My Neighbors Children

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What I Did For Thanksgiving or Can One Person Really Make a Difference?

I spent Thanksgiving week in Haiti, with a group of orphans and Haitian employees, and, again, will be changed forever. 

First of all, this was my eighth trip in just over a year to Haiti.  These trips have been filled with working with orphans, visiting the "temporary tent cities" that continue to house nearly 900,000 people 22 months after the earthquake and are barely still standing, visiting clinics and schools, distributing products, and falling in love with so many children.........children that need everything, love, food, medicine, education, underwear, shoes, supplies, and hope.

Each time I return to Haiti, I hope to see improved conditions, homes being rebuilt, a stronger economy, less sickness, less fear in the peoples eyes, and more confidence in the future.  For now, less than two years after the earthquake, there  is still too much focus on survival and not enough on other things.  It seems to be all about "how and what can we eat today", "do we have enough rice", day after day after day.

I started the trip with the following plans, share Thanksgiving with a group of children that I love and provide them some diversity from their daily lives, let them know they are special and that there are a lot of people that care for them.  Also, visit another orphanage to "adopt" on behalf of MNC in 2012, and develop a plan to support them.  Spend a solid half day "shopping" with some of the Haitian staff to gather enough special foods to have a feast and show the children how Americans celebrate Thanksgiving.  Deliver a supply of donated items to the children in need, shoes/underwear/medicine, etc.  And lastly, spend as much time as possible with my two special children, Jackie and Noah.  This was a reasonably easy plan............  Also, I had specific marching orders from a friend, who informed me that there are six new children at New Life, brought down from the mountains suffering from starvation and malnutrition.  One child, Alex, a three year old boy, was not recovering very quickly, might need a blood transfusion, so needed lots and lots of love and holding and toys and nutritional supplements.  The order was to "spend lots of time holding and rocking Alex".

I arrived in Haiti, and went straight to the orphanage where I would stay.  I was greeted with over 100 children, all ages, all happy to see me, and there was so much "catching up" to do, kisses to exchange, hugs that never stopped, noses to blow, swings to push,  and kids to pick up and hold.  Within a couple of short hours, my heart was full, my mind racing trying to take it all in, and my shoulders and back already starting to ache a little bit from lifting and holding so many children.  I distributed some of the goods that I brought down immediately, the important stuff first,  which to the kids included cookies and cakes and cereal bars, and other snacks packed into a suitcase.  Like children everywhere, they are bottomless pits!  While they are well cared for at the orphanage, I know that many of them remember hunger too well.

In addition to Alex, there is a ten month old boy who appears to be a newborn baby, a little girl with tiny pigtails, a little boy that is the sweetest child I have ever met named "Jenny" who broke my heart when he asked "you my mommy?"  (I said yes), the tiny baby's older brother who is mature beyond his years, and another small/shy little boy.  All of the children are at different stages of adjusting to their new home.  It is so different from the remote mountainous region where they came from, far away from any family, and far away from the conditions of daily hunger.

I went to bed my first night, tired and happy and thinking there was no where else that I would rather be.

The following morning brought the blackest of intense sadness that I have not been able to shake.  You see, Alex died that morning.  A three year old boy, died of starvation and malnutrition which was so severe that he could not recover.  This happened a short one and half hour flight from Florida.  There is so much that could be told about his hard life.  He was not without love, but without food, clean water, electricity, new toys, new clothes........the many things that we believe all children deserve.  There are other victims here, a mother that died of cholera this year, three other siblings still trying to stay alive, a father that loves his family but doesn't have the means to keep them alive.

This should not happen.  Alex did not die of a disease, or an accident......he died due to lack of food.   Yes, his suffering ceased, but it was a suffering that should have never happened.  I am sad and angry and emotional and furious...............I am more determined than ever to be an advocate for these children.  These children exist, and they are human beings, and they deserve to live and to dream of the future.  They deserve a full tummy, and clean water, and to have a world that cares about how they feel today!  They deserve to be picked up when they fall and are crying, they deserve to have someone kiss them and say "I love you so much".  AND, the moms and dads deserve to be able to provide for their families and to keep their children healthy.

So, I am often asked about my efforts in Haiti "do you really think that you or one person can make a difference?" 

I will tell you tonight..............yes, one person can make a difference, because Alex has made a difference............he has made me recommit and become more determined than ever to stand up for these kids, to kiss and hug as many of them as I can, to fill as many of their bellies as often as I can,  and to help them reach their potential.  I will give to them, I will ask others to give to them, I will work harder for them, and I will tell their story...............until someday, I hope they will be able to tell their own story! 

I had a "fantasy" before this trip to Haiti to come back and tell a happy story of Alex's recovery and how well he is doing.  Now I have to tell the sad and painful story of a child that did not make it.  However, it is a story that needs to be told...............and yes, one person can make a difference .
Even if we make a difference for one day, for one person, it is worth it.


At November 29, 2011 at 4:39 PM , Blogger Jeremy Chambers said...

Amazing work you are doing, I am so glad to have been able to watch this organization make such a difference in such a short time!


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