she was talking about. She began rubbing her stomach and making motions that she was ill and had been throwing-up. Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the poverty and her rambling we backed away and went back to the doctors house. I think that we were all in a bit of shock to be honest. Regardless of my uneasiness I dragged one of our nurses (who speaks french fluently) back up to the house to see if we could help the mom. Our nurse was able to get bits and pieces of what Florene was saying, as well as what Joseph could translate from Creole to French. The mother also mentioned the dad had been gone and Joseph is the eldest so he takes care of the kids. We asked her why she hadn’t gone to the clinic (which is just down the street) and it was simple, no money. This floored me since the clinic costs only 25 cents US! I understood and had heard that there were many people who just stay home sick because they can’t afford to go to the clinic, but to actually put a face to that poverty broke my heart. 25 cents. My kids have $9 just sitting in their piggy bank…unbelievable. We told her that the nurses would come by in two days and take her to the clinic anyways.
The nurse and I left and walked back to our house with heavy hearts. I wanted to do something but our hands were tied. We were there to do construction and make relationships but as far as helping-out one specific family…we can’t. Well, we shouldn’t. Every family in Haiti is practically in the same situation.
We were leaving the next day and I still had six granola bars left from my snack stash so I quickly grabbed them and the nurse grabbed a bunch of toothbrushes, toothpaste and some body soap. We couldn’t just sit by and do nothing. So we trekked back up to the house with our goodies, all four kids following behind. This time when I rounded the corner of the ‘house’ I saw Florene sitting on the tiny chair reading her bible. I couldn’t believe it. She’s so incredibly poor and sick and has four children to take care of and there she was, focusing on God. I think that she was a bit surprised to see us again, especially with our hands full of goodies for her. I dropped all of the granola bars in her lap and she began thanking us and thanking God and grabbing at my arm and the nurse and I had to try our darndest not to cry. She picked up one of the granola bars which had chocolate chunks in it and read the french and got all excited. She said chocolat over and over. After she calmed down she brought us into her home, something that I can’t decide if it was a good thing or bad thing for me to see. There were two small rooms full of unused, smelly, mildew-covered, useless stuff. One room had huge bins that were piled high with things because the roof had holes everywhere, so when it rained the floor flooded, getting everything wet. The second room was just like the first except the whole family slept in one little corner of it. The mom and two boys shared a sheet on the floor and the two little girls had a crib, which still managed to be dirty…not something you or I would ever put our kids in, just to give you an idea.
Everything in me sank after seeing where these beautiful kids lived. I realize that they put a face to the poverty that almost every family lives with but these were faces that I had come to love.
When it came time for us to leave the next morning James bent down and gave Joseph a big huge hug…both of them lost it. I was expecting James to have a hard time leaving the kids, but I was surprised to see Joseph crying too. It made it all the harder to leave them behind. One of the guys on our team put it best when he said it felt as though he was abandoning them. It’s truly what it felt like. I had the hardest time on the flight out of Fort Lauderdale, when it actually sank-in that we were gone and they were still hungry. I couldn’t give them any more peanut butter sandwiches or hugs. Both James and I agreed that if there was any way we could have brought that family back with us we would have.
I think about them every day and as I write this I am putting a package together for Joseph. A girl from our church is heading down to Haut Limbe this week and has offered to take a couple of things for me…I hope it all fits in her luggage. As I wandered through Superstore looking for the little items that I wanted to send my heart was sinking further and further. I wanted to buy them everything. I wanted to send everything. I wanted to package-up the whole produce section and send it with her. I wanted to buy clothes and toys and toiletries and food. I wanted to send them each a new pair of shoes and a chocolate bar. I hate that I can’t. I truly do. Every part of me hates it. But all I can do is send the little things that will fit and send them with the same amount of love that would be sent with a whole produce section of a grocery store. Hopefully it will get to them and hopefully they’ll know that we think about them every day.
Some days it hard to be here and not there. It’s hard to walk through Superstore and Costco and see how easy it is to get 52 different varieties of apples and just have a simple prayer for four kids to eat and go to school. I’m not sure I know how to deal with that.