We flew into Port au Prince, Haiti yesterday afternoon from Miami. After we made it through Customs and boarded our bus, it took us more than two hours to go the 80 kilometers to our hotel. Just getting through the traffic in Port au Prince was more challenging than probably most any American can possibly imagine. No traffic lights, very heavy traffic on what seemed like the only thoroughfare, darkness, and masses of people everywhere. Eventually, we made it to our hotel, Club Indigo, a former Club Med location with its own lovely private beach, a great swimming pool, and a nice open air restaurant. The rooms are somewhat spartan, but certainly meet our needs. My roommate on this trip, Renee, is from Lincoln, Nebraska.
Today (Tuesday) was our first day of interaction with the Compassion kids on this trip to Haiti. We left the hotel about 8 a.m. and drove farther to the north for roughly 90 minutes to arrive at Compassion Student Center, HA-322, We were expecting to get a good introduction to the Child Survival Program (CSP) there. To our surprise, when they opened the big, black metal gate to the church complex, we were greeted like royalty by a couple hundred, at least, children and their parents. Not only that, they even had a brass band playing for our arrival. After they serenaded us with a couple of tunes, they broke out in the American National Anthem. When that was completed, children came racing up to all of the foreign guests and placed straw hats they had made on our heads. This was our greeting.
We then assembled in the church where a program had been planned for us. The Americans were seated on the stage at the front of the church where we listened to a variety of brief speeches, some songs, watched a dance, and even listened to a skit performed by some CSP mothers in the native language which is Creole.
After the program came to a close, we spent an hour or so of playtime in the church/school yard. As you can see by the one photo I’ve attached, I was quite amazed that some of the playground equipment didn’t break down under the burden of the masses of children piling onto absolutely every swing and jungle gym and sliding board. Stickers were floating around and landing on faces, soccer and volleyballs were being put to good use, jump ropes were turning…and to everyone’s amazement, Susan, a lady in our group who has been blind from birth, even tried her best to do some rope jumping. She has been determined to take part in every activity, and although I’m certain she just considers this her normal modus operandi, many are finding her quite inspirational.
We had a lovely lunch at the center and then proceeded to visit the CSP room with mothers and their babies. They are eligible to be a part of this program from pregnancy through the child’s third birthday. Mothers are taught prenatal care, proper nutrition for their children, health needs, and various other aspects of how to raise a healthy child that will be prepared to grow up successfully. Many of the children are then moved into Compassion’s CDSP (the program designed for children ages 3 through 19 in Haiti).
We ended our afternoon by going off to visit four different homes of families participating in the CSP program. This gives Compassion sponsors an opportunity to not only see the conditions of people in this community living in severe poverty, but to ask them many questions about things like the kind of work they do, the dreams they have for their children, how participation in the Compassion program has worked for them, etc. We take the opportunity to pray with and for them, and to allow them to ask us questions if they have them also.
Children in Haiti (as well as other developing nations I have visited) often like to touch our arms and hold our hands. They sometimes do this because we are the first white people they’ve come in contact with and want to know how we feel. They also have little sense of personal space in the way that Americans are accustomed to. And, they carry on conversations with us and continue asking many questions, even though none of us could understand virtually anything they said. We used some hand signals, sometimes just guessed, or other times simply moved on to whatever else we were about.
Tomorrow and the next day will be similar visits to other projects, though there will likely be more opportunity for some crafts and more specific planned activities, we were told. So, though I will try to send updates, they may be more brief in order not to repeat the same material. I’ll try to keep you abreast of interesting developments and fun anecdotes.
By the way, Renee, my roommate, sponsored a new little girl this afternoon at the center we visited…a 3 1/2 year old.
The photos I’m attaching show many of the mothers and babies in the CSP room, the royal welcome as the gates opened upon our arrival, me and a few of my friends with some colorful rainbow stickers applied, and some swings weighed down to an unbelievable level. Hope you enjoy this mini tour.
It was a good day. Even in the severe poverty conditions, Compassion brings the love of Christ to many and it is evident in the work of the staff at the child centers, and in those who are registered students there. More to come in the next few days.
Your friend and fellow Trinityite,