In November 2010, I was in Drouin, Haiti with one of our local leaders, Jean Alix. Drouin is rural, hot, muggy and desolate. It is a quiet place filled with rice paddies, which are the community’s main source of income, and it was here that cholera outbreak started in 2010. I can still remember driving through the dusty roads and past a local clinic, seeing makeshift body bags laying on the ground – empty only until the next outbreak.
After the earthquake, Haiti was flooded with aid. Free rice was everywhere, so the community of Drouin no longer had a market for their only crop. Their businesses closed, and the clutch of extreme poverty became stronger. As we drove along the canal that runs through the center of this community. Jean Alix told us that this swampy, muddy canal is what the community uses for all of their water. They literally have no other source.
While we were there, we visited a classroom filled with some of the beautiful children from this community — those whose parents had been able to scrape together the necessary school fees. We noticed many of the kids had on black outfits instead of their regular blue uniforms.
These clothes meant a family member had died of cholera, and they were in mourning.
A bit later, as the teacher was leading the class, I noticed a commotion in the back. A little girl, maybe 8 or 9, fell off of her desk, fainting in the middle of class. While the teacher and her classmates begin to help this little girl, I was asking the principal what was happening. The families in this community cannot afford to feed their kids daily, so they can keep their children alive by feeding them every other day. This precious child had not had food for over 36 hours, and because of the cholera outbreak, she was scared to drink from the canal. She was hungry, tired and the brutal temperatures of Haiti have no mercy. She had walked over a mile to school with no food or water that morning. But, she told us she wanted to go to school, to be educated, to learn.
I asked my Haitian friends how much it costs to feed each child in the school one hot meal. Their reply brought me to tears. “Twenty-five cents.” For the first time in the three years of doing this work, I had to take a quick walk and gather my thoughts. I was simply devastated from the anger and hurt.
The 300 kids in this community are considered “vulnerable children”. Help One Now (at the time) only sponsored orphaned kids, so I was not sure of the next step to take. A few minutes later, I was walking through the fields with our local leader. He saw the pain on my face, and the tears down my cheeks. I told him we don’t sponsor vulnerable kids, only orphans. He looked me in the eyes, and with deep humility he told me it would only be a matter of time before these vulnerable kids became orphans and eligible for our help. (This, by the way, is why we partner with key local leaders who know so much more than we know). Their families would be so desperate that they would literally drop their children off at the church and disappear out of guilt and shame. In Haiti, sometimes the greatest love truly is letting go. The pain of having to say goodbye to your child because they will die of starvation, or never be able to attend school or go to a clinic when they’re sick is something that should be indescribable, and yet many “orphans” in Haiti are quite literally abandoned rather than truly orphaned.
I prayed and pondered scripture. I knew the best plan– the plan that God had created– was family. I knew that many of these kids would eventually become orphaned if we did nothing, so we decided to sponsor the 300 vulnerable kids in this community. Today, all of these children get to attend school and eat one hot meal a day. Over 50 people have stepped up to sponsor the kids. You too can sponsor a child in Drouin. Not only are you helping ONE child, you’re helping the entire community. More importantly, you’re ensuring a family has a chance to stay together and that a teacher has a job so she can focus on educating kids. To us, this is preventative orphan care.
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