HELO Orphanage in Haiti

Updates from the December team

My Little One

It's taking me almost a year to find words to express how HELO has changed my life, and I'm still not even sure I know how to.

sodlyn1 This picture is framed and next to my bed, it's the first thing I see when I wake up, and the last thing I see when I go to sleep. And the feeling I get every time I look at it is so overwhelming, I decided it's time for me to try to write it down.

The first time I visited HELO was in January 2011, it was night time and so dark in certain areas, I couldn't even see the children unless I took a picture of them. I think it took about thirty seconds after I got off the bus for little Sodlyn to find me and attach himself to me. All night I carried him around, both of us drenched in each other's sweat, playing games with the other children, but never once would he let me put him down.  When we left that night he started to cry, but my mother reassured him I'd be back for the Christmas party and I'd be able to play with him again.

A few days later we returned and the Christmas spirit must have moved Sodlyn enough to let me play with him and his friends, without holding him the entire time (which was very nice for my back). sodlyn2

I remember when we left HELO that day, I cried when no one was looking. Because at that time I didn't know when I was going to be able to go back, I didn't want to leave the children, and I didn't want to leave Sodlyn. But most of all, because I didn't want him to forget me.

Fast forward six months, and I'm lucky enough to return on a glorious mother/daughter team in July. The months leading up to the trip were some of the hardest months I can remember, between a loss of a very good friend, heartbreak, and family health issues, I was at a very low point of my life, and couldn't have been more excited and anxious to return to the children.

I remember as we were driving up to HELO I suddenly got a sinking feeling in my stomach, and felt extremely nervous. What if he didn't remember me? What if none of them remembered me! As soon as we got off of the bus, I was not only greeted by the sweet children cheering "MAMI SARA MAMI SARA!", but it took my little Sodlyn less than exactly thirty seconds to find me, and just smile and squeeze me so tight I thought I was going to explode. sk__Sodlyn

I don't think I've ever seen anyone, outside of my family, so excited to see me. I don't think I could have imagined anyone being so excited to see me! He just smiled and stared at me, and finally put his hand on my cheek for a second, and just collapsed into my arms. I choked up knowing that we could not communicate, but I felt exactly the same way, so relieved and happy to finally see him again.

 I was once again lucky enough to get time off from work to go to Haiti in December, again so anxious and excited to see the children of HELO, and once again nervous that the children, most importantly Sodlyn, would not remember me.

But of course Sodlyn and the other children didn't, and within seconds of being at HELO he was in my arms looking up at me smiling... "Sara". The same instant relief and happiness we felt in July, and the joy of knowing he had not forgotten me.

That trip Sodlyn was in my arms or on my back the entire trip, per his usual.  And it further confirmed my love not only for Sodlyn, but for Haiti. My December trip further confirmed that HELO will always be a part of my life, a trip I will continue to make as often as I can.

I will never be able to put into words how much Haiti and Sodlyn mean to me, but there is one moment during my last trip that can best describe it. Sodlyn's house father, Pastor Erick, looked at us both and said "ti gason ou", I asked him what it My_little_one1 meant and he told me it means "my little one, my son". I looked down at Sodlyn and repeated the phrase and his response was simple, but was a moment I will treasure forever: "Wi".

It's amazing how much a child can change your life without having the slightest idea. What's mind blowing is how much a child can change your life with only being able to communicate knowing one phrase: mwen renmen ou, I love you.

Almost every time I've told a person I've gone to Haiti, or am going to Haiti, they ask me how sad it was. Or what I did to improve their lives, how bad is it down there? Is it getting any better? My response to the latter questions? I loved them, I taught them some new things, I played with them, or it's getting better; as quickly as it possibly can in a country with very little.  But what I really wish I could tell them is -- it isn't sad. It's the best place I've ever visited, filled with so much love and happiness it truly blows your mind. You hear of 51 orphans in a country like Haiti and immediately go to sadness and pain. But what you don't realize is these kids are some of the happiest, sweetest, most amazing children in the world and they will teach you more about yourself, the world, and love than you could have ever imagined.  They teach you that a hug, or holding your hand, or simply showing love in anyway is the best feeling and the best way to live. Who needs the frills and the added things? Yes, material objects are wonderful, I will not deny that as a 22 year old only child. But some of my best memories are with family, friends, and the children at HELO, just being surrounded by the people you love, and who love you most. I've spent almost two weeks with these children in total, and they have changed me and made me a better person, and made up some of the best moments of my life. And I wouldn't give up that time for anything in the world.

I wish I could describe the feeling I have when I think, or see, Sodlyn, so you could understand the way a trip to Haiti, or HELO, can better you. But in reality, I can't. There's no words to describe the bond I've made with that little boy, or any of the children at HELO. SK__Sodlyn1

To sum it up: it's a hidden secret, plenty of people know about Haiti and the struggles there, but a majority of those people are too scared to open it up and look inside. But I promise you, if you're brave enough to do so, you will never regret it.

--Sara Kennedy

Love Overcomes Barriers

I wrote and rewrote this blog statement at least a dozen times, trying to find an eloquent and successful way of communicating my thoughts and experiences from our trip. Finally, I have decided that the best way to express my thoughts is a simple and to the point account of a few interactions I had with HELO’s incredible children.

I was very anxious when we first arrived at the first house. I never have thought of myself as good with children, and on top of that anxiety was the language barrier. However, as other group members greeted some of the children, one sweet little girl looked up at me and smiled. Feeling compelled, I picked her up and she willingly held on to me. Nadege was the first child to greet me, and it couldn’t have been more poignant. She smiled, and chattered away in Creole not seeming to mind that I didn’t understand her and refusing to stop talking nonetheless.

At the second and third houses, the kids were so excited to see us walking towards them. I remember getting dozens of kisses on my cheek, and a small “Bonjour” in greeting. Even the neighborhood children would come around to play games and to be held. Jean Davidson fell asleep in my arms one day when I sat in the shade by the soccer field, his tiny body smiles_w_jesse_small unbelievably heavy but I didn’t want to let him go. Cherlande smiled and giggled when I twirled her around and around until she was so dizzy she just clung to me. Rosanie would try climbing up anyone in order to be held, and would cling onto you with tight arms and legs until she was sure you wouldn’t let her down. And Abraham, a young boy who stole my heart, would give me the biggest smile that was so contagious that you couldn’t help smiling with him.

All of the children are wonderful, and loving. In the United States kids are often taught what is considered propriety, which dictates how they may interact with people not of immediate kin. HELO’s children didn’t shy away from us and there were always little hands tugging on your arms or trying to play with your hair or get a little bit of attention. Their desire for some love, even just for a little bit is both overwhelming and wonderful. People often forget how important affection and love is, and it’s something that I will never underestimate again. This first trip was the first of many and I am counting down the months and days until I can go back to Haiti, and see her children again.

Jessica Huhn

1/29/2012

Celebrating Haiti and a New Year

HELO's first New Year's team traveled to Haiti on December 26, 2011, a team of fourteen from Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, most repeat visitors, but a few first-time visitors to Haiti.  team_small It was a joy to watch the interactions of team members and the children as friendships were rekindled or created.  It was a great blessing to celebrate Christmas (a little late), the New Year, and Haiti Independence Day!

truck_small The children loved their trucks, dolls, games, and of course new clothes!  New books were shared by all, the joy of reading enjoyed by team members and children alike.

reading2_small reading3_small reading1_small

The team had a wonderful time celebrating the New Year with Pastor Jean and Gardinette.  We filled our evening with stories, laughter, and wishes and prayers for the children and for Haiti.  happy_new_year_small We pray that 2012 will be a year of progress and renewed hope for the people of Haiti.

Activities took place throughout the week to prepare and recognize Haiti Independence Day.  My dear friend Jean Claude Degazon, visiting from Carrefour, taught the children of HELO and surrounding community about the history and culture of Haiti.  Jean Claude regaled the children with his stories, and the children participated, answering questions and cheering agreement.  They each colored a flag of Haiti, which were hung around the school to decorate for the special day.

jean_claude_small flags_small flag_small

In an effort to share Haiti’s beauty with the children (and the team), we rented buses and took everyone to Port Salut, one of Haiti’s most beautiful beaches.  Team members were stunned to see 49 children sit quietly, enjoying the ride almost as much as the beach!  It was a beautiful day for all.

port_salut_smallgroup_small

I thank another wonderful team for sharing their time and talents with the children of HELO.  I know that you are a blessing to them, and they to you.  God is good!  I hope the team shares some of their stories with you in the days and weeks ahead, stories of dance lessons, volleyball, soccer, pillows and more....

Thank you each and every one for supporting HELO throughout 2011, may God bless you and bless HELO and its sweet children.

 --Elisabeth Kennedy


Updates from the July team

Laughter, Learning, and Great Beauty

HELO's first Mother-Daughter team traveled to Haiti on July 8, 2011, ten amazing women who soon formed strong bonds, not group only with each other but with the children and staff of HELO.  With four teachers on the team, the focus of this team was clear.  Each mother-daughter pair on took on a project, organized that activity, gathered all necessary supplies and translated all necessary materials. 

We held "Science Camp" for HELO's children and their neighbors, creating "stations" of learning and activity.  Children learned about the solar system, learned names of the planets, and colored their favorite with colored chalk on black mural paper.  They delighted in examining leaves, fingers, rocks with magnify glasses, and in creating rainbows with prisms.

planets magnify_glass light1 handwashing toothbrushing

Inside the school, children learned about light using flashlights and mirrors.  Outside, they learned proper hand washing with cinnamon "germs", which do not wash off with water alone, teaching children the importance of washing with soap.  After attending the hand washing and tooth brushing classes, each child received a bar of soap, a toothbrush, and toothpaste.  Children also took part in relay games and coloring, which reinforced the lessons learned in Science Camp.

It was not all work for the children, we played games, colored pictures, and took a trip to the seashore.  Nearly all of HELO's children took part in painting a mural at the school, each hand print a prayer or memory of Papi Jeff.   Much fun, laughter, love, and tears were shared by all, young and old alike.

parachute beach mural

Haiti is a land of great contrasts, and in an attempt to show that to the team, we took a side trip to see some of the beauty of Haiti.  More than eighteen months after the earthquake, hundreds of thousands remain in tents.  It is a difficult and  painful ride from the airport in Port au Prince to the guest house in les Cayes.  In sharp contrast to the poverty and devastation in Port au Prince, we stood in awe before the magestic Saute Mathurine.  The drive provided spectacular views of the mountains for which Haiti is named, many stripped of trees, both mountains and roads ravaged by landslides due to heavy rains.  Another example of Haiti's great beauty was the help that appeared when the team bus became stuck in one such ravine.  With no tools but their bare hands, men and young boys appeared from here and there, gathered rocks and gravel and filled in the ditch that had swallowed the bus' back tires.  These new friends later joined us on our walk to the falls, smiling and laughing while we gasped in awe and shouted with glee at the ice cold water we found at the falls.  Haiti is a land of great beauty, in her people and in all that God created there.

tents saut_maturine group_at_saut_mathurine

Many thanks to the team for the talent they shared, for their flexibility, patience, and especially for the love they shared with each other, with the children and staff of HELO, and the many other children we encountered during our visit.  Heartfelt thanks to Pastor John and his family for their wonderful hospitality.  God is present in Haiti, we pray that He blesses this beautiful land and her generous people and provides for them as only He can.  We pray He continues to bless HELO with generous supporters and amazing team members.  Bondye beni ou, Bondye beni Ayiti! 

--Elisabeth Kennedy


School Sponsorship

Will you help us send our children to school?
rosemonde_uniform_Small In Haiti children traditionally wear school uniforms. HELO maintains that cultural tradition photos_for_slideshow_143_Medium and provides uniforms for each child.   Cost per uniform:  Boy: $16.00   Girl: $14.00  
                                                                          Miscellaneous Suppies (chalk, pencils, etc.): any donation
HELO_March_2010_371_Medium Books: any donation
                                                                                                  Shoes & Socks: $10.00
Desks: Student: $60; Teacher $75 new_desks_9.09_Small
                                                                             Teacher Salary: 1 month: $90; 1 year: $810 school2_Small
School Sponsorship for children in the community who attend school at HELO, providing a quality education to children who otherwise do not have the opportunity to attend school:  $42 per month
Rose Marthe Belizaire
Date of birth 4/28/05 Rose_marthe
First year kindegarten

 

 

 

Jean Claudy Joseph jean_claudy
Date of birth 11/14/2000
4th year Fondamental
allande armand-2 Allande Armand, 4/23/07, 1st year kindergarten
Sandra_Kins-2 Sandra Kins, 7/31/03, 1st year Fondamental
Jasnel_Letang-2 Jasnel Letang, 5/17/07, 2nd year kindergarten
Jean_Brunel_Letang-2 Jean Brunel Letang, 9/21/04, 3rd year kindergarten
remy_love-2 Remy Love Bouilly

Updates from March team


HELO mourns the loss of our Papi Jeff, he loved the children, and they loved him more.  Jeff was a tireless supporter, caring and compassionate advocate, and loving friend.  A bright light has been extinguished, he will be so greatly missed.  We love you, Papi Jeff!

jeff_medgine_lala group_May_2010 Jeff_November_08

Joyful Reunion

"Do not merely listen to the word....Do what it says." James 1:22

   "...look after orphans and widows in their distress..."  James 1:27

I feel as though the verses above perfectly describe the founders of H.E.L.O, Elisabeth Kennedy and Pastor Jean Beaucejour.  I am in awe of  their compassion and dedication to each of  the 47 amazing kids. I had the blessing of visiting H.E.L.O Homes 1 & 2 during the May 2010 trip, so it was an even greater pleasure for me to be able to go back with the recent group in March. In addition to my joy at reuniting with all my little buddies, I was pleasantly surprised to see all of the progress they have made in such a short time. Already house 3 was complete and full of once-again happy children, and the community is still expanding!

It gives me a lot of hope to see such tangible successes in a country which has faced enormous adversity and hardships for so long. H.E.L.O has completely and utterly changed the lives of their children, giving them a clean stable home and, most importantly, the love and empathy those kids need to eventually come to terms with the sudden loss of their families and loved ones.  I have no doubt In my mind that each of the children will go on to do great things in both Haiti and the world now that they are armed with an education, compassion, & a deep love for Jesus. school4

 In a country with such desperate needs, the three H.E.L.O Homes are a beacon of hope and community. Every sunday they hold a church service full of dancing and singing (Haitian style Smile)  and they also provide a schoolhouse for the local children. Despite all of the good, it is still heartbreaking to be unable to help those thousands of orphaned children who are  still on waiting lists or completely alone, each of them has  the potential to heal and grow, they simply need a loving supportive environment.

Most of all I was impressed by the children's strength, they have experienced miseries I can't imagine, yet they are unbelievably full of spirit and joy. They are truly amazing.

-- Jorden Eck

A Life Touched Forever

I knew that this trip would change me, break me and put me back Kim__Sophia together, but never could I have imagined the impact. It is heartbreaking to see the damage that has been done to Haiti emotionally and physically. However, I am confident that it is all getting better step by step. The love for Haiti that comes from me as well as the HELO team will improve the lives of children and Haiti in general. Even with all the damage, Haiti is still somehow a beautiful place and the people are so loving and grateful.  They have all made me a stronger person because if they can live through the pain
and sorrow and still be happy and loving, than there is never a reason for me to think I can't.

Every child at HELO has touched my heart and it is almost impossible to go through my day without a picture of them
in my head. I cannot wait to literally have them all in my arms again. This experience is the most amazing one I have ever known and it is just the beginning of my journey with Haiti. Mommy Elisabeth is the most amazing person inside and out, she has taught me so much about life and just basically about everything. Her love and kindness is shown without her even speaking a word.  Children run up to her and hug her even if they have never seen her before, and like they say  -- children have good instincts. I pray that I will be like her someday!

Thank you everyone on the HELO team, the Beaucejour family, the people at HELO, those living in Haiti, and at Chantal for making me the way I am today -- a better and stronger person.  You have all touched my life forever.
love always, Kim Mead

Change, A Life Made Whole

To the people of Haiti, especially the children and staff of HELO, Mami Elisabeth and the Beaucejour family,
kate-1
I will never be able to thank you enough for the gift that you have given me since my trip to your beautiful country. Before you all came into my life, I always felt a piece of me was missing, although until now, I never knew what it was. Your presence in my life has made me whole. I am in awe of your strength, your caring souls, and most of all, your ability to love. You have shown me what is really important in life, and that it is not at all measured by the amount of money or materials you have, but truly by the love in your hearts and your ability to share it with others. I see a change in myself that I never knew was possible, and for the first time in my life, I love the person I am. I love the part of me each every one of you have molded, and I will carry you all with me for the rest of my life, wherever I go. I will continue to bring awareness of the needs of the country, and promise to come back as many times as I possibly can. Everything I will do in the future, I will do for you, and in your honor. I will never be able to repay you for what you gave me during the past week, but I will be eternally and forever grateful.

I love you more than you'll ever know, Kate

 

Unsolicited Smile jean_giles-1

Worshiping Sunday under a canopy for two hours I continue to make eye contact with Jean- Giles, my sponsored child, smiling and waving to him.  Slowly I move over to sit by him, resisting the urge to engulf Jean with loving arms. Instead, I reach over to stroke his tiny hand, praying he would see the love in my eyes.   Each passing day I smile and make progress with small hugs and picking him up.  Still no smiles from Jean as the days go by.  One day, as I lifted him up, I am surprised by his instant grip around my neck and his fending off other children as they reached up to me.  Amazing progress!   My last day to spend with Jean arrives as the group van pulls up to the homes.   The children come out to greet us, and Jean looks for me. 

Jean is taking a school recess so we spend time together.  After he settles back in behind his desk I can’t resist one more look.  As I peek around the door our eyes meet; my heart jumps as a huge smile fills his face and his eye sparkle.  He shyly turns his head away but only to turn to me again with a smile; my throat tightens and tears run down my cheeks.   Blessings of joy fill the afternoon as Jean really reaches out to play with me and for the first time I hear his sweet laughter.   

jean_giles-2

 We are both changed and connected forever.

Susan Pallatto

 

HELO/Marist Team team_small

A team of 15 traveled to Haiti on March 11, 2011, most students from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY.  I warned these bright and compassionate young adults that their hearts were to be broken, but assured them that God would piece them back together, forever changing them.  Indeed, I brought back 12 young adults dedicated to change their world, filled with conviction to bring awareness of the pain, the beauty, and tremendous need in Haiti.   Just as I pray HELO's children will grow to be leaders of their country, I pray that opening these hearts to the plight in Haiti, these future leaders of both countries will continue to reach out, continue to work hand-in-hand, and together find solutions, spread hope, and create change.  Words cannot express my gratitude to all on the HELO/Marist team for the love, laughter, and tears we shared with each other and with the children and staff at HELO.

In addition to opening hearts, the team helped instal solar panels at each home, painted the third home, and managed to get all 46 children to the beach after worshipping together on Sunday.  HELO is more beautiful because of the love shared throughout this week, and I believe America is more beautiful, too, because of these outstanding young people and the love and hope they have in their hearts.  Mwen renmen ou tout, Bondye beni ou anpil!  Mami Elisabeth

  beach2 painting beach1 solar_panels

Updates from 3 Missionaries!

A Daughter's Perspective

When we first arrived in Port-au Prince, I was overcome by sadness and shock by the state of Haiti. Seeing the damage of the January 12th earthquake on TV, and first hand, are two shockingly different experiences. The destruction and chaos in the city is heartbreaking, and a sight that could never be described or portrayed in pictures. However, all of those feelings were erased during my most memorable day on the trip at the HELO houses. We visited the houses briefly on our first day, where I was greeted as “Mami Sara” and learned my visit was long awaited by all of the children. On the day of the party, I was able to spend time with all 46 kids and watch them enjoy every moment of the celebration. Three boys: Kendy, Sodlyn, and Jean Giles spent the day by my side.   sodlyn The three became my friends when I simply took a picture of them playing on the ramp. Immediately they became addicted to the camera. Following me screaming “photo! Photo!” and demanding hugs, kisses, and to be carried, I couldn’t help but think the only thing these kids want to be happy, is love. To feel as though someone is there just for them, to make them feel safe for a few minutes. I took a moment to myself after my epiphany because the thought made me cry.  Actions and emotions my parents wouldn’t think twice about neglecting me of, these children most likely didn’t receive very much of. I spent my day playing, kissing, and hugging the children as they stuffed their faces with rice kendy2 and opened their new toys. At the end of the party, I don’t think anything could have made those kids stop smiling, a sight I couldn’t get enough of. jean_giles
 
Amongst all the destruction and grief in their country, it’s comforting to know Haitians are still able to carry on. The children at HELO opened my eyes to realize, if they can continue to play and laugh, I can do the same on a tough day. Their faces are still in my mind every day, making me smile and giggle every so often, and I know they will stay in heart for the rest of my life. I have never been so happy and fulfilled as I was that day, knowing the children in HELO’s neighborhood were fed a very healthy portion of food, and every child received a new toy.
The trip was one filled with many emotions, between shock, sadness, and extreme happiness. I plan on going back as often as I can with my mother, continuing to make a difference just as she has been doing for years. Not only did my bond with my team and the children become very strong, but the bond between my mother and I reached another level that could not be put into words. Seeing her in action in Haiti rather than hearing the stories afterwards was something I wouldn’t trade for the world. I cannot be prouder to share her with 46 children who deserve her great heart and caring love, and to know their lives are forever changed because of the opportunity she’s given them.

-- Sara Kennedy

Sponsor had some quality time with her sponsored child at HELO

Today we had the privilege to serve many children a bountiful meal of rice and beans, beet salad, chicken, and breadfruit at the Christmas party at the HELO orphanage. The children sang and played with abounding joy. I can think of nothing I enjoyed more than witnessing the spirit in these beautiful children; children who have not always been afforded the security and nourishment they have in their HELO homes now.
I have been sponsoring a child named Christella at HELO for almost three years now. I was able to spend some time with her and see how she has grown physically and emotionally. When I first met Christella she was an extremely shy little girl who lacked the ability to express herself. While she is still quite reserved, she seems to be much more self assured and clearly full of the love her new family has given her.
Sponsoring a child has been a wonderful experience. I feel connected to her in every way even though she is hundreds of miles away. Knowing that my care for her makes her life more abundant in every way is gratifying. I am blessed to be part of her life and HELO.

--Michelle Engel

A day of work and great celebration at HELO

Today the team visited HELO, painted the interior of the newly completed third home, played lots of games with the children and were entertained with singing and dancing of our very talented children at HELO's second Christmas party (postponed from December due to political unrest). Last December we opened our newly completed school to the community, an introduction and celebration of God's blessings on HELO. This year, that school building was filled with HELO's children, and over 200 people were fed outside in the newly completed addition, which serves as additional classrooms and a church. It was an amazing joy to see all 46 of HELO's children seated at one table, and I was overwhelmed by the realization of the tremendous growth that has transpired throughout the past year.

Shortly after the earthquake, HELO opened a second home. Our little school house became a home to 12 beautiful children, most earthquake survivors. Due to the number of children affected by the earthquake, 12 children remained on a waiting list. On July 1 a third home was opened, and a new family moved into the school. Today the school building was once again filled in celebration of Christ's birth, and in celebration of God's abundant blessings. The land that last year housed only one small schoolhouse now boasts two beautiful homes, a larger school, and a very beautiful well! God is so good!! It was with joy and thanksgiving that approximately 250 meals were served and Christmas gifts distributed, sharing our love of Jesus Christ with the children of HELO and the wonderful people in this little corner of Haiti. We sincerely thank each person who has provided support throughout the year and for this team. For each prayer offered, for each toy or dollar donated, we thank you.

We pray for God's continued blessings for HELO. The need is great, children continue to join our family, and the school is now open for children in the community. Please consider sponsoring a child (full sponsorship or school sponsorship opportunities are outlined on our website). We look forward to another year of growth and blessings, with your support and God's goodness. Bondye beni ou. God bless you, and thank you!

--Elisabeth Kennedy

My first visit to Haiti has been life changing

This is my first trip to Haiti. Up until November 14th, I had no interest in volunteering, let alone traveling to an impoverished country to devote my time, money and energy. When I get the paper, I think more about the Best Buy flyer than the articles. My mind changed on that date when I read an article about HELO, it's children and Elizabeth Kennedy. I contact Elizabeth on that date and on Saturday I was sitting with Pastor Lubin, Elizabeth and many other generous and devoted volunteers. I am guarded with my checkbook but I gave my financial and emotional commitment within the first few topics of conversation.

One of the reasons that I signed up, was because my life had gotten so monotonous with a routine that included; work, gym, food and TV. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I just felt disconnected from what was happening in the world and it seemed like years were passing me by. My family was surprised that I signed up for this but were proud that I was going. They didn't say it but they were a little worried that it might not be safe. I have never felt unsafe.

I am now on my third full day of experiencing Haiti. After the first day I could honestly tell myself that this is the one of the best, if not THE best thing I have ever experienced in my life. The most positive aspect of this trip has been the people, children and adults alike.

Sunday morning, when I got off the buss to attend Pastor John's church, I saw several children. One of the boys went to each team member and opened his arms to be hugged. This boy was approximately 4 years old, with no parent within eye sight. His face was swollen and protruding on one side, with what is believed to be an abscessed tooth. Elisabeth quickly pledged to pay for treatment for the child. The child, clearly in pain, seemed happy just to receive a hug. I rarely cry but I was close to it at that moment, which was in itself a little bit of emotional exploration.

I have had more happy and amazing experiences that I could even describe in this short note. The members of Pastor John's church were welcoming, appreciative and loving. I never knew how far a simple smile and handshake could go. The sense of community here is amazing; from the bond that I have developed with the members of this trip to the closeness that I have formed with the children and adults that I meet everyday. I do not attend church, but if I lived in Haiti, I would. There is music, dancing and joy. I can honestly say it's fun and I don't understand a word anyone is saying.

This is not just play. It is hard work. We have conducted 2 dinners and present distributions. Each time there is present wrapping, entertainment and crowd control to do. Not everyone can walk away having their expectations filled. However, your motivation is in front of you, and you don't think about fatigue when you see kids smiling. I'm in my 20's. I'm not real comfortable holding small children. I think of them as fragile and that freaks me out a bit. Children are perceptive and they can smell fear. But on my first day here I found a 10 month old that I simply could not put down. She is amazing. She didn't cry, I think she might have even liked me.

I wasn't prepared to be a focus of attention for many of the children down here. The last two days I have made sure that I had a soccer ball to play with the kids. Starting a pick up game of soccer makes you a hero down here. Everyone wants to be my friend. When sitting down to watch the children sing and perform at the parties, the littlest children crawl onto my lap rather than sit in their own chair. The stereotype of an orphan is; timid, broken and sad. That stereotype could not be any farther from the truth. These children are so uplifting and bright that you can't help but feel happy to be around them. I came here with the desire to help them, but what happened instead was the formation of joyful memories that will last in all of our minds for the rest of our lives.

I can't wait for tomorrow and the day after that. My experience has been amazing. I'm no saint. I don't really consider myself a missionary. I didn't come here to change my life. I was definitely happy before I left. I didn't feel like I had to do this. I came here because I wanted to have this experience. I have met great people. I have worked with some of the most generous people I have ever met. Pastor Lubin is a selfless man who is in touch with multiple generations, cultures and classes. He devotes his life to others without seeking any recognition. He has an infectious charisma and confidence that draws people to him. Elisabeth wears her heart on her sleeve. I can't say that I respect anyone else in this world more than her. She loves children unconditionally and they make her as happy as one can be. I work in a profession with parents and children where I analyze their relationships. I have never met anyone like this before. I cannot fathom how much she and Pastor Lubin have accomplished in such a short amount of time and how happy they both make people at home and in Haiti. Within this week thousands of people's lives have been touched, including my own. I don't know how my life will be affected when I return home, but I will be in a good way. At the very least, I will stop wasting money on stupid purchases and ensure that I continue to contribute to these children. I will be back. At the end of each day I can't help but think about how and what else I can do to contribute to this cause. It's easy to talk about causes, but for me, there are faces for this one. Those faces will continue to inspire me wherever I might be.

--Zachary Thorne

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