Ke Kontan

Ke Kontan

Monday, 29 December 2014

New Year; New beginnings.

With the new year, comes new beginnings, and we all know that new beginnings can be scary; but this new beginning I am totally over the moon excited for. I am once again packing my entire existence into a few suitcases and making the big move to Haiti. Why you ask?

Because during my time away and trying to finish my University degree, I realized that I think about Haiti every minute of every day. It consumes me. It is where my heart lies and my fondest memories live. Haiti is where I found myself as a young woman and where I decided to say goodbye to my life full of the finer things, and start a new one far from everything I had ever known and loved. That experience taught me a way to see the world, and to understand how the world sees Haiti.

Because I love my life in Haiti and I love my children. My days are filled with endless obstacles and frustrations that seem impossible to overcome, but ultimately bring peace to my mind. Yes, I have changed thousands of dirty diapers, wiped away thousands of teary eyes, and spent many days covered in baby food and vomit. I have chewed out moto drivers for being disgustingly rude to me, bartered in markets, and grabbed children harshly by the arm for physically fighting each other in the street. But I have also kissed hundreds of beautiful babies, crossed paths with the most inspirational people, and taught teenagers and adults who were completely illiterate to read and write. I have seen pain and suffering, but I have also witnessed beauty and faith.

Because I miss spending each and every moment with the kids that have so profoundly impacted my life. Tyson is struggling with speech delay and I know that he needs some serious one on one time to help him improve. My 16 year old, Jenny, is longing for guidance and to have that "mother" role filled in her most crucial years. Emilio is starting to roll over and loves to walk holding your hands, and I don't want to miss his very first steps. I don't want to miss first days of school, graduations, birthdays, dance recitals, or just the every day events that make me giggle. I don't want to miss any of it.


My departure date will be at the beginning of February. I have exactly one month to get all of my affairs in order, move out of my place here in Canada, sell my belongings, and figure out how to get the essentials to Haiti. I am anxious to see what the future holds. I feel contentment in my heart knowing that this is what I want; that this year of sorrow and grief from missing my life in Haiti is over. I am glad that I came home for a break (it was needed) and I am proud that I finished another year of school, but I am even happier knowing that I am returning to the place that I call "home". I am prepared for the unknown, prepared for the struggles, I am prepared for the days filled with chaos and returning to the country that is currently in a political meltdown; and I am most of all prepared to spend my time with the people that have stolen my heart.

This year has been a fantastic year of growth. Not only did Hime For Help grow by welcoming new board members, but our home in Haiti also grew by welcoming new little ones and new staff members.
We have been able to help more families this year than ever. We have been able to purchase our very first vehicle. Our kids are now enrolled in a very pristine dance school where they are learning so much more than just "dance". We have been able to meet all of our children's needs and beyond. And we could not have been able to do that without the help of our wonderful sponsors and fundraisers. You guys are the ones that make this happen!

Going into 2015 we have many more goals for growth. We have many more needs that need to be met. We are looking forward to the new volunteers that will be joining us and to the new board members that we will be welcoming. I see great things happening in 2015, I feel that it is going to be the year for accomplishments!!

I just returned home from Haiti and spent a wonderful Christmas with my children. They were so spoiled this year but it was great to see their big smiles. Thank you to all of those who donated toys or sent money towards the purchase of gifts. Also a big thank you to those that purchased items off of our online gift catalogue, it is a huge help! I hope you all had a Merry Christmas & I hope you have an even better New Year!!

Going into the new year I have many resolutions, I've tried to sum it up as best as possible:

Live this life moment by moment without fixating on the unchangeable past or the non-existent future. Seek adventure and seek meaning. Taste the unusual food, smell the foreign aromas. Feel the dirt in between my toes, and bask in the glory that dirty feet are testimony to my grassroots existence in Haiti. Laugh with the children, and cuddle the babies. Listen to the complaints of my community, not just with my ears but also with my mind and my heart; I am a ray of hope even if I can only offer hugs. Have patience and let go of negative feelings. Read every book imaginable. Enjoy the very few moments of free time that I am graciously granted, and savour those blank hours as a time to reflect and simply breathe. Teach and learn simultaneously; I have much to offer Haiti, but even that much more to absorb. Leave the imprints of my running shoes along the mountainous roads and accept change as it comes. Do not allow anything to taint goals or desires. Always dream big. Relish the ability to be uniquely me, in a world untouched by societal pressures. Laugh always. Soak up each day, each minute, and each second, because I will one day find myself reflecting on these days as a hazy memory. And when I am an old woman with silver hair and deep-rooted wrinkles filled with knowledge and experience, I will look back and say, damn, that was the best time of my life.


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

And Sometimes There's Heartache...

Travel. It’s such an exotic term that exerts thoughts of wanderlust and adventure. It’s a word that creates images of young people taking off on their own and finding their place in the world; while backpacking through Europe or snorkeling with exotic fish in Australia. Travel creates glorious memories to be cherished as “the best time of our lives”, like posing with the statue of liberty or the Eiffel tower, right? Well, allow me to respectfully burn these images from your mind as I introduce you to the world of travel in a developing country. It is a whole new ball game, and you won’t survive without a few bruises and tears.

My last few years have been filled with life-altering challenges and extreme soul searching, but I have come to the conclusion that every twist and turn in life has lead me to where I am today and I am now standing right where I am meant to be. I am not off saving the world, and I am not some glamorous hero who will eradicate world hunger or poverty. But my presence in Haiti has given happiness if not hope to a few nameless children that have crossed my path, and possibly to a few special people who I will always hold dear to my heart.

My eyes have recently been opened by the heartbreaking case of a little girl that I had the blessing to help. Nassa was 11 months old when she came to me, she weighed 7 pounds and was very ill. The sight of her made my stomach churn. How could a child get to this point? How could anyone that saw this little baby girl not step up? Not do something ? Since birth she has been suffering from HIV which had progressed quickly and then she contracted TB. Her chances of making it were slim from the get go. When I rushed her to the hospital in August, Doctors told me she would not make it through the night. They removed her oxygen mask as well as her feeding tube. They had given up hope. Little did they know that I would stay by her bedside forcing her to drink water from the cap of my water bottle and forcing her to eat whenever she had the strength to do so. I prayed like crazy hoping that this little girl would make it, and if she didn't, then I prayed that she would least know that someone was by her side. Nassa's mother was also very ill. The family could not afford medications or transportation to and from the hospital, they could barely afford to feed themselves.

Despite her unfortunate circumstances, she didn't stop fighting. After spending over a month in the hospital, she was discharged. In October I went to visit her and her family. She looked amazing. She had gained weight and regained her strength. Finally that little girl could laugh and play around like any other baby. She sat there grabbing at my face and giggling and twirling her little fingers through my hair… It was easy to forget that her quality of life was extremely limited, especially in the poverty in which she lived. That is why it came as a shock when I received the message on Sunday.

Since I had returned home the mother became more ill and was less capable of caring for her children. The family stopped the treatment for the mother and also for Nassa. The mother passed away last week and I was notified as I was walking in to write an exam, it crushed me. But the news I received this Sunday crushed me even more.

I am angry, and I am confused. I am angry knowing the family stopped her treatment, but I’m even angrier with myself for leaving; because I know that if I had stayed in Haiti she would have received the treatment. I'm angry with the medical system. I am angry with the government for not doing more for their people. I am angry that there is so much poverty in this world while there are others that indulge in anything that they possibly can. When doctors should have been doing everything in their power to help baby Nassa, they were doing nothing, they gave up hope. I witnessed her case become the joke for hospital gossip, a true interest piece for doctors wishing to discuss the curiosity surrounding why a white woman cared so much about a baby with AIDS. They were disgusted that I wanted to hold her and that I was determined that she would live. And apart from their obvious fascination with this, they simply shuffled their feet and acted as if time was purely suspended above us. I wish there was more sympathy from Haitians for the suffering of their people, and I wish there was a different outcome for that little girl. Because Nassa died on Sunday, November 9th and today...I paid for her funeral- something I had never imagined happening.

Getting that news literally tore my heart to pieces. I loved that baby girl and although she didn’t have much time on this earth, she impacted my life in such profound ways. This is the part of "traveling" that makes it so hard. You stop wanting to learn names, you stop wanting to reach out to those that are suffering, because you know that you may lose them. You know that it will cut deep. And you know that with each loss, you also lose a part of yourself.

Some things happen in life that make us wonder how we will wake up the next day. How will we ever laugh again, or enjoy the company of others, or care for another child or for another person that is suffering, .... or smile. A mother lost her child. A brother lost his sister. A littler girl lost her life, and we may never know why or how it came to this. But when these days fall upon our shoulders, it is important to remember that without heartache we wouldn’t appreciate all the beauty this world has to offer. Haiti has given me the chance to experience life through the eyes of those who suffer, and because of this I now find myself more appreciative, more humble, and more content than I ever did back here in North America.

My heart is at ease knowing she is not suffering, but it’s breaking knowing that she didn’t have the opportunity to fulfill her life. She deserved that chance. Every child does. Even though I am hurting, I feel an urgency in my life to do more, fight on behalf of more, rescue more, love more, and give up more. I'm determined to keep turning my tears into action. I am determined not to turn my head at the suffering. No child should have to die from an illness that is manageable. No child should have to die from malnutrition. There should be access to medical care for those who cannot afford it. My only prayer is that more people stand up and fight for those that are struggling. Fight for those that are voiceless, because they deserve a chance. They deserve to live.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Endings and Beginnings...

As I sit hear strumming my guitar I am accompanied by the echo of a church choir in the distance and Emilio singing to his own tune from his little crib. Tyson is jumping on my bed behind me trying to make a moustache on my face with my hair and laughing hysterically. Shellson and Norens are playing on their new bikes and racing each other around my room. The twins are holding hands and dancing to the music. I can't help but smile as I watch them go about their business. It's these little moments that bring my heart so much joy. It's these little moments that make all of the frustrations and heartache of Haiti worthwhile. It is these little moments that make saying goodbye (once again) so damn hard.

Tomorrow morning I will have to board yet another plane. I will have to convince my feet to take that first step into the terminal and convince my body to remain seated as they shut the airplane door. I keep telling myself "Emily you have to do it!!! Only few more months of school and you will be back in Haiti for good" .. but even that doesn't ease the hurt of knowing that for the next few months, I will have to miss out on these little moments. As I board the plane tomorrow my future will remain waiting for me in Haiti, and I cannot wait for the new year to begin. The anxieties of the past have left my mind, and the worries of what’s to come are nonexistent. This is home.


This week I bought my first car in Haiti (I know, scary thought). And it is the best investment I have ever made. It's like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. No more relying on anyone else, no more arguing with drivers and negotiating for pay, no more feeling "stuck".. this is FREEDOM !!!! Today as I was driving the kids to my friend Jason's house where we go swimming, I thought to myself... two years ago I could have never imagined I'd be here. I could never imagined us living in a beautiful home, driving around in my OWN car, and taking my babies to the pool. I have never felt more proud and more like a family (especially having the "talk" with my boys today.. help me Lord). We are beginning to become less dysfunctional as each day passes (well.. kind of). Spending this week with my kids there is no doubt in my mind that things will only continue to improve for us. From living in a small house with no furniture, running water, electricity, fridge, stove, working toilet, etc to where we are now .. it is really incredible and I am so grateful for each and every person who has assisted us a long the way. Every time I think of how far we've come tears form in the corners of my eyes. No one will ever understand how truly blessed I feel for the amazing people in my life who believed in me and continue to believe in me today. You have given me the greatest gift I could ever ask for.

Patience and appreciation are two of the greatest lessons I have learned since arriving to Haiti. People wonder how I deal with it, how I cope, and for awhile I struggled with dealing with the stressors and chaos and many times I came the point of nearly being completely burnt out. But I realized that the only way to survive here is to ease your mind. Let go of the stressors and just believe that everything will work out exactly how it is supposed to. Anger and frustration only creates negative feelings and tension and negative feelings only bring about negative actions and events. I have realized that to fully be engrossed in the lifestyle of my existence and the only way to find satisfaction and inner peace is by embracing the here and now. I need to smell the sugar cane and appreciate the rawness of its flavor instead of dreaming about the delicious things it will become. Haitians practice this way of life better than any North American I know, and maybe that’s why they aren’t bothered by apprehension about their next steps. North Americans may have a longer life expectancy, but is a long life worth anything at all when we are living most of it in some hypothetical future?


The past is now behind me, and old baggage has long been tossed out. My book is starting over with chapter one. These past few years have been filled with emotional endings and exciting beginnings that I will take with me into the next phase of my life. Where I stand now is astronomically different from 2010 when I boarded that plane to Ghana and envisioned myself as a volunteer working in orphanages and medical clinics on my spare time. I have now fallen off motorcycles, and cared for dying babies; been peed on by naked children and harassed by strangers. I climbed a mountain and swam behind countless waterfalls. I have made an entirely new family in a bizarre world, and best of all I have found love. I have become a mother. That point may be the most twisted of all, as these things tend to come out of nowhere and under completely blindsided circumstances. But the happiness I feel in this moment might just exceed the happiness I felt when Santa brought me my pink Barbie house as a three year old.

So tomorrow when I am forced to say goodbye to my babies, I will embrace the sadness with a feeling of happiness knowing that I will soon be back for good. It will be another ending of my strange beginning. Time is moving on, my little ones are growing, and good things are happening. That tranquility I've talked about in the past will still be flowing through my veins, and the thought of my return will continue to give me satisfaction. New struggles will begin, new children will arrive, new moments of joy and moments of tears will pass, and I will fully embrace every moment of every day.

Peace and Love from Haiti.



UPDATE: Nassa came to me when she was 11 months old weighing only 7lbs. Today she is smiling and finally able to sit up and use her legs. She has made an incredible recovery and is continuing to stay strong throughout treatments. She's my little fighter. Unfortunately, her mother isn't doing so well. I spent the afternoon sitting with her as she lay on a cold concrete floor covered in flies. It breaks my heart to say that her chance of survival is severely slim and the next few weeks are crucial. She cannot stand and she can barely talk. She has become very weak. I will be transporting her to hospital tomorrow and keeping the faith that she will fight as hard as Nassa and do a complete turn around as well. Thank you to all of those who have sent money for her family. Today we were able to provide them with a months worth of food,clothes, vitamins, toys, and medicine. I couldn't do it without all of you. Starting tomorrow we will also be accumulating more medical bills with her mother, if anyone wishes to contribute to these fees please contact me via Facebook or email emily@himeforhelp.org

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Coming and Going..

I'm heading somewhere I want to go, but leaving somewhere I want to stay.

Is it too dramatic to say leaving feels like death? I have to leave once again to return to University and I know that I won’t be back for a couple of months and in those passing months, things and people will change. That's inevitable. My kids will have grown taller. My babies will be talking more. My little girls will have started their first day of school. Emilio will be crawling. And every second lived during my time away is weighted down with the knowledge that I can’t have these moments that I will miss back.

I have left many times in the past and have arrived just as many times. Though it might seem like I should be used to this, adjusted to the countdown and the onslaught of sensory details, both in leaving and in arriving, I’m not. I don’t want to be. This time coming "home" to Haiti meant something different to me. It took courage and every ounce of strength I had left in me. It was reuniting with my children after a quick departure and without a proper goodbye last year. It was about mending open wounds. After being forced to leave my home, my children, and my life in Haiti last year due to some unimaginable security issues… I turned bitter. I hurt every single day. I mourned the loss of a life.. my life. I couldn't think about Haiti. I couldn't talk about Haiti. Because the hurt was too much to bear. My kids would call and I would have to hang up the phone because the sounds of their voices sent the sharpest pain through my heart. I wanted to be back. I wanted to be holding them. But at that moment, I knew I couldn't. So instead, the only thing I could do to "survive" was to try and not think about Haiti. That was an impossible task. The yearning for my children and for my home nearly killed me. Coming back and stepping foot onto the Haitian soil again, I cried. I smelled the air, heard the noises, saw the people, and said to myself "I'm Home". It was in that instant, of stepping off the plane, that I knew that I was back where I belonged. That empty void I had been feeling for months was quickly filled back up. I felt a sense of pride. Yes, I was proud of myself for coming back. For finding the strength. For losing the fear. And then when my gate opened and I saw my kids running towards the vehicle with open arms.. my heart exploded. Holding them again was something I can't even put to words. It was magical. It was as if no time had passed. Our love and trust for each other remained strong even though we had been separated by thousands of miles. We never stopped thinking of each other. We never stopped loving each other. Ever.


I soaked up every minute of these past few months. I didn't want to let them go. We sat around telling stories, playing music, being silly, and just absorbing all of the time we possibly could. We all knew that I would have to leave again come September, but none of us wanted to think about that. For once, I stopped worrying about the future, stopped thinking about leaving, and enjoyed every single minute I had with the children who have stolen my heart and changed my life. I cherished every moment with my friends who have been there for me through some of my most difficult days, who have helped both the children and I, and who understand completely how difficult Haiti can be and how hard it is to have your heart split between two places. Most of these friends I have not known long, but I know our friendships will last a lifetime. I spent time with my neighbours who greeted me by shouting my name as they saw me drive by and running at me for hugs and kisses. They didn't forget me. I realized how beyond blessed I am.

There are some moments in life that are like pivots around which your existence turns- small intuitive flashes, when you know you have done something correct for a change, when you think you are on the right track. I was holding Emilio and watching Tyson sleep a few nights ago, when I realized that my lunatic idea to move to Haiti at the age of 19 was the right one.

People always ask me "Don't you want a life for yourself", "Your only in your twenties, shouldn't you be doing other things?". Every time I heard someone say that I never knew how to answer or how to react. At first I would feel offended but then I would start asking myself the same question. I was always trying to figure out the right way to answer. After thinking about that question for awhile, it suddenly just hit me while I was holding Emilio and watching my other babies sleep. I realized that I never knew how to answer that, and I always felt confused with the the statement "Don't you want a life for yourself"... because... this is MY LIFE. This is the life I chose to live for myself. This is where I want to be. Yes, I am in my twenties, yes most of my friends are out partying and living up the university lifestyle, yes sometimes I wonder what it would be like to spend a day doing what they do and not having to think little a forty year old, but the truth is ... I could not imagine spending my days doing anything else. I am incredibly lucky. I get to watch these beautiful children grow into such incredible little beings full of hope, dreams, and happiness. I get to see their first steps, hear their first words, be there every step of the way. They fill my life with a type of joy and pride that I never knew existed. I am truly happy. What more could I want ?

This trip confirmed something for me that I had been struggling with. I have struggled trying to decide exactly where I should be. I felt guilty being in Haiti and leaving my family and friends in Canada, but then coming to Canada I feel guilty for leaving my children and friends in Haiti. It's a constant war within my own heart. But this time, I sat back on the top of the mountain with the wind blowing and the ocean in view and just stopped thinking. I stopped trying to figure it out. Instead, I felt something. I felt that same familiar tug in my heart that I had felt when I first arrived in Haiti. I took a deep breath in and said "this is home".

I have returned to Canada, but not for long. I am going to be completing this semester of school (until December) here in Ontario, but will be heading back to Haiti in January as my University has offered me enough online classes that I will be able to finish my degree while being with my kids. I am anxious and excited to see what the future holds.

Thank you to all of my friends and family in Haiti & Canada for always welcoming me home. I am so grateful for all of you.

"Family isn't always blood, it's the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what"- Unknown



Saturday, 9 August 2014

Shattered

I have been sitting here in this hard plastic chair for 8 hours now. I have been holding onto a small frail hand that won't let go of my finger. I have fluorescent emergency room lights shinning in my eyes. Tears are beginning to fall. My heart hurts. It's the type of hurt that actually physically aches. I am shattered having to watch this child suffer. I am angry - I am angry that no one has interfered sooner. That bystanders passed on by. And that her own mother gave up hope and only sought help after it almost became too late. I am feeling helpless knowing that the most I can do now is sit here and love this child. Hold her. Pray for her. And hope to God we are given a miracle.

It's hard for me to come home (to my house in Haiti) from the hospital and see my children laughing and playing. I can't help but hug and squeeze them all. I am telling them I love them more than ever (I think they are getting annoyed). But I can't help but think that this could have been one of my children. One of my babies. The unfairness in this world is so hard to understand. What did this beautiful innocent little girl do to deserve to suffer like this? Who decided this fate for her? Why was she born into a society where there is a lack of resources and medical care? Why her? Why not me?


I can't make sense of this. I never will be able to answer these questions. I will never understand why there is suffering like this while people back home are sitting around their dinner tables enjoying a four course meal and occupying their minds with television. All I know is that I have to keep trying to make this right. I have to fight and defend this child. That is my responsibility as a human being. Everyone always asks me why I don't "help the children in my own backyard"... I can assure you that we would NEVER see suffering like this in North America. We would never just walk by a child on the street who is hungry and crying. We would never have to worry about how we would get that child to a hospital or worry about being refused because we do not have enough money. It just would not happen. But here, this happens every day.

It happens to the people I have grown to love and call my friends and family. It happens to the people who have been there for me when I have fallen ill and who have given up their only water supply when I was dehydrated. Who have spent the few dollars that they had earned, working tirelessly and hard, that month to purchase medicine or food for me when I was too ill to do so myself. Who dies because they have literally NO FOOD, NO WATER, NO ACCESS TO MEDICAL CARE?

My friends do. My family does. My fellow human beings.

This hurt I am feeling, this anger bubbling inside of me, this suffering I am witnessing, it only motivates me to keep going. To keep fighting for what I know is right. It is so easy to turn an eye on the suffering here- there is just so much of it. I know I cannot save them all, I know I probably cannot save this little girl, but I have to try. It is the only thing that can ease my heart. Knowing that I did all that I possibly could do. That I didn't turn my head.


Tonight as you sit in front of your computers reading this, please pray for Nassa, and please give thanks to our education systems for giving us the ability to read this, as over 50% of the population here is illiterate. While you take a hot shower tonight, please remember how fortunate you are to have that water. When you open your cold refrigerator door, look at the abundance of food you are fortunate to have. As you kiss your children good night, please realize how lucky you are to be able to provide even one meal a day for your child, to be able to tuck them into a bed, or to be able to rock them to sleep. If you are ill, please be grateful for our healthcare system- although we often like to complain- we are so incredibly blessed to have the healthcare we do. And please if you are able to avoid one trip to the drive thru this week and to donate even $5 or $10 to give children like Nassa hope and provide them with the care that they are in desperate need of please visit our website www.himeforhelp.org and click the donate button at the top of our page. Thank you to all of you who have contributed to Nassa's medical expenses and who have supported our Children's Home. We could not keep doing it without you.



Friday, 1 August 2014

Dear my 19 Year Old Self

Dear my 19 year old self- You, with the big dreams and veins full of adventure. Your getting ready to embark on the greatest journey of your life. Can I have a minute? I know you have laundry to do, emails to answer, and diapers to change, but if I may?

First of all, let me assure you – you make it! Yep, you endure a heck of a lot and you sure know the definition of "struggle".. but you do survive it ALL. More than you can imagine. So you can relax – everything does really come together and you really do get on the plane, and you really do dedicate the rest of your life to a group of children you have yet to meet. Though, you must know, that ‘crazy’ label must be stuck with crazy glue because you will forever have someone somewhere thinking it. But you had that tug in your heart, right?

So before you pack your entire existence into two suitcases, and before go through all the security check points and step foot into the country that will leave you hoarse and would have cost you your sanity had you not already given that up months ago, let me just talk to you and tell you a few things. About yourself. About your life.

You are enough. You will feel like you don’t measure up and that all your efforts are in vain. You will feel the stares of people assessing every detail of your life. You will hear the hurtful comments and feel the sting of rejection, no matter how strong you think you are. You will question yourself and all that you are doing. You’ve got to grab that bottle of crazy glue and stick this truth to your heart of hearts: you are enough.

See beauty. You are going to go through some tough days where anger, frustration, and hurt overtakes you. Take a break. Go for a drive. Look at the beautiful mountains and sea. This will be the "scenery" that will always take you back to sanity. Look at the aged eyes in young children and see hope. Look at the families who hold so tight to each other and see unconditional love. Don’t turn your eyes from the hurting, keep looking until you see yourself in them.

You will never regret the hundreds and thousands of hours and dollars invested in creating a loving home and becoming apart of a new culture.

You will never regret learning to love the land your children know as their home.

You will never regret the efforts to stay tight with your friends. Go to those parties. Take the trips. Celebrate. Be each others biggest fans. Love big, often, and wholly. And don't feel so guilty for taking a night off to indulge with them.

Your greatest regrets will come from times when you backed away from human connection, when you prioritized doing over being, and when you forgot that the world is not so black and white.

Stop trying to please everybody, trying to be all things to all people. At this point, you've got all the tools it takes to trust your instincts, and your instincts are good ones. Realize that no matter what you do, you will always have critics. Keep going.

Learn to be patient, uncomfortable and alone, because, as you've always said, this too shall pass. You need to become familiar with all three of these things if you plan to live away from home and in a foreign country for an extended period of time.

Start focusing a little more on your health. I know you are running around like a chicken with your head cut off but take a break. Relax. Recover. Both for your mental and physical health.

You are going to lose many people dear to your heart in the next three years. You will hurt in ways you never knew you could. You will be angry, confused, and heartbroken. Time will heal the loss and pain of a broken heart, however, some losses, will last a lifetime. The pain diminishes, but the wound never fully heals. Be content with knowing that they are watching over you. Accept and acknowledge the fact that you will meet again.

People will try to discourage you. Don't let them. Believe in yourself. Don't be afraid of not succeeding. Be more afraid of NOT trying and living with regret. If you fall, pick yourself up, and keep moving forward. A few years from now, you'll be saying this to your kids a lot, too.

All of those nights you cry yourself to sleep worrying about the kids and wondering how you will provide food for the next day. Don't. Wipe away those tears. Like always, someone comes through. You have an incredible amount of people who have your back and will not let you fall. Don't be so afraid to ask for help. The children will never starve. Your supporters will not let that happen.

You know all of those future plans you had? Hang on to them. It will bring you laughter after about 2 years into this life that looks like trying to make it out alive while you teeter along on a broken sidewalk, in a never ending earthquake, during a hurricane, while suffering from malaria, typhoid, or cholera.. impossible. Your plans will always be changing. You will learn that you must just "go with the flow".

You are going to get burnt out. You are going to lose any bit of sanity you had left. "Shitty" (that's sugar coating it) events are going to occur that test you to your core. You are going to breakdown. You are going to lose your way. You are going to hit rock bottom. You are going to have to relearn trust and you will have to rebuild your self confidence. But keep holding on. You have a bunch of beautiful babies counting on you to pull through. Go home. Take a break. Regroup. Get your "mojo" back. And then return with pride and fight harder than ever. Let all of those dreams of yours once again flourish. You will come back stronger than ever. You can and you will do it.

Okay, so go wipe snotty noses and change hundreds of dirty diapers. Cherish each and every moment you spend watching your babies grow. Look back and realize how far you have come. Keep laughing and loving through every obstacle thrown your way. Use music as an outlet. It will save your life. And Surround yourself with those that encourage you and lift you up. Now go get on that plane and let the rest of your life begin.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Burning out.. Is it worth it?

We are all warned about culture shock and what to expect when we first arrive on the field. But what about after that first year? What about three years down the road? Or seven? Or ten? What about the frustrations and tears, hurt and stress, internal (or external) cries for ‘home’? What about those days when you will do anything to get.out.of.here?

For most long term humanitarians, I think one of our biggest concerns is getting "burnt out". We all experience it. When you commit to working in developing nations, and when you have a big heart, the country can consume you quickly. It starts to slowly eat away at your social life, your youth, and your bubbly naive self. We come in with such passion and positivism and end up feeling beat down like one of the starving dogs on the street. We are faced with situations on a daily basis that friends and family back home would never even believe, let alone comprehend. And due to that fact we keep a lot of the heartaches to ourselves. We witness horrible things. We are exposed to bitter truths. We get angry and frustrated. The stress forces us to age incredibly. We lose sleep and our health slowly begins to diminish due to exhaustion or being exposed to strange parasites and diseases. Sometimes I wish I had a GoPro Cam attached to me just to show what my daily routine consists of. Most people would need a Xanax just to drive down the streets of Port Au Prince.

So how do you prevent becoming burnt out? You don't. For any long term humanitarian/missionary it is bound to happen eventually. You think "No, not me" or "I'm stronger than that". Stop kidding yourself. You experience it. You go through the hard times. You get stressed. You become bitter. You get depressed. You think about giving up and quitting. You think about how easier life would be if you just return home. You think about how many times you have been cheated or stabbed in the back by the ones you have helped. You get disappointed and let down time and time again. You get tired of asking for funding and support. You wonder if it's worth it anymore. You think you will never make the difference you were hoping to make. You get tired of being lonely or tired of being sick. You are exhausted and you've just had enough. You can't do it anymore.

And then... you pull up your big girl pants. You take a deep breath. And you open your eyes with a whole new perspective. You begin to see beauty where you once saw anger and pain. You embrace that this is your life, you are here for a reason. You are strong. You realize that the malaria, typhoid, Chickungunya, sleepless nights, chaotic days, and all the other obstacles you go through actually are worth it. You have learned hard lessons but they have forced you to do some soul searching. You've found yourself here. They are worth seeing a child that was once so close to death do a complete turn around and become striving and happy. Because you loved them. Because you took that chance. Because you decided not to turn your head. Because you decided to care. It is worth it when you have kids that have been abandoned or abused learn to trust again and you wake up every morning to them yelling "Mom wake up!!!!!". It is worth it watching a rural village learn to show compassion for one another, learn to share, and begin to prosper in ways they never could have imagined. It's the little things that we take for granted when our minds are constantly thinking we have to go, go, go. We never take time for ourselves. We never take time to digest all we have seen or all we have done. We never rest. It always seems to be one catastrophic event after another. There is so much need here. So much that we could be doing. But sometimes we have to sit back and just look around us. Notice those little things that can make you smile and fill up your heart again. Those are the things that will keep you sane. You have to remind yourself that you are human, you are allowed to grieve, you are allowed to hurt, and its okay to cry. Sometimes you have to literally force yourself to let go of the stressors. To take each moment as it is. I find that when I go out onto the streets my face changes completely. I scrunch it up and have this horribly angry look as if I'm ready for a fight. I know that I do this because I have come accustomed to having to barter or protect myself on the street. But sometimes, like when I'm driving through the mountains or along the ocean's shore, I actually have to force myself to relax and to smile.

After returning home for this past year and taking a "break". I began to realize how truly burnt out I was. I was angry and constantly stressed and worrying about the future. I had forced myself to become "hard". I stopped feeling the effects of trauma or dealing with what I had been exposed too. I became somewhat numb to things that would normally break my heart. And although some may think this is a good thing. It is not. I have learned that it is much easier to harden yourself then to endure. But it is necessary for healing purposes to go through the motions. To feel the pain, anger, and frustrations. I think way too many people here have become "hard" just like me. And it is difficult to undo that. Since returning to Haiti that is the one main thing I am working on each day. To become soft again. To love and trust again. To remind myself it's okay to look into the eyes of those on the streets, its okay to feel the hurt, its okay to want to help them and to cry because I can't.

In a month from now I will be once again boarding a plane home. My heart will once again break into a million little pieces. As I sit here staring at my University course schedule I feel terribly sad and guilty. I will have to kiss my 14 little ones goodbye. I will have to spend each and every minute away from them worrying about what they are doing, if they have eaten that day, if they are healthy, and if they are being told that they are beautiful and loved. Right now I don't even want to think about leaving. The thought hurts way too much. But this will also have to be something I will have to endure. However, we all know that I will be back soon enough.









Monday, 14 July 2014

The Struggles

Something has changed. I am not sure exactly when it happened, and only in looking back can I see that it did. But there is no arguing it; things are different now than when I boarded that first plane to Port Au Prince. Back then I was young, naive, and full of adventure. I was all fired up – and ready to take on the needs of the people in one of the poorest nations, even if it meant that I had to sacrifice anything and everything of my own. I had just given up the majority of my life and possessions back in Canada, and nothing had ever felt more right. I had never been so sure of anything before.

That was three years ago.

It's been three years of power outages, bucket showers, sweaty nights, bad roads, no money, cockroaches, dirty diapers, screaming children, missing my family and friends, water shortages, mystery illnesses, security issues, too many deaths, and countless cultural frustrations that have brought me to my knees on a daily basis.

Living abroad is an amazing adventure, but it does comes with some baggage. And sometimes, the baggage fees are hidden. I began to realize that my life choice of being a humanitarian is a blessing... but it can also be a curse. No matter where I am in this world I will always be missing one of my families. I will always be longing for someone or something, and there will be many things I will have to miss out on and give up.

During my time here I have had friends and family pass away and I was unable to get to say that last, fully present, goodbye. I was unable to attend funerals, unable to get the closure I needed. Family members celebrate birthdays, or the whole family celebrates a holiday, and you’re not there because the ocean is really big, and you’re on the wrong side of it.

And you being to realize there are just some things facebook, texting, and skype cannot fix.

They say that living in developing nations such as Haiti can bring out the worst in people. I don't know if I fully agree with that, but let me tell you .. It is hard. It's not always rainbows and butterflies like some people assume back home. I don't have a luxurious life here that is spent every day on a beach and playing with my kids. It drives me absolutely insane when I have people telling me "I envy your life". No, no you do not. Take that back. If you only knew what came with it. It's much more than the happy smiling photos I post on facebook. It's much more than the beautiful beaches and mountains and waterfalls. Living here... It's indescribable. You are CONSTANTLY surrounded by suffering, poverty, disease, corruption. It doesn't go away. You can't just take a break from it. You fight every single day not to lose compassion. Not to go completely insane. The hurt becomes deep and it's hard to even meet people and learn their names as you become way too familiar with death and saying goodbye.

Yes, life in Haiti can bring out the dark side, it can be extremely difficult. But — what if that’s not such a bad thing? I mean, what if it doesn’t end there? What if all the stuff that surfaces is supposed to surface? What if the only way to know what’s inside your heart is for it to come out? And what if the lessons learned, and the difficulties faced forces you to dig deeper and see yourself in a new light and see life with a whole new perspective? What if you are forced to see what our media hides? Forced to learn about the WORLD in which YOU live in? Is that really so bad?

So maybe those multiple anxiety attacks, sleepless nights, grieving days, and breakdowns do actually have a purpose. Maybe knowing your weaknesses means you know yourself more intimately than you ever have before. Maybe these obstacles and frustrations will teach you lessons no professor or textbook ever could. Maybe you are exactly where you need to be, right at this moment. Maybe living overseas means becoming the person that you were created you to be.

Lately I have felt more burnt out than ever with having new kids and trying to transition them, having Shellson sick in the hospital and trying to pay that bill, having a newborn baby to love and provide for, figuring out how we are going to pay our rent, finishing up paperwork, and trying to fix things in the house that the kids have broken since I've been away. It's exhausting. I am constantly reminding myself- You followed that damn tug in your heart across oceans and continents, across countries and cultures. You knew this life wasn't going to be easy when you got into it. You came this far for a purpose, because you are meant to be here. And now that you are where you need to be, people are not going to leave you alone and without help. They never have. If your heart and passion brought you to this place, don’t you think it will continue to fight for what you came here for?

And maybe they’re right. Maybe living overseas will draw out all our bad stuff. There have definitely been days where it has drawn out the worst in me. But I no longer think that’s something to be afraid of — life with passion and purpose is not something to fear, it is something to embrace.

So today, if you find yourself at your breaking point, frustrated with the country you have chosen to be apart of, tired of the corruption and the lengthy delays of paperwork, transport, or literally trying to accomplish anything here. Remember that you were called to do this for a reason. Don't be afraid to seek help. Believe that you will find the strength to put yourself back together again. Because we are so much stronger than we believe. We are so much braver than we could ever imagine. And we are built to survive. You can do this.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Every Dark Night Ends with Sunrise..

This morning I woke up at 4am. I picked Emilio up out of his crib. Made a bottle. Fed him. And rocked him to sleep.

At 4am, I cried.

I sat on the edge of my bed wondering when this Chikungunya epidemic is going to end. I cried as I watched Tyson sleeping thinking back to the first time I held his three week old body in my arms. How I instantly fell in love with him. How much he has grown. I cried because I am terribly worried about Shellson and what chronic illness he is suffering from. I cried because I was faced with a security issue Friday night that shook me to my core. I cried because I wish my best friend Maeve was here with me to make me laugh or to cry with me like she always did. Haiti isn't the same without her. I cried because I am constantly surrounded by suffering,poverty, and disease and I find that I am forcing myself to turn my head and to look away because I know I cannot help everyone. The faces I see, the cries I hear, they stay vivid in my mind.

I went back to sleep for a few hours. Woke up to Tyson pinching me saying "Mama get up", he wanted juice. This is when the chaos begins.

I opened my bedroom door and all of my other little ones came running in.

Lillian and Lunda grabbed me by the hand and Lilly says (as she does every day) "mama mwen ale Kanada" AKA "Mom I'm going to Canada". I ask her with who and how she is going to get there and she responds "With Lunda and you.. We can take a Moto". Gave me a good chuckle. How I wish it was that easy.

We ate breakfast. Took our bucket showers. Got dressed. Changed diapers.

Sabrina came running with tears in her eyes saying Lunda pushed her. Lunda screams and throws a fit as I put her on time out.

I quickly grabbed a banana, ran out the front door with four crying toddlers yanking on my shirt because they don't want me to leave, and headed out on a moto to Hospital Espoir to pick up Shellson.

We drive down our unpaved bumpy road and the neighbours all wave and greet me. I pass a goat eating garbage and a small child blowing up a condom- he's not wearing pants or shoes. This is normal.

I head out onto the main road and pass flying cars and the police station. The police stop and harass me. I give them a fake phone number, and I am on my way again.

When I arrive at the Hospital I argue with the moto driver about the amount I have to pay him. My hair is everywhere and I have a fine layer of dust/dirt over my skin that is sticking to my sweat.

Shellson is covered in sweat. He has a leaking diarrhea diaper. I am taking him home today. He will be continuing his medication at home with regular check ups as I try to get him admitted into another hospital. His hospital bill is $760 US. I am unable to pay it today so I leave my passport at the hospital so I can come back to pay it when we have the funds to do so. Although his fever has stopped, his arm inflammation has not, nor has his pain.

On my way home with Shellson on my lap, I pass a woman's body on the street. She appears to be dead, I think she has been hit by a car.. who knows.. People are just walking by. No one is attempting to help. I can't help. I have to keep driving because if I touch that body, I become responsible for her death and or disposal of the body.

I head to Tabbare to MSC plus to buy a few things for the house, including a new battery for the generator. While I am there I receive a text from Howard saying a bed has opened up in peds at Bernard Mevs Hospital. I have to get there ASAP. I call a taptap to meet me at the house, call Jenny to get Shellson's bag packed. I jump on my moto and head home as fast as I can.

The care we are receiving at Bernard Mevs is exceptional. He has been admitted and we are waiting for an orthopaedic to come and see him. As I am sitting in triage a little boy with big puffy eyes and a swollen face sits across and stares at me. He is with his Aunt (a big lady) and a woman from his church. The doctors examine the boy and then escort the women from the room. I figured he must be having an allergic reaction to something. He sat there on his own for awhile so I asked the Doctor what is happening. His aunt had beat him, the lady from the church went to visit and noticed his face all swollen so she insisted they go to the hospital. The police came and arrested the aunt. The little boy has two fractured eye sockets, his brain is bleeding, his skull is fractured, and he has lacerations on his arms and back. He didn't cry the whole time he sat there. He spoke in a sweet quiet voice. I cried for him.

I went home late last night after spending all day at the hospital. Chikungunya started setting in again leaving me barely able to walk. I thought Malaria was bad.. but at least that only lasted a brief period of time. I feel as if this virus is just never ending and it sets in at the most unexpected times. I am tired. My mind needs a rest. My body needs a rest.

Writing has always been my "venting" technique, however lately I find it a struggle to even do that or to even begin to think about what I want to say. Some days are too hard to write about.

If you want to keep your sanity as a humanitarian in this country, you have to find your own personal outlet. For some, that may mean hiding under the covers and exhausting an entire T.V. show series in one afternoon (I don't have a TV and my room is way too hot for covers). For others, alcohol becomes an enjoyable vice, and spending free time in a plastered haze in the nice beach resorts (which I don't have the money to do). So for me, writing and music have ultimately become the channel with which I am able to release the built up tension and emotions. And right now my guitar is sitting in my nice air conditioned home back in Canada. I am missing it more than anything.

This week has been tough. Too tough to even fully vent about right now. My mind is scrambled. There are so many things we need here but the funds just never seem to be enough. Everyone working here in Haiti faces this same struggle. There is so much good you wish to do, but money really limits that.

This is a hard place.

It has a way of exposing things. Most people would need to take a Xanax to even drive down the streets here.
One of the biggest struggles with working and living in Haiti is not becoming permanently bitter and angry. The simplest tasks such as driving, buying groceries, or bringing your child to the hospital will test every ounce of your patience. The lack of change, lack of progress, lack of truth, lack of trust, lack of security, lack of convenience, lack of compliance, lack of integrity, lack of healthcare, lack of justice, lack of sleep ... It all tries and tests.

"Every dark night ends with sunshine".. right ?






Monday, 30 June 2014

Contradictions

Considering life as a humanitarian, it seems as though it is just composed of a series of contradictions.

On one hand, it is the least freedom that I’ve ever had. I live in a sort of a fishbowl. I am constantly surrounded by my kids (which I love), I have no privacy at all, people are always aware of what I’m doing, and I need to hold myself to better standards of propriety than at any other time in my life.

But at the same time, it is also the most freedom I've ever had. I can choose to work on whichever projects I decide to do, have time to stop and write a song, do whichever activities I wish to do with the kids and can go do them at whichever time I decide to. I can be a nurse, teacher, caregiver, handywoman- you name it- all at the same time.

Living here is such an isolating experience. It can be very lonely. I’m away from friends and family and the people that most would say, know me best. It’s hard to stay in touch through lack of free time, limited technology and high cost.

But I also have a new set of friends and family, composed of my beautiful children, staff, and other expats undergoing the same experiences and of people within the community that make me feel like I’m truly at home.

I've learned a new language and can speak it fluently.

But it’s also making me feel like my ability to speak good educated English is rapidly declining. I have to think about the concept of contradiction for a solid minute before I came up with the word.

This is the poorest I’ve ever been.

But compared to most here I'm still considered really rich.

I hate the corruption and how the government functions.

Yet I have to work with them and remain on their "good side".

I am so competent… I have skills and knowledge that people here don’t…just basic things we are taught even in elementary school impress the people here, but back home it would just be normal.

Yet at the same time, I feel totally incompetent. Particularly when I am trying to cook Haitian food or doing some of the things that are second nature to people here.. The list could go on and on and on.

In one way I’m totally independent. I live on my own with a bunch of children I am fully responsible for. But I am also fully dependent upon those around me– for help, for motivation, for friendship, for work and to just keep me sane.

This is the most time that I have ever spent working (literally 24/7)…being here means that I am always on the job, either in literally being at the house all day every day with my kids or doing projects in other villages. I have to keep in mind my role in the community and make sure that I present myself in a good light, both for the success of my work and for the sake of representing Canada and other "blans".

On the other side, this is also the least time that I spend working. Because to me, most of the time this doesn't feel like work.

A part of me is bitter and I have been burnt out feeling like Haiti has literally broken me in two.

But I also know it is the only thing that keeps me together most days. "It can break your heart into a million pieces, yet still be the reason it beats".

When I was getting ready to leave, some people told me that I was doing a great thing and sacrificing so much. There are definitely things that I gave up to came here and wish that I hadn’t had to.

But at the same time, this is one of the most selfish things that I have ever done. I’m doing this because I wanted to. While I’m (oh dear lord I hope) helping people in my community and giving a future to my children, I’m also helping myself. My work here has helped me to decide exactly what makes me happy and makes me feel whole. I left friends and family behind, demanding that they will still be there for me while I’m gone and when I get back. Really, more selfish than selfless.

I hate the idea of orphanages. I am frustrated that they exist. I am angry at parents for being so willing to give up their children.

Yet I'm running a children's home just for that. The circumstances that lead some parents to abandon their children is sometimes beyond the parents control. Rape, disease, extreme poverty, etc. I have witnessed some of the horrific things these parents have been faced with or what the mothers have gone through. I try my best to understand.

What I’m doing here is not “real life” AKA "what I am supposed to be doing" (according to some people). I was talking with a friend who has a full-time job in the US—in their book, that's "the real life situation". I’m so far removed from all of the things so staple to real Canadian/American 20-something life.

But this is maybe more real than my life could ever have been if I had stayed in Canada. I have delivered babies, stitched wounds, held babies dying of malnutrition and disease, brought babies back to health including some of my kids here, I've jumped off the top of waterfalls, went scuba diving, went paragliding (unfortunately that one didn't end as planned when the parachute didn't open), witnessed the evils mother nature has to offer, experienced many types of religion, dealt with corruption, violence, and crime, lived without basic "necessities", I have felt what it means to literally worry about how you would eat or provide food for your children the next day. Realities of simply living life are more present in my eyes—trying to figure out where water comes from so that there is enough to drink or wash laundry by hand. Learning how to conserve everything. Grinding peanuts to make peanut butter…maybe more real than the instant, plastic wrapped life that I could be living in Canada.

Maybe it’s all about balancing these contrasts, or maybe they aren’t even all that large. One way or another, life here continues to surprise me—sometimes by the foreign and sometimes by how very regular it is.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Oh, the Things I've Learned ...

So, I'm back. I am back living in the small Caribbean Island that most of us didn't even know existed until the earthquake. I am back running around like a chicken with it's head cut off. The madness never ever ends. And aside from my life being terribly entertaining here in good ole Haiti, it’s also quite exhausting most of the time. I have only been back for a few days but the stress and sleepless nights didn't take any time to set in. Chikungunya is kicking butts and taking names in our household. I am the only one who has not gotten it yet (knock on wood). Tyson is laying on the floor next to me with a snotty nose and fever, a new member of our household, Shellson (1yr old) who is the brother of Jodline and Jodnise is sitting with our volunteer Lauren and chugging down a pedishare shake (he is severely malnourished and full of worms), and baby Emilio is fast asleep on my lap making little cooing noises. Our house is absolutely bonkers. This virus has every kid sick with a fever and the crying is never ending. I feel so bad for my babies as I can see the pain they are feeling just by looking at them. They are not themselves. Sometimes it is easy to forget another world exists when I am living out my daily routine here in Haiti. I am fully absorbed into this life of beans and rice, bartering in markets, sweltering in the heat, and running back and forth between fighting or crying children. I have adapted to the third-world difficulties that adorn my lifestyle. However, Every now and then a hint of nostalgia for my pre Haiti life hits me like a blinding light and I think to myself "Emily what the heck are you doing here".

There are moments here in Haiti when I have really wanted to give up and purchase the next plane ticket back home. Sometimes I feel like I am living in a fictional book with a plot that is only fun to read about but not live. They might be great reads, but would you really want to face the crazy stories that they boast? And then there are moments like today when I am able to center my mind and body as I watch my kids dance around to music. I am able to focus on the positives, and remind myself that little by little, I might be making a difference for these kids and the most rewarding thing of all of this, is watching them transform into lively, bubbly, and healthy children. Sometimes all it takes is the hug from one of my kids, an email from a stranger, or a random act of kindness from someone to set my path straight again.

Tyson turned two this month. It is so hard to believe how much he has grown. Time really did fly by. He went from being a tiny little 3 week old baby who was very sick and who slept on my chest to a crazy, fearless, and handsome little boy who still loves sleeping in my arms. He has changed in so many ways but I am so happy that he is still a mama's boy. He has come so far. It is ironic that I named him "Tyson".. Because he sure is a little fighter.

Our four new kids are settling in great. Sabrina is four years old and full of attitude but loves to dance. Lunda is 3 years old and has the most contagious personality and has the cutest giggle, she loves to play "mommy" with the younger ones. Jeanly is 9 years old and you can tell he is so happy to be here, he is literally bouncing off walls and soaking up any affection he can get. He asked me the other day if he can "stay here forever" and when I bought him a new mattress for his bed he told me he has never had his own bed before. Baby Emilio is already starting to grow. His favourite place to sleep is on my chest and he loves digging his face into my neck. I was trying really hard not to get attached to him... I think it's too late for that.

Today we are taking six of our boys to my friend Jason's house for a pool party. The boys first time in a pool (other than Don and Wendel) was two weeks ago. My friend Tim from England offered them swimming lessons and we ate pizzas and drank some cold ice tea. They had the time of their lives. It is so fulfilling to watch them laugh and burst with excitement. It makes all the hardships worth it. This is why I am here. This is what I do what I do.

I keep thinking back to how this all began. Running a children's home was never in my plans. I never dreamed of caring for 14 children and taking on that responsibility at such a young age. If you would have told me my life would be like this four years ago.. I would have said "ya right" or "no way" and I probably would have ran in the other direction. I always wanted to help people and I always dreamed of having an organization where I could travel to do that. However, I never imagined this. Never. It's not a path I chose, I think it more or less chose me. When this journey began we were living in a tiny house in the country side with no running water, electricity, furniture, tires off of big trucks were flying into our yard where our kids play soccer, and I had only $500 in our bank account. We were constantly sick and our living conditions were horrid. For fun, I shot tarantulas and cockroaches with a BB gun or played catch with mangos. But despite all of that, we were still extremely happy. I learned to live with less. I learned to appreciate things and I noticed how much I had truly taken for granted. I learned that that lifestyle is actually when I feel whole as it forces you to do extreme soul searching and you begin to learn things about yourself that you never knew before. I learned so many things in that first year of living with less such as:

Clothing is only dirty if it smells and/or there are notable stains. Wearing clothing 3 days in a row is perfectly acceptable & strategic.

Vendors at the market automatically double the price for a white woman.

Using a machete is a fabulous arm workout.

Pick your moto driver based on their shoes. Closed toed and tidy say “hey, I am responsible and I don’t drive through big mud holes”.

Ants will eat through Tupperware.

Pimples look like mosquito bites to children… no kids, mosquitos didn’t attack my face, its’ your lovely humidity that’s doing this.

Letters are the sincerest form of communication.

Air-conditioning was the greatest invention in the history of the world.

So was the Ice Cube.

Also the toilet.

Cockroaches are immune to bug spray, insecticide, vinegar, bleach, and every home-remedy you can think of.

I love rain.

And then I hate rain.

If your food does not contain four cups of oil and five cubes of Maggie, then it isn’t edible.
Children will do absolutely anything for candy.

Placing your left hand behind your back while you bend down to sweep releases pressure and allows for a more effective stroke with the broom.

Celine Dion is a God here. Her heart will go on and on and on and on throughout the whole day and night, at max volume, and with no sympathy for anyone trying to sleep.

Palm wine is literally alcohol tapped straight from a tree.

Never drink the water.

Unless you want to be severely dehydrated and loose five pounds.

When a meeting is scheduled for 1 o’clock, it will start at 4 o’clock.

Moto exhaust pipes are on the right, so climb onto the moto from the left… unless you want an ugly calf burn like me.

And don’t hold onto the moto driver. It’s weird. And he will enjoy it too much and brag to all of his friends.

Candles are super fun and convenient for blackouts… romantic dinner for one?

Always bring toilet paper, a headlamp, and hand-sanitizer wherever you go.

Goats are not as cute as they seem at the petting zoo.

Ladies, if you plan to use tampons you had better bring a whack load because you will not find them here. And don't be surprised that when you throw out your bathroom garbage into the burn pile, people will find the applicators and play with them. No matter how many times you tell them not too.

Smile when you want to cry, and pray even if you don’t think anyone is listening.

We are much stronger and braver than we think we are. So much more resilient than we could ever imagine.


I say this a lot, but I truly mean it, we could not be here without such a great support system back home. We are so grateful for those whose partner with us through their ongoing support, encouragement, and finances. Back in Canada I have been working multiple jobs to try and continue to support the kids and to also pay my own bills and debts and it's been difficult to balance both but every time I think the money has run out and I start worrying how we will put food on the table that week, something, or better yet, SOMEONE always seems to come through for us. As I write this, I sit in a beautiful house we rent, we have rice in storage closet, the kids are eating cornflakes and milk, and they are growing stronger and healthier with each day that passes. I have been blessed abundantly. With everyone's help we are able to provide food, shelter, clothing, and all basic necessities to these children.. and most of all.. lots of love and affection that they are in desperate need, and so deserving of.

Right now our current "big" needs are:
- New battery for our generator ($150 US)
-Two new windows (kids broke playing soccer)
- Three fans (one for each of the kids rooms) ($60 US each)
- Crib or bassinet for baby ($100 US)
- Vehicle ($6,000 US)
- Rent for house for Sept 28 ($10,000 US)

If anyone wishes to learn more or to donate you can do so by visiting our website www.himeforhelp.org or email me at emily@himeforhelp.org

Much love to everyone back home !!!




Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Leave Your Daily Hell

Two years ago, I boarded a plane to the earthquake, hurricane, and cholera ravished Caribbean Island of Haiti. I had $500 in our Organization's bank account, I had 3 suitcases, and a heart and a head full of determination that we would "make it work". At the time I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I arrived in Haiti speaking only a few common Creole words- hi, how are you?, what is your name?, how old are you?. I had no idea how I was going to communicate with my kids and be able to understand what it was that was making them cry, angry, or if they were hungry or sick- but we managed. Charades became a fun game in our household. We learned to communicate without using verbal language. I honestly had no idea of the complications and red tape and the governmental corruption that I would find myself in. I had no idea how I was going to raise a group of children that would be fully dependent on me. I had no idea of the financial demands. I wasn't prepared for the responsibility or what was in store for me, but I had no other option but to roll with the punches.. and that is exactly what we did.



I was on my way to earning a double major- BA(honors) in Criminology & Sociology at the University of Windsor. I had the most perfect little house, a beat up blue sunfire, a job I enjoyed, a boyfriend I had thought I loved, and a family that meant (and still does mean) the world to me. I had everything that our Western Society claims is "important". But something was missing. It had been since I had returned home from my first trip to Ghana in the summer of 2010. I began to feel a great void and realized how deeply unhappy I was with my luxurious life back in Canada. At the age of seventeen, I exposed myself to things that forced me to develop a new sense of reality. After that first life altering trip, I then decided to travel to Haiti as I had this ache in my heart to be once again doing something more meaningful with my life. During my first trip to Haiti in May 2011, I fell deeply in love with the chaotic and complex country. I found myself there. I found a place that I felt at ease, where my heart constantly felt full, and where I felt as if I could be my truest self. I fell in love with the people and their vibrancy and resiliency. So when I got a call about a group of children that needed assistance, it took me all of forty five minutes to decide that I would pack up my entire existence into 3 suitcases and give up my former life full of the finer things to live in a small house with no electricity, no running water, tarantulas & cockroaches running up and down my walls, absolutely no furniture, to ride on the back of motorcycles and be covered in piss, snot, and vomit on a good day- human feces on a bad. To most- this sounds absolutely ludicrous. But within these past few years I have learned lessons that my University professors will never be able to teach me. I have been put into situations that were extremely uncomfortable, scary, and down right unimaginable, but they have allowed me to grow as an individual. I have learned to speak a new language within six short months as I had no one to translate or tell me what my children wanted. I have dealt with loss, sorrow, corruption, violence, abuse, disease, and severe suffering. It has taught me patience, persistence, strength, and most of all - love. At the age of nineteen, I not only became a mother but also a teacher, a nurse, a tutor, a handy-woman, 24/7 on call support system, patient transporter, translator, affection giver, piggy bank, spokesperson, advocate, host for volunteers, and a cater to whatever needs arise with those that surround me. What more could I ask for ? I am still learning more and more with each day that passes- even without being directly in the country. My kids teach me the greatest lessons of all. I went to Haiti hoping to change their lives, but in totality- they are the ones that are changing mine.

We have had our fair share of our ups and our downs. Usually being one extreme or the other. We have been tested to our limits. There were so many nights that I would lay awake in my bed wondering how I would feed the kids that week, how we would continue to pay the school, how I would pay the nanny, how we would stick together and fight this government... I wondered a lot about the kids futures and who they would become. I was constantly worried about them falling ill or something happening to them. I still do. Sleep has become a rare gift to me.

As I write this today, my mind is being flooded with endless memories. I look back to that first day with my kids and have tears in my eyes... as every obstacle we over came, every illness we faced, every heart-wrenching event that crossed our paths, we made it- together- as a family. And I would not have it any other way. We have developed something so rare and so special. We have developed complete utter trust in one another. We have developed a love that is boundless and limitless- no matter how many thousands of miles may separate us- we know that we are always thinking of each other. These children have inspired me in so many ways. I look up to them and strive to be like them- their strength, their courage, their resilience, it leaves me absolutely awestruck.



It is astounding looking back to two years ago when we first began this journey and the way that we survived with such little. I still remember using the bucket as a toilet (or a pringles can at times). I still remember ONLY being able to have bucket showers and getting so frustrated because I couldn't get the shampoo out of my hair. I remember laying in bed with my BB gun and shooting all of the tarantulas and cockroaches that appeared from every crevice. I remember tires flying off big transport trucks into our front yard where our kids were playing soccer. I remember the humiliation the kids felt when our water basin dried up and they had to go to school or church without bathing. I remember throwing mangoes at my friends for fun. I remember that when dark hit at 6:30 pm we would rush to the rooms to find the flash lights and continue to have dance offs, domino matches, or play hide n go seek. I remember walking to the beach every day and becoming so bonded with a donkey and he became one of my only friends in our town - he liked the blan (probably because I coached him with apples). I remember the rare occasions (once every two weeks) when they would give us electricity and a huge celebration would take place in our village- you didn't even have to see a light come on, you knew it was on just from the cheering in the streets. I remember struggling every day and worrying where we would come up with the funds to continue feeding the children. I remember being stuck on the top of a bunk bed paralyzed from the waist down and hallucinating from the Malaria that was rummaging through my body and not having anyone to transport me to a hospital. I remember when the hurricane that hit and huddling together with a family that I had fallen so deeply in love with on the top of a mountain and embracing the winds and rain together as their house fell to the ground around us. I remember being at peace with all of these things as well. I remember not realizing how bad it was until being removed from the situation. We made due with what we had. We lived simply and though we did not have materialistic items, we did have each other. And that was always enough.



If I could give any advice to young people out there - it is to travel. Go searching for something more, experience different cultures, engage in new ways of living, learn something about our world. Sit there with locals and hear their stories- play dominos in the streets with old men, feel their pain- witness their struggles- struggle yourself. Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. It will allow you to grow and help you to find out things about yourself you may have never known. I have so many young people, as well as adults, message me on a daily basis saying they wish they could do what I'm doing, they wish they could travel, they wish they could help people. Folks, YOU ARE THE CREATOR OF YOUR OWN OBSTACLES. You are the only ones holding yourselves back. Stop making excuses and JUST DO IT !!!! Take a chance. Take a risk. Leave your daily hell- experience someone else's- you will return with a whole new perspective. And most of all... follow your heart.


I wrote this song last week about my time spent overseas - focusing mostly on Haiti, but also Ghana and the Philippines. All stories within the song are true and all photos are my own.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qQivIKJ_OA&feature=youtu.be
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I would like to thank everyone who has supported, fundraised, volunteered, and shared our stories. We couldn't keep things going without all of you.

We have an upcoming fundraiser on March 29th @ Bob N Buoys in Mitchell's Bay Ontario, would love to see you all there !!! It will be all you can eat perch and live entertainment. We will also have door prizes and 50/50 raffle.
If you are unable to attend but would still like to donate please visit our website www.himeforhelp.org and hit the "donate now" button at the top of our page. Thank you !!