In May 2010 I got on a plane and headed to Haiti. This was my first time in Haiti and I had no clue what to think or what I would see.
I knew I would see destruction…but I had no clue just how bad it would be. It’s hard to picture a six-story building “pancaked” into one story. Building after building, this is what I saw.
And that was not the worst of it. Yes, the destruction of buildings was horrible, but the destruction of the human heart was by far the most tragic and heartbreaking reality.
Lost limbs, lost lives, lost jobs, tears of pain and eyes of sadness. Haitian were a broken people, they were dealt a devastating blow, one of the worst natural disasters in human history had occurred in one of the poorest nations on earth.
We met person after person, happy to be alive. We met one pastor in particular, whose name is Gaetan. He’s now my friend, and also one of my heroes. He and his wife were caring for 14 orphans BEFORE the earthquake. Immediately after the earthquake, Pastor Gaetan and his community took in another 16 kids. Many of these kids lost their parents in the earthquake, many of these kid’s parents decided to drop them off at the church and walk away…for good…they were just not able to feed the kids.
Now the kids are rescued.
But they were sad, broken and frail. Gaetan’s own brother was killed in the quake and his house was damaged. So he and his wife set up two tarps – one for the girls, one for the boys. And these kids slept under these tarps for months.
In between the tarps was a hospital bed, where Pastor Gaetan and his wife would sleep, outside under the stars of heaven. We asked him why, and he simply said he wanted the kids to know that he was there for them.
We knew this was our place to love and serve. We returned back to America, and immediately began to help restore these kids lives. Pastor Jacob and Soma Austin began to give aid and they also gave a large donation so we could start building these kids a home. We launched child sponsorships through our Help One Now initiative and each child was sponsored. And through our “Garage Sale for Orphans” initiative and our “Haiti: We Have Not Forgotten” campaign, churches, individuals and businesses have been able to raise enough money to build a kids home, provide clean water for their community, and give emergency aid. Pastor Gaetan had a vision to build a school, and he did it. Over 100 Haitian kids now attend school 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. We’re also able to pay the teachers a monthly salary, so they can care for their family.
Transformation has and is taking place.
When I visited Gaetan and the 30 kids in November, I was shocked. They’re happy, surrounded by a loving community, they have food to eat every day and clean water to drink. They get daily baths and they get to attend school.
This is a reminder for all of us that we can and we are making a difference. We’ve seen kids rescued from tragedy, restored through loving sponsors, and their community is being renewed day by day.
I’m almost in tears (of joy) as I write this. I’m so excited to see this transformation, I’m so excited to see aid lead into something much larger and more sustainable. If we never saw these kids again we would know that their lives are much better today than they were this past May!
Grateful, overwhelmed and excited about the future.
Chris and the H.E.L.P. Team!