By: Nancy L. Evans
April 25th-May 2nd 2011
I cannot easily express in words how truly grateful I am for the opportunity to share this mission trip to Haiti experience with so many wonderful people. As this was my very first mission trip, I was in no way emotionally ready for what would come. The moment I got off the bus and was greeted by “timonds” (children) in Chantal at their school, I was overwhelmed by a wave of excitement yet intense emotion. Momentarily I had to pull myself aside to let the floodgate of feelings work their way through me. That moment helped to give me strength to integrate with the children and their caregivers. There was no judgement, only heartfelt joy and blessing for being able to give the best part of me to nurture those precious, beautiful little hearts.
We began each of the next days with stretching exercises, yoga, and healthy breathing, which the children enjoyed and embraced enthusiastically, as did the elders surrounding them. Ellen, Kathy, Rose, Polo, Dr. Olssen and I made up the Restavec team charged with teaching the children, holding them and loving them. The word, “Restavec” means to “stay with” where poor Haitian children serve as “servants” to a family, but are not allowed to go to school or play as children should.
I was moved by the grace of Pasteur and Madame LeFumé, parents and caretakers to 17 children including 2 of their own, for allowing us to hold and nurture them for several days. The LeFumés took good care of us, in addition to their unimaginable workload of providing a home to so many “beings.” We ate meals together, and watching each child eat a spoonful of rice, was enough to satisfy my own physical hunger. I have to admit however that those rice dishes were very GOOD!
We sang, we created cars, beaded and sewed felt necklaces, created photo-collages, drawings, taught some of the older children English which they absorbed with excitement. We read books with Dr. Olssen, a Haitian educated doctor who explained the meaning of the words within the story, captivating those young and older children alike. We incorporated some lessons on healthy practices, specifically teaching the kids how to brush their teeth and each child received toothbrushes and paste. (Pictures to follow).
We tried to give closure at the end of each day, reviewing what we worked on together and what the next day’s plan would be.
As a photographer I was truly blessed with being able to capture those beautiful Haitian eyes while the children posed and then saw themselves in the LCD. These images seemed to be little windows into their hearts and souls. For us travelers the pictures hopefully will remind us of our common ties and humanity, should our memories fade over time. I also had an opportunity to watch our medical team do their work. They treated hundreds of villagers as well as our children at the clinics set up in 3 different locations.
As we prepared for the outing to the beach on Friday, our last day with our kids, my mind was blown away knowing that this was the very first time they had been outside their one mile radius in 4 months. Their joy was palpable as they watched with immense enthusiasm the outside world and perhaps a hopefulness of brighter times to come. At the beach I was struck by their heartiness and strength of mind, embracing the ocean waves despite their fears. One of the older and more challenged boys, Peterson was very fearful of the water until Kathy held his hand, and guided him patiently toward the sandy shore. That he trusted her, and allowed her to show him the way, gave me tremendous hope for his future. When we had to say farewell to our children, I was content seeing their calm, and what felt like “filled up” hearts, not nearly as needy as when we first arrived. They seemed ready to ‘let us go’, which was very powerful to witness.
In conclusion, I have to say how truly blessed I feel to have had this profound experience with my mission trip to Haiti. I am grateful to every team member for graciously showing me how to take part in a group mission, with particular thanks to Pasteur Jean and Madame Gardenette, Pastor Lubin for making me feel welcomed just for being who I am. I am richer for the experience.