We came to Haiti with no contacts, no appointments, and no specific agenda. We knew not one person. I just had a strong feeling we needed to go. I knew we were to stay in Port au Prince (in spite of everyone telling us not to--which contrary to our actions is really good advice).
Within five days, we had met several people who would introduce us to ideas, to charities, to children and adults who had dreams for Haiti, who had suffered at the hands of Haiti. And we had our own encounters and experiences that definitely molded our outlook and influenced our plans.
I have listed the people, the encounters that influenced and will influence the outcome of our adventure. From this list, I will write about each experience or insight, its expected outcome and as time passes, will share the outcomes: success or failure.
The Haiti Chapters List:
1. My gratitude to Raquel and her cousin Darnel who graciously gave us our first and only crash course to survival in Haiti.
2. While still in South Carolina, we met Woody, a former military man who'd served in "Operation Restore Democracy," who warned us about the adult corruption in Haiti.
3. Our first contact in Port au Prince was a Marriott front desk man named Moroni; he asked us to come to dinner to meet his friend. The first step, the first serendipity, the first miracle.
4. Our second contact came while sitting in the hotel restaurant. Dave, a Haitian born American citizen, started the conversation. He'd served in the military and like Woody, had also come to Haiti in 1996 as part of the "Operation Restore Democracy." He'd seen starving children and had to give back. He was in Port au Prince the same time as us to disburse monies for children he was helping to take care of and also to distribute toys for Christmas. He asked us to come along with hope that we would help with his foundation: Spare-A Coin 2savechildren.
5. Saturday night, we met Moroni's fiancee--the third reason we needed to come to Port au Prince. There are no mental health services, and she is almost single-handedly doing it all.
4. Saturday night, we also met Yann. He, among everyone else we met, also has an amazing story. He is in the very beginning thoughts of building a school in Haiti.
6. Sunday, we visited one of the poorest areas with Dave. I was swarmed by ten beautiful children who held me tight. The things we learned from this visit have been crucial to the ideas developing in our ultimate plan. This was our first glimpse that charity can also cripple.
7. Sunday late afternoon, Yann took us to one of the most benevolent places on earth, an orphanage supported by two Canadian families where the children have the best academic and spiritual development possible. Twenty-one children live on a mountain house above Port au Prince. They are given piano lessons, dance lessons and if they exhibit a certain talent, the talent is nurtured. There are after school tutors, a cook, a bus driver and a "Mother," Evylyn. Green houses grow fresh vegetables. The children were happy, healthy and down-right adorable. It is a house of order and discipline. When we finished our dinner in the guest house, I brought up the dishes and the children who were on kitchen clean-up jumped right in and washed the dishes. With a smile.
8. On our flight home, the man sitting in front of me was reading Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development. When I asked him about the book, he recommended it highly. He has been in Haiti to assess whether their charity work is benefitting in the long term. I learned he is the president of Hope for Haiti's Children; he gave me his card and invited me to learn what he has learned.
There now....I have my list and will write about each one. I will start the Haiti chapters with a short story of tragedy and triumph. It is the perfect example of charity that starts small with a measurable outcome--charity that lifts and doesn't enslave.
Almost 20 years ago, a Mormon missionary leaves a Book of Mormon with a twelve year old boy. In the book he writes his name and email. At the time, the boy didn't know what an email address was. He holds on to the book.