Nothing can prepare the average American for the level of poverty that she will encounter in some parts of Haiti.
After a long dusty drive in the L'Artinbone Region, our group cautiously exited the vans. The region had been in severe drought so the ground was dry and heat seemed to seep from all sides. Because I had been to L'Artinbone in February, the shock of poverty wasn't as severe, but nonetheless sobering.
As I stepped into the church filled with kids of all ages, my body responded quickly to the sweltering heat, causing my clothes to cling to my sticky, sweaty skin. Make-shift benches held big kids, holding babies and toddlers. My Creole is atrocious--which may actually be an generous description, considering I had only completed 8 out of 30 Pimsler's Creole lessons. Nevertheless, I smiled big and went around the room offering High 5's, kisses, and hugs with a robust, "Bon jou!"
Some children responded with shy smiles and High 5's, others greeted me with "Bon jou," while others shouted out, "Blan!! Blan!" ("White! White!") Looking around the room, there were signs of malnutrition, but thankfully, many of the children were looking healthier after faithfully coming to the feeding program that had started a year ago, in the Spring.
I began attempting conversation with some mothers who were huddled in the corner of the room. They seemed happy to "chat," and were animatedly trying to communicate something with me. One of them rubbed her belly and thought she was trying to communicate that she was pregnant. After a few minutes of several of them rubbing their bellies, I finally realized they wanted something to eat. Hungry. They were hungry. Of course. The feeding programs target the children, but parents leave without anything. I cannot tell you how heartbreaking it is.
The kids ate their meal, a fortified rice dish, then we all went outside to play with them. I had a gang of kids around me, including one sweet girl who began tugging on my hand, clearly wanting me to come somewhere with her. I didn't know where she was leading me and frankly, I was a little nervous about how far we were going to go. She led me to her home.
Girl holding my hand led me to her home.
It was a very small house (size of a very small room) made of dirt clay and rice stocks. Her father was sitting in a chair just outside the house under a tiny piece of shade that one could theoretically describe as the covered patio. There was enough space for me to join him on the patio and shake his hand. My favorite part, though was that girl wanted to show me her house. It was hers. It was her father. It was her home. I felt privileged to be invited in her home. It reminded me of a blog post my sister-in-law just shared about how our kids simply love their parents--despite the haves and have nots, or the successes and failures. (You can read her blog post HERE.)
As an American devastating physical poverty brings me to my knees. But poverty is not just physical. Poverty can be found lurking in so many places. Mother Teresa said, "Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty." It was in L'Artibonite that I saw some of the worst kind of physical poverty. But that girl showed me that she wasn't poor in every way. And that is the glimmer of hope that I can take away from L'Artibonite.
Thankfully, there is hope that the people of L'Artibonite can climb out of physical poverty. A water filtration system that can service many people in the community is set to be built in the next couple of months. In addition, Chances for Children (C4C) hopes to build a school by the end of 2016. These are baby steps and nothing seems to happen quickly. But I am thankful that there is progress--and it truly will be life-changing progress.
I want to thank those who have supported Justin & I on our trips to Haiti. I assure you that our heart have only grown larger for Haiti and that your investment, both financially and prayerfully, is being multiplied as we continue to work alongside C4C to help them achieve their goals.
If you want to take action, and help more, check out C4C's webpage HERE.