Thursday, August 5, 2010

Reflections on Haiti- Orphans


This is perhaps the hardest section to write about. Most of you know that I’m tender hearted. When discussing orphans my heart just seems fragile. This past week was difficult because of some of the things I realized about orphans and orphan care.

Larry and I entered into our marriage with the idea of adopting. I was told in my early 20’s that children weren’t possible. So our plans have always included adoption. Those plans didn’t change just because we were blessed with Eden and Josiah. There was lots of teasing going on before we left for Haiti about packing two children in our suitcases and bringing them home. But we also sincerely prayed and we were open to anything the Lord had in store for us.

On Wednesday Team Alpha decided to serve some local orphanages. They have a list from the government and we went off in search for children to help. The first orphanage was very nice. It is run by a couple from Holland and has been serving children in Haiti for over 30 years. They serve 120 children; have a great staff and facility complete with their own school and full time nursing staff. It was so clean you could see your reflection in the floor's shine. We were very impressed with the facility. The hostess told us they lost 2 dormitories and their church during the earthquake, but all of their children and staff survived. They have now been inundated with children that have grown up and left who returned after the quake, plus new orphans due to the earthquake.

When I asked about the status of the orphans and if they were available for adoption, I was told they were not adoptable this was a care facility. This lead into a very interesting conversation that has been on my mind since we left. In this ladies opinion, Haitian children shouldn’t be adopted out internationally. She feels that the children are Haiti’s future and taking them outside of the country will take a future leader away from the country. In her defense, Dr. Vlad said he knew of this orphanage that they produced good students. He went to medical school with children who had grown up there.

This lady instead suggest that people from the United States sponsor children, making sure they get a good education and nutrition, but leave them in Haiti.

Quite honestly, I had never thought of a Haitian child being better off in Haiti than in the US. I realized how presumptive I was…... thinking how much better things are here in the US. Amy, one of my team members, was just as emotional as I was as we held the orphan babies. But she reminded me that this is the life they know. They don’t know life with air conditioning, TV, countless toys or with parents. They know the love of the other children and care givers. This was their normal. I left feeling a little defeated, humbled and praying about what that conversation would lead to in my heart.

Then we visited a second orphanage. It was a stark contrast to the first. It was dirty; the children were not a well clothed. It smelled of urine. The overwhelming thing was how much the children wanted to be touched. They rubbed our hands and clung on to us in a way that just took my breath away. Starving for attention, I sat down on the floor with them. Trying to show them as much love as I could in our limited time.

Then came the highlight of my time in Haiti. While Dr. Merline worked with the staff training them on hygiene and caring for the orphans. Dr. Vlad and I taught hygiene and had story time with the children. I read them the story of when Jesus calls the children unto Him. I shared the love of Jesus with them. What a privilege to be able to experience that with them. I told them I came all the ways from the United States to tell them that Jesus loved them. He knew every hair on their head and that He died for them so they could live with them forever. The children laughed and Dr. Vlad told me I was probably the first white person they had ever seen.

Then I heard the most amazing thing. They sang for me in harmony. Not knowing the words, but picking out the tune of Jesus Loves the Little Children, I sang with them trough tears. And if that wasn’t enough! Then they sang, You are my Sunshine in English. I sang that song to Eden every night before she went to bed until she was two. Hearing my special song to my daughter as I looked into the eyes of all those children who didn’t have a mommy to sing to them each night was heart wrenching.

I sat in the van on the trip home, conflicted about how I felt about adoption. I had built a good relationship with Dr. Merline and asked her what she thought about an American adopting a Haitian based on the conversation we had at the first orphanage. Merline thought that the children in the first orphanage would be better off there, but admitted that the second orphanage was not as good and that those children would be better off with parents. Due to some Haitian road rage, we were not able to finish the conversation.

There are so many other questions to ask as some of the reality of the difficulties of cross cultural adoption really sank in. I thought about what it would look like to raise a child from another culture. Larry and I have talked about it and fully admit we have no idea what it would look like to have a Haitian (or any other race) child raised in our home. Scripture teaches there are only two kinds of people, those who are in Christ and those who aren’t. But we don’t live in a scripture bubble. We live in a racially charged culture. What do you do when your children realize that skin comes in different colors and theirs don’t match ours? What do you do when stupid people say stupid things that might hurt your child? How do the people in the country the children are being taken form feel about them leaving? How do you teach a child a culture you are not a part of, but they are? If we adopted internationally would I be taking a future doctor, teacher or pastor out of a culture that so desperately needs leadership? How does that play out in comparison to giving a child a good life with a Momma and Daddy?

As you can see I have far more questions than answers. And there are no perfect answers to some of these questions. For those of you who have walked through this I would love your input. For now, we will continue to pray and seek the Lord. We have also decided to help Oscar ( see day two's post) and sponsor some of his orphans. Maybe one of them will grow up and be a future leader in Haiti.

Clipping fingernails and cleaning ears was part of my job description this day.

Telling the children about Jesus' love for them.

Amy cleaning out the ears of one of the Orphans.
That was some yucky stuff!

We gave out dolls, soccer balls and balloons to the children.

The children were so hungry for affection. They all wanted to hold our hands, sit in our laps, rub our arms, faces and hair. It could be that we were the first white people they had seen. Or it could be they just wanted to be held and loved on.

This is the baby room from the first orphanage.
Amy and I both found babies to love.

Check out his dimples! Such a sweetheart!

Amy with a happy little boy :)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Reflections on Haiti part two

Medical Teams
There are two different medical teams (Alpha and Omega) that serve the communities in and around Port Au Prince. I served on both but spent most of my time with Team Alpha. I had the wonderful privilege to serve with Dr. Vladamir and Dr. Merline. They are two of the most amazing people I have ever meet. They worked for free when there was no money to pay them. One of the best decisions Baptist Men ever made was to hire them. I saw them give away and provide for so many children that I was truly humbled. Each one took wonderful care of their patients. They spent time and showed genuine concern for each patient. Although I didn't understand the language, the compassion they showed was clear to anyone serving along side of them.

During the trip back to the compound our last day, I commented on how impressed I was with them. They simply said, "we are Christians. That is what we should do, love and serve others like Christ loved us." During that conservation we talked about how they thought they were rich. Compared to our standard of living they are far from what most Americans would call rich. Yet these two really understood the meaning of blessing and wealth. They share all that they have and don't worry about tomorrow, because they trust the Lord to provide. It was such an incredible lesson for me to learn.

Dr. Vlad (top right) and Dr. Merlin (bottom left) with some of the children we helped in the mountains.

The long lines waiting to be seen by the doctors. Some of them start waiting around 3:00 am. They are so thankful to be seen. I was most impressed with the children. They would sit on a lap and wait hours with no food or water, always obedient.

Each night we would count and pack pills for the next day.

Dr. Merline seeing a patient

This is our Haitian pharmacy :) We had everything on individual bags and then packaged in larger bags to hand out. Medication was especially difficult because of the language barrier. My translator spoke French and a some Creole. But most of the patients couldn't read instructions. So we taught by a circle system that represented how many pills and how many times a day to take their medication.

I know this looks like a mess, it did to me on Monday too. By Friday, I had most of it figured out.

Our last clinic on Friday was the nicest. We had the pharmacy on the porch and the doctors saw patients in the shade. Most of the clinics were done under tarps and in make shift churches.
I missed going to the tent city with team Omega. From what I heard from teams members, I am thankful. Tent cities are by far the worst for bugs and disease.

One of the most challenging aspects in going was I didn't really know for sure what I would be doing each day. Each morning our team would figure out the who was there and I would help out where ever I could. Some days I did triage taking blood pressures and blood sugars. Other days I worked in the pharmacy or helped doctors treat patients. On the day we served the orphans, I cut fingernails and cleaned ears. I will not even tell you some of the nasty things we found in ears!! We wound up making a contest for the biggest and the nastiest things found each day.

Dr. Vlad sent out a report describing our week. Here is a little look at what we saw. And yes, we took worm pills, malaria treatment and we did a scabies wash before we came home. A small price to pay for the help we were able to provide.

MONDAY 07/ 26 / 2010 PATIENTS SEEN: 284
TUESDAY O7 / 27 / 2010 PATIENTS SEEN: 297
WEDNESDAY 07 / 28 / 2010 PATIENTS SEEN: 287
THURSDAY 07 / 29 / 2010 PATIENTS SEEN: 310
FRIDAY 07 / 30 / 2010 PATIENTS SEEN: 230
PREVENTION BY EDUCATING PEOPLE (patients) AND TALKING TO THEM THIS WEEK ABOUT HYGIENE: Around 2500 people were educated about HYGIENE and were prepared to practice and share the advices they were given.
2- SKIN INFECTION( Tiena Capitis, Tiena Dermatitis, Impetigo, Scabies, fungal infection)
3- COLD(Bronchitis, Cough, Rhinorhea)
7- FEVER( Malaria, Typhoid, upper respiratory infection)
8- UTI

Monday, August 2, 2010

Reflections of Haiti- Part one

As time permits and computer speed allows, I am going to attempt to share some of my reflections on our time spent in Haiti. It was a wonderful, difficult and humbling experience that I pray will impact you in some small way. Maybe if you can see and imagine how difficult and sweetly simple life is there, you will appreciate your blessings all the more.

One of the projects Larry and Gary worked on all week was building a septic tank at an orphanage for a couple named Oscar and Christine. Oscar and Christine have two children and are pregnant with their third. They have taken in 16 orphans since the earthquake. You can just imagine what an AMAZING couple they are. Larry was able to spend a lot of time with Oscar and was moved by his remarkable faith and willingness to take in 16 children.

I thought to myself. If there was some kind of natural disaster would I be willing to take in 16 extra children??? That takes major courage and a faith in the Lord to provide. Thankfully we were able to be a part of that providing process. Baptist Men of NC is helping fund the building and our construction teams are helping with the work to offset the cost.

Larry and I have talked and we want our church and friends to pray about being a financial support to this specific orphanage. It is still in beginning stages, but the plan was to have the children move in when the bathrooms were completed. It is much safer and larger than where they are currently staying. The building is roughly the size of our 3 bedroom home and will house the 19 children, Oscar and his wife and 2 workers.

I asked if there would be bunk beds, Oscar said that was to expensive for now. He plans to buy carpets to have on the floor to sleep on. The orphanage has concrete level floors. I think they are on dirt floors where they are currently staying.

The other more important consideration was the cost to educate the children. Every parent in Haiti knows that education is the only way a child has a change to better themselves. The cost is approximately $35-50 per year for a child to attend public school. Oscar will need between $630-900 to send all of the orphans to school. We are praying that people will be moved to sponsor a child for a year. If you're interested please e-mail me and I will give you further information.

We stopped by to visit Oscar's orphans and gave them flip flops that had been donated by one of our church members. The children were so thankful to receive shoes. They sang, laughed and played. It was such a blessing to be a part of helping them.
Oscar and Christine and all their children.

This young man worked every day at the site in hopes that he would be able to live in the orphanage that was being built. He's an orphan too.

The work site. This is the construction team and part of the medical teams.

Pouring the foundation for the septic tank.