We landed in Port au Prince yesterday afternoon after a long day of travel and anticipation. We arrived at Healing Haiti to a dinner of sloppy joes and spent the rest of the evening getting settled.
We learned right away to go with the flow. Our initial plans for the day didn’t come through and we ended up starting our mission with our first water truck day. I remember hearing Pastor Kris give a sermon about water truck day. She talked about the kids chanting “Hey you” behind the truck. Sitting in the congregation at Easter Lutheran Church on that Sunday morning several months ago, this really struck me. In all honesty her sermon is the reason I said yes to this trip. But water truck day way much harder, much more emotional and draining, than I imagined. It was also incredibly inspirational.
We waited at the water filling station as truck after truck was filled with water. Once ours was full we followed in the tap tap to our first stop at Cite Soleil #27. Just as Pastor Kris had told in her sermon, people started following the truck carrying their buckets. We could hardly get the doors open with all of the kids clamoring to reach out and touch us. The moment our feet hit the ground sweet little boys and girls were climbing into our arms, asking names and ages, touching our faces and hair. I spent that first stop keeping watch over Annika and Sophia and talking with a few people who were very interested in where we were from and if we were all related. Many of us helped carry buckets as well.
While we waited for the water truck to fill up again, we stopped at the Healing Haiti farm. There were bananas, papayas, mangoes and other crops. Stevenson gave us the grand tour and it was clear that he is proud of the work he is doing. He used his machete to chop sugar cane for each of us to try. It doesn’t get more organic than that!
Our second water truck stop was in the poorest part of Cite Soliel. Tracy and I manned the hose from the truck. I saw little else beyond buckets being shoved in front of me and hands trying to pry the hose out of my arms. I would fill a bucket and move to the next only to have someone pull the hose back to their bucket for another half inch of water. I quickly realized that every drop of water matters. This is what they use to drink, to eat, to clean, to wash their clothes. There is no faucet to turn on for more. What they get from the water truck is all they have for the week.
While the water truck went to be refilled, we went to Hope Church and School. Built two years ago, this is a free school for the kids from preschool through high school in neighborhood 17, the poorest part of the city. There were very few kids attending today as school just started back up yesterday and Jonas, our translator, explained that it takes a week or two for kids to come back to school after a break. But the kids we did see were wearing uniforms and were well behaved. The school is built on an old garbage dump, a plot of land that was deemed unusable, and is now an invaluable asset to this neighborhood.
Our last water truck stop was just outside the school. We were once again surrounded by kids asking to take “photos.” This morning I prayed that God would use me. I prayed that I would see His work in these places. If I am being completely honest, I had to look really hard. The garbage, the filth, the stench, was overwhelming. During the third water stop I kept thinking, “I just want to get out of here.” But it occurred to me that all of these people can’t get out of there. This is their home. This is their life. I started to see God in the faces of the kids. I saw God in the hard working people carrying heavy buckets of water so their family can eat and drink. I saw God in the playful moment between a mother and child in the cool spray from the water truck. God is here. I am excited to see more of Him throughout the rest of our stay.
Our team from Easter Lutheran Church started out our day at “In His Glory” Orphanage to visit with children and bring some JOY to them and their caregivers. This is a new orphanage partnership with Healing Haiti, with only one other group having visited before us, so it was exciting that it was new to even our team leaders. When we arrived, it was a pretty quiet environment…two classrooms were filled with pre-k and kindergarten aged students having instruction time, another room with toddlers bubbling about, and finally an infant room bustling with nannies feeding and changing them. The toddlers were most distracted by their new visitors when we peeked our head into their doorway and they instantly started shrieking with JOY and bouncing with excitement. We were led to the outdoor courtyard where we saw the second building of the school with older kids in class. A few of them popped their heads over the balcony of their classroom to sneak a look at us before getting back to learning. A few minutes later, the toddlers came bounding out to see us. We opened up the tote we brought along with puzzles, white boards, bubbles, jump ropes & coloring books. The toddlers quickly picked their favorite activities and we got down to important business…PLAYTIME! Bubbles floated in the air, balls were flying, and the jump rope was skipping. We played, enjoyed songs, and snuggled the kids that were feeling a bit shy. Soon, the school kids joined us and they enjoyed drawing on the white boards & showing off their smarts by counting and singing the ABC’s in English. After a while of playing & bonding with the kids, it was time to say a difficult goodbye to our new friends and head to our next stop.
Next, we visited the Metal Market where Haitian artisans make metals signs and décor. It was a typical market place with all of the vendors eager to show off their wares and bargaining over prices. As a group, we found a favorite shop that specialized in spreading JOY. Many of us found unique items that we are taking back to Minnesota, in addition, they gave each one of us a “baby” JOY sign. It will be a great reminder of this day when we return to our families and friends.
Our last stop of the day was to the Manefort School and Orphanage for the Deaf. We first took a tour from one of the sisters that runs the school and saw all of the new dormitories that are being erected. Brand new buildings!!! This was rare for us to see in Haiti. We caught the kids just as school was finishing up and buses were arriving, but we were able to take a look in a classroom and meet with a teacher. There was a lot of learning – all in French – going on at this school.
School was out for the day, so again, it was time to…PLAY! Honestly, we were a bit worried about how we would communicate since none of us are fluent in sign language. However, we went in with open hearts; ready to share JOY. We were able to spend time playing with the students that live at the school campus. A few highlights included Annika getting to use her French skills to communicate with a girl in writing & Dave rounded up a group of boys for a raucous game of basketball. Our worries about communicating quickly eased away.
There was a lot of hope today as we saw kids that were just able to be, well, kids. God is working in their lives through their attentive caregivers, bright teachers and loving nannies, and it gave us hope too.
Written by Tracy Corcoran