I went to Haiti with the Mission of Hope team from Lawton, OK in November of 2007. We were there for the Thanksgiving Holiday week. There were sixteen people on the team with seven of them in their teens. The leader was Kim Shahan. We landed in Port au Prince in the late afternoon and were met by the Mission of Hope bus, a recycled yellow school bus. Driven north through the city on a very congested two lane road…the main road in the region.
When we arrived at the compound an armed guard opened the gate, let us in and closed it. He then opened the second gate and let us into the compound. We drove past the orphanage, school church and clinic to the dorm facilities. They were also walled with an armed guard sitting in a tower. We had generator power from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. It was great to have the fans to keep off the mosquitoes.
Sunday we went to church on the compound and after the singing, the kids left for Sunday school. We went and I did a string program for them and taught them some things. The team was just beginning to learn some of the figures so they could help the kids. Soon they were very proficient.
After church we brought some of the kids from an outlying village up to the dorm for lunch with us and then to play on the playground that had been built the year before. What a pleasant time for the kids; food, loving attention and play. It can’t be beat.
That evening we went down to the Hope House orphanage where 40 or so kids were being reacquainted with some of the team members who had been there before. Popcorn and a video in Creole; I had trouble keeping my eyes open.
The first three days I worked in the mornings with the kids at the school on the compound. There were 1,200 students and we worked with each grade level from first grade up. I had young men that had graduated from the orphanage translating for me. They did a great job.
Each afternoon we went to another school or orphanage to do string programs. Each was so different; but similar in the fact that it was crowded, dim, and hot. Most of the schools had a piece of plywood painted green for a chalkboard…or maybe just a part of the wall. It’s not very readable but without any textbooks, very necessary.
One day we walked up to the Voodoo Tree. Waded the river three times and followed a very muddy and slippery trail that young boys were leading horses loaded with sugar cane along. The tree was an enormous affair of roots, branches and gnarled trunks. We did strings with the people there and I put a string crucifix on the tree. It was great to be telling the Gospel Story to the people gathered at that place.
Another day we went to Grace House in Cabaret. It is a big room that just got cement for the floor. It is built for the homeless people next to the dump. They were so happy to have anyone pay attention to them. Some of them knew string figures, so we had a bond to start with. We also gave out Beanie Babies to kids and adults alike. I wonder what they look like after a couple of days.
The students at Titanyen School were very receptive to the string program and by this time the team members were very eager to teach what they knew. Sometimes they would take a child or adult off to teach them something different than what I was teaching. Oh well, now I have many disciples.
The Good Samaritan Orphanage was in a building instead of the tent they were in last year. With the help of organizations such as Mission of Hope, these children are getting a chance at life. We brought the backpacks, paper and pencils. Oh, what we take for granted!
Simonette School was started two years ago by a Haitian man who saw a need in his village. He taught the kids under a tree. Last year he was able to get a blue tarp for a school. This year he built a building out of pallets. They have dirt floors but now there are four rooms for the kids. When the average worker gets $2.50 a day, they don’t have much with which to work.
We were searching for a girl that one of the families had befriended last year. We found her with her eight siblings and her mother living in a very unpleasant situation. They had lost everything when the floods from the hurricane came through two weeks earlier. Eighty people in that area were killed at that time.
MOH was able to get her family situated in a 12 by 12 home, register her in a school and get her a uniform. They also were able to alert the authorities of the need and Convoy of Hope, a humanitarian feeding program, is going to saturate the area with meals. All of this happened because one family wanted to help one little girl.
The team and I worked with 2,500 people…at least we gave out that many strings. The strings were a perfect vehicle for communicating love with the people. No language skills necessary. There was also a team from Kansas City, MO there. They joined us in working with the people and are now also proficient in string. In fact, they want to start some kind of work with them in their area.