HELO Orphanage in Haiti

love heals your soul

A House Can Shelter From the Weather, but Love Heals Your Soul

by Andrea Torizzo

When I began telling people about my upcoming trip to Haiti, many asked what I’d be doing. Would I be building homes?

I could understand their assumptions since I am an architect. But, no, I told them I was going to spend time with the children at the orphanage doing activities, games, and going to the beach one day since they only get to go when a team travels. Also we would be bringing donated supplies, toys, and clothing. I could sense that many people didn’t think that was going to make a big difference in their lives. I wondered myself as I prepared for the trip.

I was excitedly anticipating the trip to Haiti. Packing and preparing for the hot weather, taking medications and getting vaccinated. Planning to make it a trip in memory of my cousin ‘Papi Jeff’ we knew it would be an emotional trip. My mom, my cousin Shannon & her husband Jeff represented the Francis Family.

The first full day after we arrived in Haiti was Sunday and we attended Pastor Jean’s church. It was quite powerful. I could feel the power of God’s spirit moving as Pastor Jean prayed and preached at the pulpit. The youth choir and men’s choir sang many songs in Kreyol. Not knowing the words didn’t matter. I think even if you weren’t a church-going person you couldn’t help but feel the spirit move you.

We traveled to house 2 & 3 to attend the remaining church service there and were welcomed by the children with open arms and smiles. It was emotional just to see them smile and so happy. After Elisabeth introduced us and explained who we were, you could see the recognition in many of the children’s faces that knew Jeff. Many tears were shed especially at house 1 where the children knew him the most. I lost it after being introduced. I was just standing there by myself seeing all the children and my eyes just full of tears, then one of the little boys, Oslain, just wrapped his arms around me and we stood there together and time seemed to stand still. andrea_oslain

The outpouring of love from the little ones was overwhelming, knowing how much they have gone through in their short lives, but yet being so joyful and just being kids.

As the week went by I learned about each of the children’s personalities, many very outgoing, but others very quiet, but all happily observing us.

I found Ericka to be the ‘chatterbox’ happily speaking to me in Kreyol, knowing that I can’t understand her, but happy to have andrea_erika
someone hold her and give her attention. We played a hand-clapping game and I just followed her lead, listened to her singing, and at the end of the game we were both laughing.

The many activities that we planned for each day seemed overwhelming at first. Each day some activities went smoothly while others turned into something unexpected due to the children’s creativity. No matter the activity whether planned or spontaneous I know that the time that we spent meant the most to the kids.   andrea_kendy

In memory of my cousin Jeff we planted two mango trees on the property behind house 2 & 3. The ceremony was powerful, with Papi and Mami Vilnor saying beautiful words and singing a song with the children, as yellow butterflies flew around as we andrea_mango_tree prayed. I think the trees symbolize Jeff’s dedication to help HELO succeed and the hope that the children will grow into strong, independent and successful adults.

After returning from Haiti, I realized that the children helped me to heal a little more since the loss of my cousin. Seeing them laugh and play and pointing to the mural on the wall in the school and saying “Papi Jeff”, I know that he will never be forgotten. His memory will live on and his work will continue with Elisabeth and the many others who make the journey there or help to support the organization from across the ocean.

I also realized that we did help build something, not a shelter, but we helped to fill the homes with more love, laughter, a sense of security, and trust. A house can shelter you from the weather but love can heal your soul.