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