This past December I went on another amazing trip to Haiti where we celebrated Christmas with children at 3 orphanages and gave out care packages to people living on the streets. I know, amazing seems to be the generic word that many people use to describe basically everything they like these days, but these trips are truly like an Amazing gift and there’s no other word to describe them better. God has given me this amazing gift in the form of Haitian children and it can never be replaced or taken away no matter what. But it’s a gift that I feel needs to be shared.
I went to Haiti on my very first missions trip in October of 2011 and wasn’t really sure what to expect. Would the people of Haiti be accepting of me? Would the children at the orphanages be afraid of me or would they let me love on them? Our trip leader, Jay Bowen, told us not to put expectations on anything during our trip and we’d be amazed at what truly does happen. He was right. During our trip we made friends with so many Haitians and were able to love on the children at the orphanages we visited. Many of the children had either lost parents in the 2010 earthquake, had parents who died from some form of illness, or had parents who just out-right abandoned them. They wanted to be loved on. They asked to be picked up or to sit on our laps. At times we could have 5 kids hanging on us. I loved every bit of it and I soaked it all in. But, if I’m to be totally honest, the thought that ran through my head as the first kid climbed on me was lice…scabies. Then quickly another thought replaced it – this is what God has asked me to do, what He had brought me to Haiti for, and that He has given me access to medical care to get rid of such things. So truthfully, I had no worries. These children needed to be hugged, needed to be kissed, and needed to feel loved.
Each night I struggled with what I had seen that day, whether it be the piles of trash that lined the streets, or the filthy water than ran (or sat) in the canals. Canals that were filled with not only stagnant water and trash, but quite often wild pigs. And even with the poverty that surrounded Haiti, the people there had contagious smiles that lit up their faces. These were people that were going without the luxuries that you and I take for granted on daily basis – clean water, electricity, a roof over our head, and food.
We visited 3 orphanages during our trip, but it was the 2nd one, Travay Bondye, that I felt an immediate draw to. Travay Bondye was founded by an organization called Grangou and on any given day is home to aprox 74+ children. About 7 years ago, a couple from Ladera Ranch California (not too far from me) named Carrie and Mike Gibson adopted 2 sibling from an orphanage in Haiti called Maison de enfants de Deux which is ran by Pastor Pierre Alexis. The Gibsons didn’t want to just adopt their children and turn their backs on Haiti. They wanted to do more. And so with Pastor Pierre’s guidence, they formed Grangou.org, the foundation that would soon fund Travay Bondye. While Travay Bondye is primarily a boy’s home, they do have 8 girls (and counting), and the children range in ages from abt 18 mos to 17 yrs old. All but the youngest are not only attending school, but they are thriving. School in Haiti is not free. Tuition is aprox $400 US a year per child to attend, so Grangou hustles to get donations to make sure all the children get an education.
My last trip marked my 8th trip to Haiti and my 8th trip seeing the kids of Travay Bondye. With each trip, the bonds we have made grow stronger and my love for them goes deeper. I too couldn’t just turn my back between trips, thinking that my missions trips are enough, and so I’ve started The Seeding Project to help raise money for the children in Haiti, doing it the best way I know how – through apparel. Through the sales of our graphic tees, my goal is to raise the much needed funds to help pay for school and basic necessities for these children. I truly believe that through education and knowing they are loved, these children can grow to be the powerful change that their country needs. And by purchasing one of our tees, you too are helping to make that happen.
Why Haiti? Here are a few facts –
Haiti is located on the island of Hispaniola, only a short flight from Miami and in close proximity to the United States. Haiti is a neighbor of ours, yet is often overlooked and forgotten. Considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has experienced catastrophe after catastrophe. Still reeling from devastating back to back hurricanes in 2008, Haiti was hit by a terrible earthquake on January 12, 2010. The damage to Port au Prince is almost unimaginable and the number of lost lives has topped 250,000. Haiti was in a desperate situation prior to the earthquake, but now needs our help more than ever. Haiti is a small country, but the needs are great:
• Over 9 Million people
• 80% Unemployment
• 49% Malnourished
• 48% Illiterate
• Over 1 Million Orphans
• Highest rate on infant, under 5, and maternal mortality in the Western Hemisphere
• Only 50% of children attend school
• 300,000 child slaves and thousands of homeless and street children
• 54% without access to clean water
• Poorest country in the Western Hemisphere
Our team from my first trip to Haiti – Jared, me and Jay.
During our trip to Thomazeau, a village out in the country.
Me and some of the boys of Travay Bondye during my July 2013 trip.