Three weeks ago I was here, in Haiti, with these precious little people. Part of me feels like I never left. These children & the joy they carry with them has been on my heart every day since I hugged them goodbye… and I can’t wait to see them again.
Truth is, I set out on this journey on a whim. There’s a story behind it that I will share in the final Haiti post, but for now I want to focus on telling the story of these beautiful people and the country they call home. I’ve traveled the globe over the past few years & have seen a lot of poverty along the paths to million dollar resorts. Mexico, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, the Bahamas…they all have their fair share of struggles & need, but none can compare to Haiti. Even with the extensive research I did prior to hopping this flight…I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. Most of what I read painted Haiti as a dangerous place to be wary of visiting. But what I experienced in 5 days there was so uplifting, so awe-inspiring… aside from birthing my children & watching them grow into the most amazing humans I’ve ever met, it ranks up there as the most priceless experience of my life.
I observed people rising up from the ashes, holding onto hope, and faith..and each other. I saw a community lifting each other up with joy despite unimaginable poverty. Children orphaned by the earthquake, some who lost their entire families in the rubble. There were days I was grateful for sunglasses to hide my tears. Many of the things these children have faced in their short lives would bring anyone to their knees and yet… they smile, they sing, they choose joy. My camera took on a life of its own in those 5 days..like a beacon leading me to tell their story through the lens. So many images & stories to share with you guys…I hope you’re in for the long haul because even after 3 major edits, it was impossible to narrow them down to less than 4 blog posts. Consider this your warning…the next week will be filled to the brim with Haiti.
And so it begins. We literally stepped off the plane, dropped off our luggage at the hotel ( more on that later) and headed straight to CHOAIDS orphanage. I had no idea what to expect, but these kids… oh, these kids, they steal your heart the minute you make eye contact with them. They lit up when they saw our team leader, Frank ( more on Frank & Feed the Hunger in the next post..) and the entire team. We knew we had limited time with them, so new shoes, beanie babies ( donated by my brother Ben), and candy galore were handed out as soon as we arrived. There was one little girl, Danielle, who you’ll see pictured multiple times below. I followed her outside after she picked out her beanie baby & watched her cry softly against the concrete wall. It ached to see her sad, but as I spent more & more time with her, hugged her, danced with her and held her hand…it dawned on me. They were happy tears. This sweet child knew our presence meant love for her & her friends, and she couldn’t hold back the tears.
And then there was Angela. The baby of the group who could clearly hold her own among the big kids. I spent the better part of my time at CHOAIDS with her wrapped around my waist ( the black & white close-up below was taken with her in my lap) and her kisses…in a word, melt. Not gonna lie, I wanted to hide her in my backpack & sneak her home with me. For such a tiny human, she has such a presence. And eyes that seem to be looking straight into your soul. For these kids, candy is a rare treat. They only get lollipops & smarties when the mission crews come through to visit, and here was Angela reaching out her sweet little hand to offer me her candy. That’s the kids of CHOAIDS, in a nutshell. Brave, generous little souls living with no clean water, no electricity and fighting an uphill battle with HIV. They are my new heroes. Braver, truer & more grounded in their faith than any adults I’ve ever met. They gifted me with one of the best days of my life & as a thank-you I am donating $100 to their Water for Life project and encouraging you to do the same. They need our help, my friends. No amount is too small. With our help they have hope for clean water, medicine needed to battle HIV, and a proper kitchen for the caretakers to cook meals for the children. I know its scary to donate to causes for fear that the money will never reach the children, but I can tell you this after holding their hands, hugging their necks & having my life forever changed by these kids…they are real and any donation, no matter how small, will make a difference.
To the children of CHOAIDS, with all my heart… thank-you.