This is Manda from the Minnesota Healing Haiti team. We came as two groups, one from Minnesota, and another from California. We were two groups that just met on Sunday, but on this day four of our trip here together in Haiti, we can no longer pretend that we are not on this mission from God as one whole group. We are now one! We have formed a strong bond from our first meeting at the Miami airport to today. We have prayed together, we have cried together, we have seen the unimaginable together, and because of that, our hearts are bonded as one strong unit forever.
Today, God led us on a trip to see and to do things that help me to think that there is beauty here in Haiti in many forms. Beauty can be seen in the laughter of the children, in the art created by their talented hands, in their long dark eyelashes and peaceful eyes and the hugs of their thin arms around your shoulders.
We started our day by visiting the Elder School in Cite Soleil. It was very interesting to walk into this school and to see how it was set up. The children were divided by grades. Each grade was in their own room. The preschoolers were in the first room and by the time we walked up the two stories, we were on the roof to see where the high schoolers studied. We were informed that the children in this school almost always walked to school, were granted an uniform, and a lunch meal if a sponsor or family member helped to pay for their tuition. We saw lunch cooking in a big pot. The pot contained the familiar contents of the ingredients from the Feed The Starving Children mixture. The classrooms were rudimentary and full of 40 or more children. They contained chalkboards and long, thin, wooden desks. I did not see many books. The Elder School visit brought a lot of hope to my heart. I witnessed a place where children who live in poverty can go and learn about language, math, history and the world. Education can be powerful. I can imagine and hope that these talented and fortunate children who are getting the chance to go to school can and will go on to do powerful things with their education. Perhaps they will start a business and increase job possibilities in their own neighborhoods? This would be so wonderful in a country that has a 40% unemployment rate and is regarded at the poorest in the Americas. Perhaps they will go on to travel or be the next pastor or teacher to help inform their own children of the possibilities that exist in the world? This just hope! I am proud to know that Healing Haiti supports several schools like Elder School by assisting with the teachers's salaries.
Next, we distributed water in Cite Soleil. We had first been there on Tuesday and that day was shocking in so many ways for me. I saw for the first time, the reality of life for many of the Haitians who live in the poorest area of this country. Children and women by the hundreds lined up with buckets of all sizes to have them filled up so that they could carry them back to their homes. I had never seen homes like this before. They were mostly rectangular shaped structures with flimsy roofs and most without any windows. The rocky streets were full of humans and animals. Goats, pigs, chickens and stray cats and dogs roamed the streets freely. The open gutters were full of sewage and garbage that flowed along the road. I soon realized that due to the open gutters and pot holes, that I would have to be very careful about where I stepped. The smells of the city were different. For me, the one that stood out the most was one that was similar to the one of something burning. When we arrive at the stops, you are immediately inundated with the presence of beautiful children. These children often are not fully dressed, and or not dressed at all. They have hard callouses on their shoeless feet, and they often have a soft yellow hew around their eyes. I know that they were probably all hungry and of course thirsty too as they were there to pick up water, but they were most obviously in the need for some love and attention and that is what my wonderful team members and I did, we showered as much love on them as possible! Many of them would outstretch their arms and we picked them up and hugged them tight. We also tried to bring as many smiles and giggles as possible to them. We popped bubbles with chewing gum, we played hand games, we sang songs, we helicoptered them around until they laughed aloud! Being in Cite Soleil and distributing the water almost seemed unreal for me. I witnessed desperation that was felt from the clingy hugs of so many children and was
seen in the hurried placement of the buckets for the fast moving water from the large hose to fill. It almost felt like I wasn't there. For me, what I was seeing and smelling seemed unimaginable. Could I really be here doing this? Was I really witnessing this type of desperation for water that freely runs through my kitchen and bathroom sinks at home in unlimited amounts? I left the water runs emotionally and physically drained. Being there and helping to love on the people of Haiti was God's plan for me and the whole group. I know that we all did our best there and thank you God for giving us the chance to make an impact there!
We also got to visit the most amazing place today called The Apparent Project. The Apparent Project has a boutique that contains a lot of beautiful handmade items. The items are made by Haitian moms and dads. I was told that the organization was started by a women from the U.S. who wanted to go down to Haiti after the earthquake and adopt. She realized when she got down here that a lot of Haitian children in the orphanages are actually just there because their moms and dads cannot afford to take care of them. The Apparent Project gives them a place to work and the director today said that the employees receive a salary that is almost triple of what is usually received in a factory job within the city. They get paid by each finished project. The projects are all beautiful pieces of art. Some are hand made pottery cups and plates, some are beaded necklaces and bracelets from handmade beads, and there's also t-shirts, bags and hand pounded metal items. These items are all amazing and a lot of us purchased them for gifts to take back home to our friends and family. I felt wonderful about these purchases. I knew that by buying them, that I was helping to support a mom or dad that just wanted to keep their own child from living in an orphanage. With their salaries, they are coming home at night to be with their own child. I couldn't imagine a life without my children and/or the knowing that they could not be with me because I was unable to provide food and shelter for them. I thank God for a such a wonderful place as The Apparent Project.
Signing off and heading to bed now. We are going to go to church early in the morning and will be able to see the sunrise during our worship service. How amazing! Love, Manda