Total there were 11 of us on the trip to Haiti. All of us carried one personal suitcase and one suitcase full of supplies for Dr. Kerry. Some suitcases were full of Hygienic Kits, some medicine, some shoes, etc. But we also took a bunch of candy, bandanas, stick-ponies, and simple little games to play with all of New Visions local school kids.
(New Vision provides for 8 schools, 1500 kids total. This was a portion of one school – about 70 kids)
Truthfully I thought it was a very cheesy idea. I was saying to myself, “Really. We are going to travel hundreds of miles to play cheesy little carnival games with kids for a lousy piece of candy.” But my attitude quickly changed when I saw the raw ecstasy in their eyes while playing.
We gave each kid a bandana, and split them into groups. Each group had an American team leader and a translator (who eventually completely took over because no one knew what we were saying ?). My group had four baskets and four balls for each basket. So I drew a line on the ground and had four lines of children that would take turns tossing the balls in the basket. For each goal they got a little tootsie roll.
It was similar to an American church’s fall festival except everyone was dressed like a cowboy and the kids were literally having the time of their lives. One kid told a translator, who then told us, that it was the most fun he had ever had.
One thing that really stood out to me was that none of the kids were “too cool” for anything we suggested. The teenaged girls probably had more fun riding the stick ponies than anyone else did. The most enjoyable to watch, however, was little Michle and the young woman that took care of him. She would hold the stick horse between his legs and take off pushing his stroller across the pavement, both of them roaring in laughter, splitting their faces from ear to ear with great big smiles. It made my heart very happy.
Before leaving on the trip I borrowed GG’s (my grandmother-in-law) Polaroid camera. It only had 5 good shots, but this was the perfect time to use them. Kerry had emailed Operation Hope pictures of almost all of the kids that would be there, so Sandy Turner made personal name tags with a picture for each kid, but there were kids there that didn’t get a personal picture of themselves, so I gathered them together and took pictures with the Polaroid.
One of my biggest pet-peeves about trips like this is that we Americans run around snapping pictures of these pictures lives as if we are at a zoo studying gorillas. It is very dishonoring and demeaning in my opinion. That being said, it is a necessary evil for most people on the trip. (Especially since several of our jobs is communication) For that reason we typically show the little LCD screen to the kids we photographed, they laugh, and run along. With the Polaroid I was able to let them keep the picture, which was, I hope, very honoring to them. The kids seemed to be very pleased with it.
After the Cowboy Christmas we went back to the resort for a few hours before a second Night Crusade.
After setting up for the second night crusade. We were all standing around waiting for it to get dark, so Simeon, Yvonne, and I decided we would walk about half a mile to the market to buy some bread and cokes for everyone. As we were leaving Dr. Thomas told us he wanted us back in fifteen minutes, so Simeon decided we needed to get a “taxi” so we would be back in time.
Simeon waved a guy down and he rode his little 250cc dirt bike over to us. Really? The driver was in front, then Yvonne, then me, then Simeon … on a dirt bike. After we were on Simeon told me, “We are TOO close.” (I would say he leaned forward to tell me, but he didn’t have too) I responded back, “If you kiss me we are going to fight.” He just laughed.
As we darted through the town we had multiple groups of people point and laugh, and a couple more yell something in Creole that I doubt I want a translation for. We got our snacks and rode back.
Too close to home
Standing around playing soccer with some kids, still waiting for it to get dark, some of our group shouted for me to come over there. There was a 14 month old boy that at first glance looked like he was only 6 months. His legs were no bigger around than my thumb. There was no difference in the diameter of his calf and the diameter of his thigh. Caleb is only 18 months old and weighs over 25 pounds. I am pretty sure at 14 months old he weighed 22 pounds. This little boy only weighed 10.
I talked to Dr. Kerry quite a bit about the boy and asked why he was so malnourished, to which he explained that his mother was unable to breast feed. This unexpected event led the mother to feed her little twin’s solid food almost immediately after birth. The little girl managed, but the boy was never able to gain weight. When we asked his name, the mother looked at the twins older sister and said, “What is it you call him?” I believe she did not want to name him because he has been so near death his entire life that she tried to stay detached.
Madison (my wife) struggled to breastfeed and this little boy was only a few months younger than Caleb. Needless to say, the unpredictable, dire situation of that child hit way too close to home. If Caleb had been born in Haiti, he would have been just as malnourished as that boy.
Earlier that week Robbins had bought me a coke (a very generous gesture) down at a little shop outside the orphanage where I had seen a shelf full of baby formula for sale, so I asked Dr. Kerry, “Why wasn’t the mother able to get her son baby formula?” He responded, “Oh Colton, one can of baby formula would cost that woman a full year's salary.”
Kerry then explained to me that the only reason he was still alive is because the boy was able to get on a program with Medika Mamba to receive a RUTF (Ready to Use Therapedic Food). They took him off the program when they determined he was no longer critical. Kerry wanted to make sure I was able to hold him so that I would see how badly he needs a supply of VitaNut-Pro.
Second Night Crusade
Eventually the sun did go down and we had the second night crusade. We worshipped together under a covering of stars. The only light was that of the projector.
Then they played a highlight reel of Baron Batch, introduced him and he gave his testimony.
I ended the night, like the night before, laying on the rocky beach under the stars letting everything I had seen decompress and verbally recording it onto my phone.