Back in Haiti

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It’s strange coming back to Haiti after two years. So many things have changed, yet so much remains the same. As we were driving to the orphanage from the airport, I recognized once we got to the road where we walk each morning. I exclaimed to the driver how different it looked because the entire road had been paved on the mile-long walk from the guest house to the orphanage. It’s wonderful to see improvements, like the pavement and several Haitian crews out cleaning garbage off the streets.

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The orphanage has changed a lot, too. Only two of my eight kids are still at the younger kids house, and both of them have grown up so much. Almost all the other kids are new, and there’s not as many kids as were there two years ago.

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So much has changed, yet so much remains the same. The guys yelling “blanc” at you, the Haitian kids smiling and saying “bonjou” as you walk past, the unique smell of the orphanage babies sleeping on you.

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Just in my first week, we have already done many new things. We bought street food for lunch on Saturday, which consisted of fried chicken, plantains, French fries, and pigs’ feet (a spicy cabbage-y salad). Each plate only cost a couple dollars, and yes, it was literally made in a shack open to the street. Only a few people got sick from it. Smile

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On Saturday afternoon, one of the missionary guys took a few of us out on a drive into the mountains of Haiti. We rode Haitian style, standing in the back of the pickup bed. We got to see some of the poorer parts of Haiti (the orphanage is located in a rich area for Haiti). I took a lot of pictures on the drive, but pictures can’t capture either the beauty or the poverty of Haiti. Because it’s not respectful to take close-up pictures of Haitians without asking their permission, I didn’t take pictures as we drove through the villages. Some images you can only store in your heart.

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We laughed as a Haitian guy snapped pictures of us three “blanc” girls as we drove through a village. I teared up when several young boys raced after us with little bouquets of beautiful Haitian wildflowers and a bowl of tiny wild berries. We bought some of the flowers on our drive down, because the same boys were still there hours later. It’s so sad to see such young children begging you to buy what they’ve worked so hard to get.

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Each of the kids tugs at my heart strings in different ways, but one of my girls especially breaks my heart. She hasn’t been at the orphanage all that long, and I’m her first volunteer in awhile. Although the kids usually are clamoring for you to take them out to the balcony, she screams and tries to run away from me. I take her up to the balcony, and after a few minutes she calms down. She’s so sweet and has the most precious voice, and each day she’s becoming more and more comfortable with me. Even though I’ve only heard bits and pieces of her story, I know that she’s had more traumatic experiences in her short life than my nineteen-year-old self could ever comprehend.

It’s so hard with these kids, because you want to tell them that you’ll always be there for them. But you know that you’re only there for a month, and at the end you’ll have to leave them forever. But right now I’m just taking it one day at a time, recognizing that today I can do something. Today I can hug them, play with them, and cuddle with them, even though a month from now I won’t be able to do those things.

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“I am only one, but I am one.
I cannot do everything, but I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”–Edward Everett Hale

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