“It’s my 8th trip to Haiti in the past 2 1/2 years. After a 40 minute, hot, humid and dusty drive we arrive at the orphanage. I am excited but I am also anxious. I’m excited to see the faces of the children I have grown to love. The children who I worry about during the months I am away. I am anxious because I know that every time I see them it makes me love them more and the more I love them, the more it hurts to leave them.
As we pull into the driveway I see one girl and two boys venture out of the house. I don’t recognize them. Ten new children have been left at the orphanage since I last visited 6 months earlier. I smile at them. They approach me and shyly smile back. She is beautiful, she smiles easily and warms to my greeting and hug. She immediately practices her English, “My name is *Rosalina” she says with a soft smile. I give her as much love as I can during our brief exchange and realize that two little boys are very near, watching closely. I hug them and say hello. I’m sure they don’t know why they are being hugged but I do it anyway and they melt into my arms. All three stay close as I get my belongings out of the car and start walking into the house.
The first child I recognize when I come into the house is 8 year old Gabrielle. She cried the last time I left. On that day I kissed her tears, told her I loved her, told her I would be back soon and then cried myself as I drove away. I have learned to wear sunglasses on departure day to hide the tears.
When I see Gabrielle there are children I don’t know around me and I can’t really move so I reach out towards her, beckoning her to come give me a hug. She is surprised to see me. She looks at me for a moment, offers what might be a smile but then walks away. My heart breaks a little. It takes her the entire first day before she comes searching for me and seems to want my attention. Is she deciding not to become attached because she knows I won’t be staying long?
I eventually search out all the children I have known for the past three years and meet all the new children. Most of the youngest ones do not smile at first; even the ones who I think should remember me. I worry about attachment disorders but I try not to. After all I am a stranger with a very odd colored face. I’ve known Jasmine since she was a baby. She is now three years old and she was scared of every white person that walked into the orphanage for the first 2 years of her life. I try not to jump to conclusions but it’s strange to talk and coo to a baby or toddler who doesn’t respond, who doesn’t maintain eye contact for more than a second, who you can’t get to laugh or talk. On this trip it takes Jasmine four days before she voluntarily comes to sit with me while I am reading a story. To this day I have never seen her smile. I will leave her again at the end of this trip. Does the time I spend with her hurt or help?
The Jackson and Jefferson are brothers. They always act like aren’t interested in my visits but they smile in spite of themselves when I make them hug me. I make it impossible for them to resist me by bringing apples slices, no one is too cool for those. Nine year old Charlie is so lovable I want to squeeze him forever. He was brought to the orphanage as a baby and has no known siblings. At first he tries to be cool, like the other boys, and not get excited to see me. But within 10 minutes his little personality is overflowing as he continually calls my name asking me to “watch” as he throws some daring acrobatic move on the pavement. He can’t read but other than that he seems incredibly well adjusted for a kid who has lived in an orphanage his entire life. I have to force myself to not always give him the biggest apple slice.
Taliyah is 13 and she walks by with barely a glance in my direction. I call her to me and teasingly chastise her for not coming to say hi. I have known her for 3 years. I have carried notes between her and the family that has been trying to adopt her for 4 years. I have written my own notes to her and had them translated into her language. During my last trip she started to cry and she ended up leaning into me. I hugged her till she pulled away and then I sat with my arm around her while she cried and we ‘talked’ as best we could about the things that were worrying her. I have sung her to sleep at night. I tried to shower her with love and attention that trip. Her cold reaction stings. I know I’m being ridiculous. I have to push through it. I’m convinced she needs to know that I am there for her even if she doesn’t need me. I can’t let her push me away. I can’t abandon her. She has had too much of that.
I am often discouraged by countless situations that exist in the orphanage. My first-world brain goes into overdrive. Urine drenched mattresses smell up the boys room since half of them still wet the bed. There are still no toys or books because everything we have brought gets destroyed. The babies are left in wet diapers longer than I’d like and all of the children are without adult supervision or attention far longer than I feel is safe or healthy. After many attempts at fixing some of these problems I discover that first world logic does not translate well. Many of the issues that frustrate me are a direct result of living in poverty.
Before the big earthquake that crumbled Haiti’s capital city on January 2010 I wasn’t certain where Haiti was on a world map. Now I have three adopted Haitian children whom I love. I have new friendships with Haitians and Americans who are all trying to help alleviate the suffering in Haiti. I have become the primary sponsor of a small orphanage and I have fallen in love with kids I only see 2-3 times a year, who have no one to kiss away their tears and no one to tuck them in at night.
I am often overwhelmed with the heartache this new life brings. The flight home is always emotional. I always give everything I have and I always know that it is not nearly enough. In the weeks after returning home I struggle with feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. I focus on my family and try to be reasonable.
Yesterday I came across a picture of Charlie on my computer. My heart melted. I really love him. What an amazing smile! I can’t wait to see him again. I feel grateful for my life and for a moment I feel peace. In that moment I know that it is good that I can bring a little joy into the lives of children even if its only twice a year in the form of story books and apple slices.”
*Names have been changed to protect identities.*
IF YOU’D LIKE TO DONATE AND HELP SUPPORT THESE SWEET CHILDREN, IT’S SOOOOOOO EASY!!!! Just click HERE to go to the “Hatian Roots” website and click on “Donate”. BE SURE TO SPECIFY that you want your donation to go to “LA MAISON ORPHANAGE” (there’s a place to click and specify where you want your donation to go). If you want 100% of your donation to go directly to the orphanage (and I mean 100%!!!) then add 3% to your donation to cover the paypal fees that are taken out by paypal. You can also send me (Ela) a check directly made out to: “Hatian Roots” and put in the memo that it is for “La Maison Orphanage” and 100% of your donation will go directly to the kids. EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS. Whether you donate $10, or $1,000…. your donation WILL make a difference. If you’ve ever wanted to help for a good cause, and you’ve worried about donating to a TV show, or commercial because you are afraid that most of your money won’t make it to the children… THIS is the fundraiser for you! There is no red-tape to go through. Just your money straight to the kids. These kids need our help. The photos above you see are of the kids in some of the clothes that were donated by my family some friends. They went straight from our own drawers to the backs of the Haitian children. Please consider in your heart if you can spare a little bit for these children in need. HERE is a Christmas Mini-Session Promotion I’m doing as a fundraiser for December! Please check it out!
As Mother Teresa once said,
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
For any questions you might have, feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org