In the Summer of 2010 I was one of many lucky people who had the opportunity to take a short trip to Haiti. I fell almost instantly in love and just can't keep myself away. I've spent about 11 months in Haiti since the first time I went two and a half years ago and my time there isn't over. I'm exploring my options on where to take my life from here but it WILL include Haiti in one form or another. This is where I record stories and thoughts about my experiences.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

This is the news that I have heard: The police force in Haiti is on strike. They went on strike because some of their police men had been shot on the street for no apparent reason. For the past week, there have been riots all over Haiti in protest of the police strike. People have been burning cars and tires in the roads as well as shooting guns in the streets. On Monday, Katie and I went for a walk to get formula for our boys. It was a cloudy day which hardly ever happens in Haiti. As Katie and I were walking down the street we were saying how the atmosphere felt weird and different because of the muggy, cloudy weather. We walked down the road into town. Two minutes after we arrived home and got back inside the gate, one of our workers came rushing inside breathless. She said that there was a shooting on the road that Katie and I were just walking on. She was in town buying stuff when the guns went off and she, along with everyone else fled. For the rest of that day our area was eerily quiet. There were no cars on the roads, no music playing on the streets, and absolutely no people walking around. Usually there are noises everywhere. We hear car horns honking, several church services, street music and all sorts of activity. But not on Monday. The silence lasted through the night. By Tuesday, things started up again. We didn't hear of anyone getting hurt. But it's scary to think that Katie and I could have been there if we had been just a few minutes earlier.

Although things outside our gate aren't the most stable of conditions, inside the gate, things are going pretty good. On Monday, it rained in the afternoon. Katie and I went outside with all the kids to play and bathe in the rain. It was so fun to see all those silly little kids dancing around in their underpants soaking wet.

Michaelle and Dianna

SonSon and Mislanda

Jennifer, Scheelanda and Bebej

Me and Mislanda

Bebej



The big puddle in the back of the house

Jennifer, Erline and Juliette

Marvins

Mislanda

Samantha, Francesca and Erline

SonSon, Michaelle, "Jeannies" and Katie



Betchina and Bebej

Yesterday was a very proud day for me indeed. My little boy Noah got his first tooth! Jackson is crawling as of a few days ago and goes all over the house. Such big boys we have.

Time is going by so fast. Katie is leaving Haiti on Monday. That means she only has SIX days left with us! After that, I'll have two weeks here by myself. On May 14th, a girl named Mallorie is coming to spend the summer here. She'll be taking over teaching the kids and caring for the babies. I'll be here two weeks with her to show her the ropes. I want to make sure the boys and all the kids have some time with her to adjust. It's going to be really really hard to back off and let the boys attach to her but I know it's what's best. I'll let her slowly take over our routine from bathing to feeding. Leaving is going to be almost impossible. My best OK friend Amy is coming to Haiti to take me home with her. We'll be spending some time in Leogane before I leave. I'm so thankful that she's coming and that I can be with her on the trip back. She'd better be ready to hold me while I lose it in the airport from missing all the kids I love here in Haiti.

Haiti is a hard place. The people here go through so much. It's especially hard to see when kids are affected by the difficult situations that their parents or those in charge of them are going through. I've seen this in two ways the past week or so.

First off, we are looking for a new place for Marvins to go. He's been doing so well adjusting to this drastically different life here at Sue's. But there have been some problems. Yes, he's very hyperactive and we have trouble getting him to sleep at night or obeying during the day. But that's to be expected and nothing that we couldn't handle. However, the longer he's been here, there are deeper issues that have been coming to the surface. We have found him on several occasions alone with some of the little girls here with his clothes off. We've also seen him trying to touch little girls inappropriately. He's too little to understand the magnitude of his actions and how harmful this could  be for the girls here. We don't know everything about these kids' stories. Some of these girls we suspect were sexually abused. We can't allow Marvins to be doing this to them. We don't know what Marvins' story is either. He's obviously had a hard past. We wish there was a way to keep him but that would mean that someone would need to be with him at all times to watch him. That is impossible. We've tried it. We care about him and where he goes. I have asked all the contacts I have in Haiti for any contact information for good children's homes for him to go to. So far, I don't have any leads. Please be praying for him and this situation. It's tragic and very difficult.

Another really tough situation is with the girls in Leogane. They're telling me that all of the older girls are being kicked out because of lack of food. There's a lot that goes into this. It's not a simple problem with no simple solution. As of now, those girls really need your prayer. I know that most of them are not finished with school and have had no skills training needed to find a job. When I asked them where they'd go, they told me they'd go live on the streets. This is another really depressing situation that needs a lot of prayer.

I was getting really depressed and hopeless because of these sad situations. I felt that nothing in Haiti could ever change and that there was nothing that I could do to help any of it. I was talking to Amy about it. She said I was getting way to negative and needed to look at all the good things that are happening in Haiti. A lot of the people I love in Haiti are in negative situations and I let my attitude become negative too. Amy reminded me that there are so many good people in Haiti, both Hatians and Americans that are working together to improve bad situations like the one that Marvins and the girls are in. I got to thinking about all the awesome organizations I know of not to mention all the great things I see citizens doing too.

There's a relatively new recycling center that's not far from our house that's providing so much good for Bon Repos. It provides jobs as well as cleans up the streets. It offers people who recycle a small sum of money as well. I have seen so many roads being repaved since I've first came to Haiti too.  I see kids making toy cars out of plastic bottles and kites out of plastic bags and sticks. Every time I go out I notice construction being done and rubble being cleaned up. I have seen a church group out on the street in matching shirts shoveling trash out of the gutters more than once. Just the other week our church took a group to the public hospital to pass out donations that they had collected to the patients.

It is happening. Things are getting done. Despite the hunger. Despite the poverty. Despite the negative situations. My reaction to bad situations is to sit and feel bad about life. That's not how Haiti is reacting. People get up, and continue on. That takes amazing drive, strength and courage. Something I obviously am lacking. I am lacking this despite my wealth. Despite my full belly. Despite my privilege. God is here in Haiti. I see him here more here than I have anywhere else. Sometimes I don't see it because I'm blinded by the bad stuff. But then I look at all the amazing stuff and I realize how silly I've been. God's love and power is shown through the amazing stuff. It's shown when that church group get's their hands dirty to clean up the streets. I see it when I see dozens of handmade kites flying in the sky. I see it in the church members when they donate from their tight budget to buy a bar of soap for a sick person in the hospital.

God is here. Things are happening. Despite everything.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

video
Here is Dianna saying hi to her mom with help from her sister Jennifer
video
Samantha Singing for her American mom and sister Rolanda.

Friday, April 20, 2012

video
The room that is the room that Katie and I call our quiet oasis...

There's always room for more in Haiti.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Humility

I learned a good lesson in humility the other day. I've learned this lesson many times, but this was the first in a while. I had to apologize to an especially sassy 11 year old. Sometimes, I feel more like a sister to her than a mentor/teacher/authority figure. I live with her, and she gets on my nerves sometimes because she's especially good at pressing people's buttons. And I get on her nerves too. Yesterday, we were having one of those days. The more annoyed I'd get, the more she'd want to be naughty to make me more annoyed. She used her 11-year-old-ness to be annoying and I'd use my authority to get her in trouble. At one point, I got extra angry at her for something she did wrong. My reaction was not reasonable for the situation and I knew it. I could have just let her be in trouble and feel bad but instead I decided to right the wrong. I apologized and told her that I got too angry for the situation and it was wrong. She also did the right thing and said that I was forgiven. It's so humbling to apologize to a child. Maybe it comes easier for other people but not always to me. When a child disobeys all day long then I do one thing wrong, the last thing I want to do is apologize. But I know it's so important. Not always easy, but important. Sometimes it's easy to use the power we have as adults to take advantage of kids, especially ones that you know well and have daily interactions with. But they deserve the same exact respect that every other human deserves. Just because one has authority over another, doesn't mean they are"more than" and the other is "less than." All people deserve respect. It's important to step down from your position of power sometimes and apologize even when your position of power gives you the option not to. I've always believed in this but it's different when you're putting it into practice. Especially when you live with 19 rowdy children. My patience is really being tested!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Photos

Sweet, perfect Monica from Leogane 

Jennifer and Samantha braided my whole head

Marvins

Jackson loves his carrier and so do I!

Tchaly from Leogane. He came right up to me when I got there and wanted me to hold him. He definitely knows who I am. :)

Yverose

Katie passing out some toothbrushes to the girls in Leogane

Our kids eating sugar cane

My friend Junior from Leogane came to visit

cuddle time!

Who says bows are just for girls...

Awww Noah, stop being so adorable!

Me and Claudeson

Juliette and Dianna


My boys missed me after I left for a long day at the beach

Everybody

Mama, Jackson, Papa, and Noah

Their normal hangout spot

In the kitchen before bed talking to my boy

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I have found myself getting really angry at times during the past few weeks. We took all the kids to the beach on Monday. Katie and I walked to go to the bathroom which was a ways away. Every group of Haitian men we passed had something to say about our bodies and the way we looked. They made comments on which one they would "take" or if we were attractive or not. They didn't know that I understood most of what they were saying as I passed by. The last group we passed was the worst and really made me angry. I should have just kept walking and ignored them but I didn't. I wasn't exactly representing Jesus in a gracious or kind way but I was mad and wanted them to know it! When I sassed back, they didn't seem to care and made even more disrespectful comments. I was furious and probably shouldn't have said anything to them but I couldn't help myself. I've seen men treat Haitain women like that as well and I despise this disrespect.

Earlier this week I went on a rant about the way that I've seen some American men treat Haitian women. The fact that someone is visiting Haiti automatically makes them "richer" and Haitians know that. It is for this reason that Americans need to be careful how they present themselves in Haiti. I don't want to abuse the automatic privilege I have that comes along with having "more". I have more opportunity, (I can leave whenever I want) I have more education (college degree) and I have more money (I paid for a plane ticket that costs more than some Haitians would make in a year). I have seen American men come to Haiti to abuse that privilege to get the attention of young, Haitian women. That's not to say that it doesn't happen with American women with Haitian men too but the few incidences that I witnessed involved American men and Haitian women. The American men got a fun time out of the attention they got from the young women and then they flew home without a second though. On the other hand, I can guarantee you that the Haitian women were hoping for more. They had hope of the security that money or a visa would bring. They weren't looking for "a good time." One situation I witnessed involved a girl who was only 17. I thought of little else for a week after I knew what was going on. I talked to some of my friends who are Haitian men about it. I wanted them to know that I did not appreciate that sort of behavior and I didn't want his behavior reflecting on me or others as Americans or Christians. I was shocked when they laughed at how seriously I was taking it. They thought that this man's behavior was acceptable. Well that just made me even more angry.

When I talked to Katie about it, she told me that she noticed me getting upset a lot in the past couple of weeks. After talking to her, we figured out that the things that were upsetting me the past couple of weeks had to do with how women are treated, especially here in Haiti. It really got me thinking that this is where my passion is. I thought a lot about how I really want to stand beside young women in Haiti. Especially those who grew up in orphanages and probably have very few strong examples to follow. I don't know what this will look like but I think I'm on to something. I really feel like God is putting this passion on my heart and I don't want to ignore it.

The longer I'm in Haiti, the more I seem to get an idea of the direction I want my life to go. It's coming along very slowly but it's coming. I wanted to learn a lot from my time here. There are many days that I feel like I'm not learning anything at all, but when I look back, I realize I really have. I guess I just wish I could have my life planned out for me and someone would just tell me exactly where I should be and what I should be doing. But it's not that easy and no one ever knows where they'll end up. But I'm getting more comfortable with the fact that things are always changing and as long as I'm learning and growing, then I'm doing okay.