Ke Kontan

Ke Kontan

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Haiti Hiatus

This has been one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make, and although I know in my heart that I am making the right one, it does not hurt my heart any less. As most of you know, Ryan and I are expecting a baby this March. This was not something either of us had imagined was in our near future, however, it is now, and we are excited about this new adventure. Haiti has been home to the both of us for many years, and we’ve created a home here together. We love Haiti. We love the people. We love the culture. But what we don’t love right now are all the risks that have come into play with being pregnant in Haiti. Especially currently, as I am in a great deal of pain with Kidney Stones & a Kidney Infection which has caused me to have early contractions. There are risks all the way from health care, eating properly, to political and civil unrest, and just the normal challenges that arise on a daily basis here. The un-pregnant me found these things somewhat exciting as each day was a new whole new adventure with the unexpected. I could handle all of these things and I would never complain. I accepted all of these challenges with a full heart and confidence that this was where I was meant to be. This was the life that I chose. But now, what I am realizing is that this is not the life that our baby chose. All of these risks have left me feeling anxious, worried, and stressed, and as we all know, none of these things are positive things to be feeling during a pregnancy when your baby is developing. 

We still have a lot of figuring out to do, but for right now, we have decided to move back to my hometown until our baby boy is born. I will continue running the Children’s Home from Canada as we have good Haitian staff in place to care for the children and to keep things going, as well as some friends that will be stopping in and making sure everything is running smoothly. Missing the kids, my staff (who have become family) is going to be unbelievably hard on me and they will be on my mind every minute of every day. I know our love for each other is strong enough to reach across the ocean and border lines and I know Skype and FaceTime will not fill the void of not being here physically, but at least I will get to see their faces and be in communication with them. This does not change the love that I have for them or the responsibility I feel to care for them, provide for them, and to help them succeed in whatever they choose to do in life. 

So this is our hiatus from Haiti. However, this is not goodbye, but see you soon. We don’t have definite plans in site as neither of us can foresee what the future holds. We know we love Haiti. We know that a part of our life is here. But right now, we know we need to be with our families and friends. Having your first child is scary enough with all of the changes to come, but it is much more terrifying in a country such as Haiti when your mind is occupied worrying about when the next protest is going to break out, how you are going to get to the hospital quickly if you need to, or if the food you eat is going to make you sick and where we don’t have family members to help us through or even many friends to talk to. We need some us time and some time to focus on creating our new family. I will keep you all posted as our adventure continues to unfold. But for now I will leave you with this:

There are countless stories that I could recount for your entertainment, some unbelievably funny, some horribly sad during my time in Haiti. There are occurrences I could recall which would infuriate people, and others that would reinforce the natural goodness of humankind. But an account of everything that has taken place thus far during my time here would only be appropriate for a book of novel-length magnitude. To end the blog leading up to this hiatus, I can only encourage the value of exploration. Explore what is in your heart, your dreams, your fears, and your ideas. That desire to explore led me to Haiti and the chance to feel born again and a place that captured me completely- mind, body, and soul. It also lead me to meet Ryan, who has changed my life and who has taken me on a whole new adventure. And while I’ve been fortunate to give bits of myself to those who truly needed me in here in Haiti, I took away valuable lessons too. I have learned that each person, no matter his or her circumstances is much braver and stronger than ever imagined. I have learned that as global citizens, it is our duty to encourage and support one another. I have learned that this world is an outstandingly beautiful place, and I have learned to love every moment that I have been granted; whether that be driving my car down a jam-packed but smoothly paved American highway, or walking on a dusty path under the ripe mango trees of Haiti. I have loved, and I have lost. But each experience has allowed me to become a better person and to truly discover who I am.  So to all of you out there who have been waiting for the "opportunity" to explore our world, your opportunity is now. Stop waiting and get moving.  Life happens quickly, things can change in an instant, so be sure to make the most of every minute you are granted.  Meet new people, explore new cultures, indulge in new foods, and partake in a new way of living.  You will leave with a heightened level of gratitude and a whole new understanding and perspective of our world.  I am grateful for all that Haiti has given to me and I am thankful that this will always be a place that I can call home. 

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Change to Come

My favourite time of year is September, not only because it is fall and that means that we are much closer to Christmas (and it starts to cool off here in the Caribbean), but it is also my favourite time of year because all of our little ones are back at school and enjoying dance class 4 days a week.  The children here in Haiti have a different level of respect for school vs the children in North America (I am one of those typical North American children).  Most of us do whatever we can to miss out on a day of having a teacher tell us what we need to know and what we need to do.  However, here in Haiti, our kids refuse to take a day off even when they are running a fever or coughing up a lung, and even when I insist that they stay home; they still want to go.  This is simply because they are grateful, and that warms my heart.  Over 50 percent of primary aged children in Haiti do not attend school due to poverty.  The lack of education is widespread throughout the country for both children and adults.  Our main focus and what drives me with passion is providing our children with a quality education and an opportunity for the future.  Most of our children have come from situations where they had never attended school or for our younger ones just starting school- never would have been given the opportunity.  They love waking up at 5am, rushing to get ready, and heading out the door in their perfectly pressed uniforms.  When they return home, it is very unlikely that I have to even ask them to complete their homework, they are usually already sitting in a circle completely focused on the task at hand.  

I am going to share a story with you of one of our boys:

Wendel is 12 years old.  We first met Wendel when we lived in our small house in Montrouis.  Each day, a small frail child would pass our front gate carrying a large pail of water.  He was not wearing any shoes, his clothes were tattered and torn, he was severely malnourished, and he looked hopeless.  He would often stop and just gaze into our yard watching our children play.  Shortly after noticing that he was malnourished,Wendel began joining our kids for meals, but never speaking to them.  As time went on we learned that Wendel's mother had been killed in a car accident when he was younger and his father was sent to Prison (for unknown reasons) and was killed while serving his time.  Wendel was left an orphan.  A local family took him in.  However, they did not take him in and shelter him with the love and affection that he needed.  Instead, Wendel worked as a Restavek in order to have a roof over his head.  Wendel was abused, neglected, and malnourished.  He was 8 years old and had never attended school.  He was completely illiterate.  

When Wendel joined our home he began attending school.  It was hard though, because the teachers just kept failing him.  None of his teachers took the time to help him.  And although we made countless efforts at the home to teach him to read and write, he just didn't seem to get it.  After awhile I realized that Wendel was slightly dyslexic- he was writing his numbers and letters backwards.  When we moved to our new home in Port Au Prince in October 2012, the kids began attending a better school.  The teachers paid a little more attention to Wendel's needs as did we.  This past year was the first year that Wendel passed his classes.  He has been improving more and more with each passing semester and he has become so dedicated to his studies.  He makes me so proud as he has come such a long way! 

It is stories like Wendel's that make the hard days worthwhile.  It makes you realize that although you may often doubt it, you are making a small difference, even just to one child, and that giving up your previous life of luxury was necessary so that you could witness these little miracles.  Thank you to the many child sponsors that make this possible! 

These past few months have felt like a whirlwind.  We have had numerous volunteers, lots of celebrated birthdays, and also.... learned that a new little member will be joining our family in March 2016.  Thats rights, I am pregnant (currently 16 weeks)! In some ways Haiti has aged me beyond my years, and I know that is has prepared me for this very moment.  The kids have prepared me for motherhood and have already taught me unconditional love- even when that means waking all hours of the night to give them a bottle or to soothe them from their nightmares.  

It has been chaotic for Ryan and I trying to figure out life here, but we know that everything will fall into place, as it always does.  We have just moved into our new apartment which is right around the corner from my babies and I am heading home this week for a quick visit to get in some much needed family time!  I am so excited to be able to celebrate thanksgiving with the family as I have missed it the last few years.  Pumpkin pie here I come!!! 

Friday, 24 July 2015

Stuck on Dreaming..

My mind is constantly being filled with more and more dreams.  There are so many things that I wish  I could do and so many ways I wish that I could help.  I have this burning desire to do more, to be more, to the point where sometimes I forget to live in the moment... to look around me and appreciate the current place that I am in and to breathe and take it step by step.  My calling to be in Haiti is evident.  Most dreams I have all stem from living here: I want to create a transition home for our older children, I want to have a center for children suffering from malnutrition and infectious diseases, I want to create a home for young teenage mothers to help them get on their feet and raise their children.  My passion lies in these dreams.  The need is so great here... every where I look there just seems to be more and more and more.  And it hurts not being able to do more.  It can be soul crushing at times.  It hurts having to sit back and watch innocent people suffer on a daily basis.  You think to yourself "What if I...", "How can I..", "I need to...".  Even though I struggle with this constantly, I know that I am where I am meant to be.  That there is no other choice for me.  My life is wrecked.  I also know that I cannot not give up on these dreams and tugs in my heart.  I know that Rome was not built in a day.  That it takes time.  And that fundraising is hard.

I have been struggling lately not only with these dreams of mine, but also with illnesses, and trying to balance life.  In May I took on a full time job.  This is something I knew that I needed to do to be able to continue living here in Haiti and fulfilling what I was meant to do.  However, what I did not realize is how extremely difficult it would be to try to balance that among spending time with my kids, running a non-profit organization,  managing staff, hosting volunteers, having important meetings, doing paperwork, handling finances, bringing my own kids to the hospital for doctors apts, managing an entire household, etc etc.  It is slowly beginning to creep up on me.  Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am not a robot or superhero and that it's okay if I can't do it all.  I have felt more worn down then ever (also likely due to Typhoid and Parasite).  I feel stuck.  I miss the days when I got to spend the majority of my time with my kids, when I was able to assist in daily tasks at the home, when I could properly manage our staff and go to important meetings, I miss fundraising and hosting volunteers all of which generate more help for our kids. I miss all of that to the point where my heart literally aches.  I feel guilt, anger, hurt, exhaustion. But living in Haiti is expensive.  Most things are imported so the cost of living is quite high, contrary to what most people would think.  And in order for me to remain here, I must work.  I have never drawn a salary from my organization nor from the Children's Home- not only because it just never sat right with me, but also because we struggle on a daily basis just to provide the basic necessities for our kids and I truly believe that everything that is given to us- the children deserve (like I said before fundraising is HARD).  I always wish I could do more for them as well, like put them into a better school- take more trips with them to show them the true beauty of their country- to provide them with more items in the home that will help them with their development- that list goes on and on too.

I do not know what the perfect solution is.  I am guessing that it's going to take a few more months of stress and juggling before I begin to figure that out.  But I hope the answer comes soon. I know that sometimes following your heart means losing your mind.

Thankfully this week I had some extra help at the house as a team from Tennessee came down.  They brought with them a ton of tools and supplies and have built some things we were in dire need of around the house.  They worked their butts off in this heat and accomplished so much in the short four days they were with us!  It is folks like that who remind me why I am here and who motivate me and give me the strength, faith, and hope to keep on going.

"Great things never came from comfort zones"

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

What is "Normal"?

I find that the longer I am here in Haiti, the harder it is to write about it, not because things get less interesting or that I have become bored of writing…it’s just harder to pick out only one story to write about…or my stories are so harsh and real that my brain honestly doesn't want to have to process them twice.

Life here has become my normal.  However, to the average person, describing this life as  “normal” would be an atrocity.

It’s not normal to watch children play in and drink from the sewage water.

It’s not normal to have people knock on your gate to tell you they are starving and haven’t eaten for days.

It’s not normal to visit a mother of eight that’s living in a tent and unable to feed her children because she is too ill to work and has no one to help her, no government to give her unemployment or disability...she is alone.

It’s not normal to have a 15-year-old show up at your house with a bag in tow explaining how he escaped from a home where he was being beaten, working as a slave, and not receiving an education because his mother died in a car accident and his father left at birth.

It's not normal for my kids to miss multiple days of school due to violent protests in the streets.

It’s not normal to have to have to explain to a parent that forcing your child to drink bleach because she stole 10 goudes could be the last thing she ever tells her child to do.  

It’s not normal to have a woman show up at your gate with a newborn baby in her arms and wish to leave her child with you, and when you refuse to take the child from her and instead offer to help her financially, she kills her baby and you have the entire community telling you how she fed her baby girl to the pigs.

It’s not normal to watch human beings suffer and die from preventable things on a daily basis.

And it is most definitely not normal to sit around and simply watch these things happen around you... but too often that seems to be the case.

In North American society these things would be considered the opposite of normal.  They would be considered inhumane and cruel.  But here’s the reality.  All of these things I wrote above are "normal" here in Haiti and in many other places around the world.  Each day there are more and more stories that shake me to my core.  More and more things that I witness that make it hard to get out of bed each day and to remain having faith in humanity.

My idea of normal is constantly changing. But I know that I am blessed to be here.  I am blessed to be able to teach my children that these things are not okay, that these things should not be normal, and that they have the power to make a difference in their country and the lives of their people.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

"M'ap kenbe fém" - I'm holding strong.

These days I am finding it hard to sit down and put all of my thoughts into words.  Usually it is something that just comes naturally to me, but now I find myself struggling to even think about my own thoughts.  I feel stretched in every direction.

I moved back to Haiti full time at the beginning of February.  I spent the first few months soaking up as much time as I possibly could with my kiddos, trying to get the house put back together, and also hosting numerous volunteers.  I told myself that if I was moving back to Haiti, I would need to find a decent job to be able to support myself and the kids.  I started applying anywhere and everywhere.  Finally, after 4 months of sending resumes and having interviews, I have found a job that seems fitting and something that I have always dreamed of doing.  I have decided to take on a 3 month internship at Bernard a Mevs Hospital here in Port Au Prince which will hopefully lead me to a job opportunity.  It is one of the best known hospitals in the country, and the only one with a CT Scan machine.  I started a few weeks ago and I absolutely love it.  I get to interact with people of all different backgrounds and who have incredible stories, and the staff is just wonderful.  But of course, working in triage/emergency isn't the easiest.  In just the past few weeks I've seen an incredible amount of trauma and heartbreak.  Whether it be gun shot wounds (we have multiple per day), car accidents, cancerous tumours that are bigger and more painful than I ever could imagine, HIV/TB, strokes, kidney failure, etc.  It's overwhelming most days and by the time I make it home after warring through the Port Au Prince traffic, I'm too exhausted to even speak.  The chaos pulls you in. As you can imagine, this is also hard as I am fighting to find time to spend with the kids.  It's hard being away from them during the days as I am so used to constantly being with them when I am here in Haiti.  I keep trying to push the hurt of missing them aside.  I keep telling myself that this is what I have to do.  I know this is what I have to do if I plan on being here indefinitely.  I need to make a life for myself.  I'm struggling.  My heart feels dehydrated.  

I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting when I first came to Haiti.. I guess I didn't really have any expectations.  I never ever imagined a life like this.  And although I am exhausted, drained, and at times feel hopeless... I still know in my heart that this is where I belong, that this is where I want to be, that this is what I am supposed to be doing.  The chaos has given my life purpose.  It has given me a reason to wake up and keep going each day.. because I have to.  I have too many little people relying on me.  Now I find myself reveling in the smallest of victories, like being able to take an actual shower, eating ice cream, and waking up mosquito-bite less.  Fortunately my mom was just in Haiti and I was able to spend some time hanging out with her and spending a night out of town with my friend Lauren and her mom as well.  It was definitely revitalizing.    

At times I have thought about taking the easy way out, jumping on the next flight outta here.  But that would be pointless.  My heart would lead me right back.  I must keep going. 

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Racism Comes in Every Colour

It is a continuous burden, this color and the feelings it brings forth within me. My life in Haiti is constantly defined by how other’s react to the colour of my skin, and the absolute power and contradicting helplessness it daunts me with.  
The truth is, I should maybe feel more like a movie star with this rare ivory skin, you see many people come here and act as if they possess more power due to the fact that they are "white". There are the jaw dropping stares, gaping men drooling over our every move, hoards of school children following you like lost puppies. There is the constant gossip which surrounds our movements in the market; veggie mamas eyeing us from behind their piles of tomatoes, whispering down the line of veggie selling women until their talk reaches the women selling fabric. I mean, how could you not feel like a celeb?
The reality of the situation however, is much deeper than the funny glances and weird questions. Because of this obvious difference in my appearance, I am expected to act a certain way and live my life like the hoards of do-gooders that come for short stays in Haiti with donated supplies and one-time teaching activities. Now, I’m not saying that these programs are bad, not at all! But the concept of foreigners by Haitian’s is that they come, drop things in their hands, and leave. And this idea contradicts everything I am trying to do at the grassroots level in my community.
For 4 long years I have tirelessly worked to live like the locals and experience first hand the life of a woman surviving in a third world country.  I do not receive a salary from my organization, for many years I have chosen to cover all of my own travel expenses.  And I spent my first three years here trying my best to do it like they do: hand washing clothes, lighting candles during blackouts, fetching water when the tap runs dry, and sweating my ass of from the sun’s blistering rays. My goal in this country is to integrate, teach, provide opportunities to children, and learn. It’s that simple. But I have come to discover that the one detail standing in between that goal and myself is the plain fact that my skin isn’t dark. Especially when I receive comments from my own staff saying "Just give me $100, your white, why do you care about just $100, its nothing to you".  Being a Blan is a vicious label that cannot be washed off, and it is an issue that millions face as a minority race around the world still to this day.  
My situation is far less worse than the demoralization placed upon African Americans in the mid 19th century and I have only a few times been physically mistreated due to my skin colour, which came in the form of drunken grabbing by men or verbal hurts from people passing by in the street.  However the daily whispers, rise in prices because I am white, and sexual insults thrown at me can take a toll. In previous blogs I have been careful to leave out some of the dejecting comments often made by people that I am helping here, so I will skip that bitter aspect of the story. But there are some of these comments that do oddly hurt. The simple phrase “Hey Blan (white person), give me one dollar” has burst my eardrums on numerous occasions, and on one special evening a man urinating on the side of the road decided to show me his manly parts while licking his lips and stating “ohhh, I love blan".  
Laughing is often a good bandage to such situations, and believe me, I do laugh. These moments are hilarious in their right. But when they are repeated daily, over and over and over again, my emotions get the best of me and leave me feeling drained. I will always be expected to give people things, always expected to empty my wallet and my heart. At the same time I am expected to take the negative comments in stride, feel glorified by the unwanted and creepy attention, and walk through the day with a wide smile as if this is what my skin colour means I was meant for.
In a weird twist though, I put a lot of the white man burden on my own shoulders. Walking down the road, I am well aware that my clothing doesn’t have holes, and my shoes own shoelaces. When I splurge and spend 1000 gds on a decent meal, I shamefully hide the receipt in my purse until I reach home.… all of these little things, which purely make me who I am, plus my white skin, leaves me as a target.
Thankfully I have a handful of trusty Haitians who protect me from the white nonsense. Val, our director, yells at people who shout, “Hey white” as they pass by. We always tell our children that they will be in trouble if they call me or a volunteer by their skin color and that we do in fact, have a real name. And there is our nannies, our cook, laundry ladies, neighbours, the children that come to play at our house, who all now realize the inappropriateness of treating one differently based on skin color. So in a small but triumphant victory, I have succeeded in rationalizing the injustice of this problem to a small corner of this great big world.
It is a lesson that we all need to learn. Wherever we find ourselves in this world we will be judged on our outward appearance. It is a fact that still occurs today, albeit in slightly different circumstances than in the past. The dictionary states that racism is “the belief that all members of a race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.” Four years of living blindly in the depths of racism made me at times a bitter and depressed person. But with the newly realized view that racism doesn’t care if you are black, white, yellow, orange, or purple, I have come to accept this sorry fact and worked to change it.
We are all given this one world to share, each of us with one beating heart and circling feelings of love, hate, happiness, and sadness. The air in the sky and the water in the seas are ours to share. And it does not matter the class in society to which we are born, the religion we commit to, or the shade of our skin tone, we are all together.
Peace and love from Haiti.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

There's Always a Cost

These past two weeks have been just as chaotic as normal. We have been without a vehicle now for months- the engine blew- and I think that has been one of the most frustrating things out of them all. The mechanic keeps saying that the car will be fixed in a few days.. but of course, those few days have now turned into weeks and months.

We have had quite a few volunteers since I've returned full time which has been great. Everyone has helped out somehow, whether that be bringing in some much needed supplies, spending quality time with our kids, or thinking of new projects for the house and new ways to network. We are hoping to host a few more teams this summer as we now have many specific projects that we will need help with. So if anyone is interested please don't hesitate to contact me!

Jonette and Christella have improved immensely. They are both laughing and playing and seem to finally be coming around. After finding a one on one worker for Jonette, she has also begun to improve. She has finally started speaking and I have discovered that she absolutely loves music! She still has her days where she "escapes" (hiding her face and being unresponsive) and she has been sick with some kind of bug for the past few days, but I am happy to say that things are looking up for her. Christella on the other hand is just an old woman stuck in a little girls body. She has so much attitude and sass but also loves to be cuddled and held. And when you put her down... you can expect A LOT of waterworks.

The days continue to pass and the needs continue to grow. This is just every day life in Haiti. We have three new children that have joined our home- Naica (8), Junior (5), and Daniel (3 months). These kids are already such a blessing to us. They were living on the streets and their mother is ill. I was concerned at first with taking them into our home, however, these kids are politest and sweetest kids. Daniel unfortunately is struggling with breathing and is getting medical attention, he has also not had any vaccinations so we are getting him up to date on those. He is a beautiful little boy who, despite being sick, is always smiling. Naica follows me around wherever I go, which of course means that Junior must follow as well. She gives me the biggest hugs and always wants to hold my hand. We built a tire swing in the backyard for all of the kids and Naica and Junior had a blast! Watching them laugh and play with our other kids and seeing them extremely happy makes everything worthwhile. 

These past few weeks have also been filled with unexpected payments whether that be for the car, hospital bills, broken cell phone (which means I lost all of my photos and info), new beds for our new family members, house hold repairs, more diapers and formula for baby Daniel, the list goes on and on. And unfortunately due to these unexpected expenses it has made it difficult to pay our rent which is due this week ($5000). Thankfully I have an amazing support system and family and friends who have stepped up and donated on our gofundme account 

I cannot express enough my gratitude for all of your help.  I've said this before and I will continue saying it, I couldn't do this without all of you!

I spoke with someone recently who was down in Haiti visiting on a Mission's Trip. We began speaking about Haiti and about my life here. Her final statement was "I'm so jealous. I wish I could do what you do and just live here and hold babies all day". It made me cringe. I smiled and left it at that and tried my best to hide the anger and frustration that was boiling inside of me. It's not that I don't love my life here, because I do. But living this life isn't easy. It's hard. It's really really hard. It's not just the constant presence of poverty and suffering, it isn't just the injustices or the deaths or illnesses, it isn't just the lack of clean water, electricity, and basic resources.... All of those are enough to make life extremely difficult. But the most difficult part I find is being so far away from friends and family. Feeling guilt for missed occasions or not being there for your best friend as she goes through a rough patch. For feeling as if you are letting them down and not holding up your end of the relationship. It hurts knowing that you are hurting others by being so far away. I wish she knew what came with "holding babies all day". Quitting University. Feeling as if you are letting your parents down. Quitting your job. Having no savings. Selling all of your belongings. Giving up your home. Saying goodbye to your brothers and other family members. Telling your friends that you will see them when you don't know when. Losing most of your friends because it's hard to keep in contact when you don't have constant electricity, have a bunch of toddlers who are constantly needing your attention, or because they think you are absolutely insane for choosing this life. Move to a country where you know one or two people and don't speak the language. Face government corruption and the daily struggles of simply getting around. Encounter strange illnesses that leave you paralyzed for periods of time. Constantly struggle to come up with funds to care for your children and pay your staff. If you are ready for all of that, then you are ready to "hold babies all day". This isn't to say that my life here isn't also fulfilled with an incredible amount of joy or that I wouldn't choose to be presented with these obstacles all over again, because I would. In a heart beat. I would go through all of that plus more to be lucky enough to have these children in my life and have made such incredible friends in this country.. but I also want people to understand that there are sacrifices, there are hard times, that it isn't just nice beaches, palm trees, warm weather, and "holding babies all day". Haiti never seems to give you time to mourn. It doesn't give you time to process most of the things you witness or are faced with on a daily basis. You deal with what's happening in the moment, and then almost always have to immediately pull yourself together, dust yourself off and keep going. Living here does come with an unexpected cost, but anything worth having is never easy. This is what I have been called to do, and it is what I will continue to do despite the obstacles. I am beyond blessed to be given this life.

It is now 1am and I have to be up in just a few hours, but I wanted to once again thank all of those who have reached out, supported us, fundraised for us, volunteered with us, or those of you who continue to share our story. My gratitude is endless.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Three Years!

This month marks three years since I founded Hime For Help.  For the past three years, I have been a penniless vagabond with holes in my traveling shoes. I didn't start a Not for Profit to save money or to build my career, and I definitely didn't start it to start a Children's Home in Haiti. I blindly jumped into this opportunity with $500 in my pocket and the hopes of exploring the world outside of Chatham-Kent's suburbs. I wanted to meet new people, I wanted to help those people, I wanted to do all that I possibly could to make some kind of difference and to try to impact at least one life.  I also wanted to travel, to try new foods, and get completely lost in unfamiliar situations. So I guess that’s how throughout the past 3 years I came to find myself sitting on picturesque Haitian Mountains, walking along typhoon torn roads in the Phillippines, cuddling my gorgeous children who have now become the biggest part of my life, and living a life full of chaos and uncertainty. This life of mine has turned into something rather extraordinary, and although I am cautiously yet swiftly sifting through my savings and exhausting myself with radical adventures, I love it.  I wouldn't change it for the world.  

The majority of these three years have been spent without a proper Tim Hortons, without a haircut, a warm shower, a hug from my parents. Three years without air conditioning and a microwave, without a flushing toilet, without spirited greetings from my dogs, without snow and fresh salads. But it has also been three years filled with an immense amount of love.  Three years of finding myself.  Three years of learning about our world and meeting people who have suffered such great loss yet still retain such hope and faith.  Three years without a yearning to overachieve, and without the invisible pressure to look fabulous 24/7. For the past three years I have indulged in fresh pineapple, mango, and coconut on a daily basis, and have never once felt insecure about the makeup-less face that I present to the world every morning. This past year has been filled with indescribable challenges that have pushed my being to the brink of insanity, and ultimately led me to a state of complete satisfaction with life. Some people search their entire lives for something to provide them with that feeling, and to have found it already at the age of 22 is perhaps my greatest achievement thus far.

In truth, though, it doesn't feel like an entire three years have passed. I have been so preoccupied with keeping myself hydrated and learning to communicate without unknowingly offending Haitian culture that the daily change of date happens without much notice. People here don’t live by the minute hand like Canadians/Americans, so in experimenting with my ability to fully integrate, I too find myself working by the sun and the rain. Time is just a four-letter word, and I have discovered that conducting a lifestyle based on everything but the clock makes the days progress rapidly.  And in between those long timeless afternoons playing soccer with my boys, cuddling my baby girls, and playing dominoes in the streets with old men, I have gained a greater education than I ever received as a stressed out student. Instead of simply reading about worldly topics and current events, I have lived it. I have experienced the high fever of Malaria and painstakingly washed my laundry by hand with well water. I have (kind of successfully) soothed the screams of a laboring woman as she gave birth to her premature son without medication. I have smelled the heavenly scent of fresh organic food cooking in the streets and seen the backbreaking process that keeps the families that provide these foods alive.  

Coming back to Haiti is always hard.  The discipline I had instilled in the children has disappeared and I have to reteach them all over again.  I have to retrain staff- which is not an easy process especially since they tend to be so stubborn.  The house was a disaster.  Many things were broken and lost.  These past three weeks have consisted of a lot of frustration.. and a lot of yelling... but also a lot of cuddling and soaking up every lost minute with my babies.  Putting them to bed still remains my favourite part of the day, rocking them to sleep and hearing "Mama I love you" is such an unfathomable feeling that nothing could ever compare to.  We were able to finish rebuilding our chicken coop today which is bigger and better than I ever could have imagined, thanks to Val! And our boys named our chickens today.. we have Justin Bieber (the rooster), Celien Dion, Daphka, Dezod (which means bad in Haiti), Bella, and Laura.  The kids were so excited and so proud of themselves for finding the courage to go inside the pen with them and pet them.  It has been a long few weeks, but I am over the moon to be back "home". 
I am sitting here writing this blog with bugs chirping in the background and my boyfriend sitting next to me... A boyfriend? Living together in Haiti? This is something I never would have imagined three years ago.  I never thought that I would find someone who would be so accepting of my crazy life and who would love and care for 17 children that were not his own.. I had become content with lonliness.. I could never expect someone to accept this life of mine or want to live with me in Haiti.. but then I met Ryan and everything changed.  He has also now become a huge part of my life and I am so grateful for him.  

Three years ago I never could have imagined being where we are today.  What started out to be a small website hooked up to a paypal account for family and friends to donate towards organizations I had worked with or met during my volunteer months in Haiti, has now morphed into something so much bigger.  It has morphed into my entire life.  We still struggle, living off donation to donation, but three years ago.. I never thought we could start a Children's home.. that we could rent a big enough house to do so... that we could provide for these kids... that we could sustain ourselves.  Yet here we are today, its still so hard for me to notice our achievements sometimes because it always feels as if there is so much more I want to be doing for our kids or so many more people I want to be helping.  But in this moment, I look back with tear filled eyes and feel a sense of pride.. not even for myself.. but for my kids who never lost hope in me, who still loved me just as much when I became frustrated or unmotivated, for my staff for putting up with my moments of anger and who continue to love these kids as if they were their own, for all of my supporters.. because I honestly could not be here without you.  You have made the impossible quite possible and I am forever grateful for you.  Thank you to all of you who have motivated me when I needed it most, who loved me when I was unlovable, who continued to believe in me during those moments that I gave up hope.  We are so grateful for you. 

Life is still crazy as ever and I know we are going to have many more bumps in the road, but I also know that we will make it through.  We always do! 

Glimpse into the past three years: