6-7 days in Haiti is just long enough for me. At the end of the trip, I think we are all pretty ready to go home and return to our "normal lives". Quite honestly, Haiti just a MISERABLE place. You feel uncomfortable ALL THE TIME. It's hot, smelly and filthy. Haiti is a difficult place to work with all it's issues of corruption, sabotage, and the mentality that often comes from living in such dire poverty. It is always frustrating, and you often feel like the hamster running around in that wheel but going nowhere. We completely understand why so many NGOs have thrown their hands in the air and turned their back on this place. It's not easy to be here.
The problem is, we can't stay away. When you allow yourself to stop - long enough to step away from all the "tasks" and "projects" that we come to Haiti with the objective of accomplishing, you'll see it. It's not the place that keeps us coming back - it's the children. We want MORE for these kids, even a fraction of what our kids at home have. As a mother, I feel the weight of wanting to make sure all our kids at Eden Garden are taken care of. That they are loved. That they are healthy and are eating right. Groups of these kids swarm around us just to be in our presence, to be touched, or to hold our hands. Just like our own kids, these kids want to be SEEN. They want to know that they are special and that they matter.
During this visit, I was struck when one of the kids sitting next to me said "Sabrina? Yours?" He was asking about my daughter and had remembered her name. WOW. That means a lot to me, as my kids talk about and pray for the Eden Garden kids every single day. They desperately want to come to Haiti with us to meet the kids that they hear so much about. It's wild when I look around the orphanage and see several of the kids wearing my own kids' clothing or toys that we have sent over. Aside from being thrilled that they are getting more use out of them, it sort of ends up being a visual for me that these kids really are a part of our extended family.
When we left the orphanage that day to go home, some of the kids just hung their heads and cried. We hugged them and promised that we would be back in January. Later that night, we arrived back home and our kids ran outside to greet us. It was past their bedtime but they waited up for us, showering us with hugs and kisses. They were happy to have us home.
We are studying the book "Radical" by David Platt with a small group that meets at our house. In the book, we read this quote: “We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.”
The author is right - everything HAS changed. It's personal now. Sometimes I wish I didn't have to go back to that miserable place, but I do. There are 37 kids who will be waiting up for us, ready to shower us with hugs. We can't disappoint them.