We were blessed to go with a group of 12 people and with the organization Help One Now (HON) on a vision trip to Haiti. HON describes themselves as "a catalytic tribe committed to empowering and resourcing high-capcity local leaders who care for orphans and vulnerable children in order to transform communities and break the cycle of extreme poverty". Their approach to helping fight poverty is a totally different concept than I have been exposed to. They believe in empowering the local leaders by listening to them, finding ways to support them and their ideas of what would work best in their communities and using the locals to help bring these ideas to fruition. EMPOWERMENT IS THE KEY! Not just coming into a poverty stricken area, pouring some concrete for a week only to return home and maybe go back in a year.
We arrived in Port-Au-Prince to a very busy city! This is a city that is busy sun up to sun down. I was honestly expecting to see dilapidated buildings on every corner however when we began driving through the city all I noticed was new construction or completed projects all throughout the town. There is still so much that needs to be done but I was so happy to see how much had been done and locals working hard to rebuild their beloved town. I cannot fathom what it must have been like right after the earthquake. The stories are beyond heartbreaking and something my feeble mind cannot wrap itself around.
The first place that wrecked me was ACLAPROTECH Academy. Run by Pastor Jean St. Cyr and his son Junior, this academy and community church lie right next to where Haiti's largest "tent city" once stood. These two men are remarkable in their passion and dreams for the future of their community and Haiti as a whole. We were beyond blessed to be able to attend their mid week service. To hear the angelic voices of Haitians singing "How Great is our God" in a church that sits right next to where so much heartache and sorrow once lived was almost too much. I'm fairly certain there wasn't a dry eye among our team. The passion they put behind their singing is something to be jealous of. I love how they sing with their whole heart and soul in a way we just don't here in the US. I know without a doubt that is what heaven will sound like! Big things are on the horizon for this place!
The next place where my life was wrecked was a special place in Petionville, Haiti called Yahve Shamma Village. Run by Pastor Gaetan Alcegaire, Yahve Shamma is a home for around 30 orphans and a school for the surrounding community. The model set up by the pastors that work with HON is to set up a home for the orphaned, establish a school for the community and set up a church where all are welcomed and encouraged to use their gifts in their community to serve others. Pastor Gaetan brought his family under this beautiful tree in the center of the village to stay when the earthquake hit. He then went out day after day rescuing kids and bringing them to stay with his family under this now very special tree. Its beauty and the shady relief it provides is now a symbol of hope and safety to those who visit. We spent the afternoon loving on these kids and attempting to play soccer with them. I'm really considering taking my kids next time to get some soccer lessons in! The children here appeared happy, healthy and loved! They were all pretty independent which is a huge sign of thriving in an orphanage. The sweet voices of the children in class filled the air the minute we stepped out of the bus. The teen girls were glued to my phone, watching videos of my kids playing ball and going through every single picture with intense curiosity. They also seemed to already have the talent of taking selfies down! Teens are teens no matter what country you are in! Here there were more older kids than little ones. I am always in awe of how the older kids take care of the younger ones with such love and concern.
We took the tiniest plane on earth to the other side of Haiti to the town of Cap Haitien. Cap Haitien has a totally different vibe then Port-Au-Prince. A town modeled after the French Quarter, it definitely has a more beachy, laid back vibe. We headed East to Ferrier Village. This is a project started by Pastor Jean Alix Paul and is an anti-trafficking initiative that rescues children who have been trafficked or are at high risk of being trafficked as domestic servants or are being trafficked for sex or labor in the Dominican. Being so close to the border this is an area where children are preyed on at extremes that are unthinkable. We had the opportunity to go to the Dominican border which is a bridge over a river that divides this section of the two countries. This very river is where many of the children at Ferrier were rescued from. One example is this sweet precious boy who they named Moses because he was found abandoned along this river. The beauty of this story is Pastor Jean Alix is able to work with the Haitian government and social services to take in the kids that they are rescuing.
The final day I was wrecked by the beauty of the Haitian beaches. Pastor Jean Alix wants the people who come visit to experience the beauty of Haiti as well so people will go back and tell their people of Haiti's remarkable beauty. Tourism could be a huge income producer for Haiti but how many people do you know say 'Let's go vacation in Haiti'? Well I will be the first to tell you after visiting this beautiful beachside resort and staying the the quaintest boutique hotel (Hotel du Roi Christophe) I would definitely vacation in Haiti!
I would ask that each of you check out Help One Now's website and read more about the amazing things they are doing all over the world. You will also find ways to get involved including opportunities to sponsor some of these amazing kids as well as ways to help from your own community (check out Garage Sales for Orphans).