Mabel’s Labels was one of many sponsors that helped our staffer, Amanda journey to Haiti to help move 60 orphans and many staff members at Ca-Ira a few steps closer to their new home! Here is her story.
February 18-25, 2012.
Allow me to introduce you to the people who became my family during the time I spent in Haiti. On the left is a picture of the 2012 GAiN Student LIFE Team. Sixteen of us came together from all across Canada to live out the mission statement of GAiN: “To demonstrate the love of God, in word and deed, to hurting and needy people around the world, through relief and development projects.” During our short stay at the Ca-Ira Orphanage, we had the amazing privilege to serve some of the people of Haiti, caring for their physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
Although much progress has been made at Ca-Ira since the earthquake 2 years ago, there is still 3 to 5 years of hard work and construction before the re-building project will be complete. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to make a small contribution to this immense process. During the week, we were able to finish pouring concrete and thereby complete the foundation of the new girl’s dormitory.
We also filled in a large trench and began putting up forms for the boy’s dormitory. Once these housing projects are complete, the children will be able to move from their temporary bunk houses into safer and much larger housing. The two dormitories will later be connected creating a common area for meals and an auditorium in between.
A significant problem in Haiti which contributes to illness and disease is their lack of regulated sanitation and garbage facilities. As a result, the people have no choice but to leave their garbage in piles on the streets and beaches or to burn it, resulting in hazardous fumes. We set an example for the children and the community by cleaning up as much trash as we could and burning it in the orphanage incinerator. This way, the children will have a safer place to play and the community’s valuable streams and groundwater will be less polluted, thereby reducing preventable diseases caused by contamination. These small initiatives temporarily improve quality of life for the Haitians but a large scale change is necessary.
The children at the orphanage are all exceptionally well cared for, with regular meals, clean cloths and good schooling. They are privileged in Haiti, as many children struggle daily for the basic necessities for survival. They are loved by their care-takers and also take care of each other. It was common to see the little boys holding hands on their way to school and the older girls taking turns watching the babies and doing the laundry. But since there are approximately 60 children at Ca-Ira, it is not possible for them all to get individual attention or affection as one often does from a parent. Our LIFE Team was able and more than willing to step up and offer hugs and cuddles and one-on-one chats with all of the children. The boys picked up on this immediately and clung to us any chance they got. The girls were much more reluctant, but after a few days and bonding over braids and dance, we formed close relationships with the young girls and great friendships with the older ones. It wasn’t hard to love them, even in the short time we were there, as it was obvious that they loved us as well.
In the photo above, the little boy sitting on my lap in the yellow shirt is José. We got to spend a lot of time together during the last few days of my visit. The night before we left, I sat down with him and told him I had to go but that I loved him and hoped I would see him again soon. He gave me a big grin and said “Bon nuit, je t’aime beaucoup” (which means: Good night, I love you very much) before running off to bed. Just like José, all the kids at Ca-Ira have a way of melting your heart and stealing it at the same time.
The country of Haiti is predominantly Christian and the orphanage is entirely so, being run by the Church of God the Prophecy and GAiN. So for the children and many Haitians, the most important aspect of their lives is their faith. They love God more than anything and this is evident in their nearly constant worship, lively church services as well as in the education of the children. It was inspiring to see people with so little; that we would consider extremely poor, so grateful for everything they have and filled with so much faith and love for God. When many people would abandon their faith in anger as a result of such poverty and devastation from the earthquake, these people chose instead to draw closer to God and rely on him more, sure of better things to come. They also love each other more than any people I have ever seen before. Our “developed” world would be a much better place if we tried to love half as much as the Haitians do daily. We helped meet the Haitians’ spiritual needs by reminding them of God’s love through being his hands and feet to serve them in a tangible way. We also assured them that they have not been forgotten, but rather that there are countless people praying for them all across Canada and that our team would personally continue to do so once we had retuned home.
What Have I Learned?
I have learned many life lessons from my experience in Haiti and I am so grateful to every single person who helped make this missions trip possible. I believe we would all benefit from a trip of this nature, but since that is not possible, I will share a few of the things that I have learned with you instead.
1. All You Need is Love!
Many of the people in Haiti have to live without a lot of the things that we as Canadians consider necessary for a “good” life, like showers and family homes and enough healthy food, but they do appear to have one thing that many of us crave. Love. There is more than enough of that to go around. They love God, their siblings, their friends, their care-takers and even strangers like us that come into their lives for such a brief time. If there is one thing I hope to take away from my experience in Haiti, it is the desire to love more and to serve people in a tangible way that makes my love and God’s love visible.
2. Poverty ≠ Despair
I have never in my life met happier children than in the Ca-Ira orphanage in Haiti. They were full of joy everyday! They took care of each other; offering a hand to anyone who fell, always sharing their food, and they were more than eager to help our team when we were out working during the day. They always played together happily, including everyone and sharing their toys. What surprised me most was that these children never once fought and never cried. Canadian children are so privileged, yet they are never satisfied with what they have and often seem unable to make it through a day without fights and tears. This experience taught me that poverty by no means equates to despair or unhappiness but rather pulls people closer together and closer to God.
3. Sometimes Hard Work Isn’t Enough
When discussing countries plagued by poverty, I have heard people say many times “Well if they’d work harder than they wouldn’t be in that situation”. I have also wondered this myself; maybe the people just aren’t trying to change their circumstances. During my time in Haiti, I learned that this idea is entirely false. Both the men and women in Haiti work so hard! The Haitian men on the construction team worked tirelessly for hours without ever slowing down and I witnessed a woman at the orphanage hand washing the children’s’ clothes for literally the entire day. There is no shortage of hard work. Poverty is not the result of laziness.
I want to sincerely thank each one of you for your prayers and financial support which made my trip to Haiti not only possible but also amazing! This experience was life changing and I feel like I have grown so much as a result. I am already planning to return to the Ca-Ira orphanage to serve again; hopefully within the next year. If you would like to continue to pray for the project and for the Haitian people, I would appreciate it very much.
This would not have been possible without you!
Much love and thanks!