I have been wanting to write and share what I do in Haiti, as well as explain a little about the organization where I am working.
The wonderful establishment where I am blessed to work is called Have Faith Haiti Mission. Here we care for 40 children from the age of 5 to the age of 18. The word, “care” encompasses providing for the children’s physical needs such as daily meals and teeth brushing, providing for their emotional needs such as hugs and bed time stories, providing for their spiritual needs such as Sunday school and nightly prayers, and providing for their educational needs such as too much math homework and nightly tutoring. Although we are one big family with common purposes, each child is beautifully made up of special qualities that make them all worthy of being adored.
Within the complex of our mission we have a dorm where the children sleep at night except for the oldest girls. These girls have the privilege of living with yours truly at what we refer to as, “The Pink House” (seriously every wall that forms our home is PINK- pink as in Peptobismol pink). The purpose of The Pink House, which is located one house down from the mission, is to teach the older girls how to cook, clean, form time management skills, and learn how to be independent as well as self sufficient. Back over at the mission, the dorm has a room for the little girls, middle aged girls, little boys, middle aged boys, and the big boys. Each room has several bunk beds and each night one of our beloved nannies sleeps in the room with the kids. We are blessed to have a staff of nannies who work in shifts to look after the children, make sure they get bathed, and are all in bed when it’s time to go to sleep. The nannies also braid the girls hair each Saturday and come up with activities for the younger kids when they are not in school. Not to mention they provide an ample amount of love and nurturing to our kids. Our dorm also has a living room where the kids love to watch movies and read.
Adjacent to the dorm is the kitchen where Ms. Meme and Ms. Loraine, our talented cooks, make the best sòspwa (Haitian bean sauce that will make you want to stay in Haiti forever) around. The kids are served three meals a day. The meals are planned out for each day of the week. On Mondays we have oatmeal for breakfast, spaghetti for lunch, and a sandwich for dinner. This is similar each day of the week. Due to Ms. Loraine and Ms. Meme cooking for so many people the menu and grocery list stay predictable each week.
Outside of the kitchen we have a lovely, multipurpose gazebo. The gazebo is often used for a game of gaga ball, Ultimate Have Faith Wresting, or a new dance routine. However, without fail every night it is used for devotion. Each night one of the older kids preaches about an important topic to all of the other children. All 40 of us pile into the gazebo to hear the speaker’s words of wisdom. Once preaching is over we sing. The kids love to sing and worship. Sometimes if they really want to hear a song they chant to our worship leader (a 16 year old named Chivensky with a talent for music and a heart for Jesus) as if they’re at a concert begging for an encore! Every night Chivensky leads worship along with the help of a few bongo drummers such as the very talented Louvenson (a 13 year old with the kindest heart). Once worship is over, we pray for the day and recite our memory verse of the month. My most favorite thing each day is the sound of little voices praising God each night. I love to hear the untarnished faith of a child as they joyfully sing to our Father.
Surrounding the gazebo is what we call the yard. The children make up games here with rocks or whatever they can find. The best thing I’ve seen yet is a bicycle the kids ride that has no tires, only the rims of the wheels. It also has no seat, but instead has an improvised seat in the form of an old Clorox jug. We also have a wonderful play house in the yard where the children can be found sailing a ship into the harbor or hiding from an enemy in a battle.
On the far end of our compound is our school, The Have Faith Haiti Bilingual School. Our school is based on an impressive curriculum and teaching methodology. We have no tests, students are not left behind if they don’t understand a concept, and we teach everything upon prior knowledge. We have students learning chemistry when they’re 9! I’m pretty sure they might be more intelligent than I am. The only students that attend our school are the students who live within our mission. We have a highly skilled group of teachers who provide a wonderful education to our students. The kids love to learn. They are so inquisitive and their thirst for knowledge continuously goes unquenched. Our school is an English school from 8:00- 11:30 meaning that the students learn many subjects but they are only speaking English. From 1:15- 4:45 our school is a French school meaning the students learn many subjects but only speak French. We have nine classes beginning with Preschool and going up to Secondary 1.
I am a teacher within our school, affectionately known as, “Ms. Kelsey”. I focus on individualized instruction for students who are struggling to learn in the same way as their peers. I create goals for them and track their improvement. I also work on teaching our teachers how to individualize and adapt instruction to students who need additional support. I am advising two high school students this year, working on our school newspaper, and teaching English to the cutest group of preschoolers you ever did see.
Next to our school we have a chapel where the kids have Sunday school and worship service every Sunday morning. Our school principal also doubles as our preacher. He leads the children spiritually in a relentless love for God.
On Saturdays the learning continues through music, Spanish, and Creole lessons, as well as tutoring. The students are offered music lessons in piano, guitar, and drums. Although the children know how to speak Creole they do not know how to read and write it, so on Saturdays a teacher comes and teaches the students how to do so. We also have a teacher that comes and teaches two Spanish classes.
Our mission and school are intertwined but not directly related. When it comes to the school I am a teacher, I work to get the materials all of our teachers need, and I lead the teachers in understanding special education. When it comes to the mission I lead a reading program, I work on our sponsorships, and I try my best to instruct the children any chance I get such as during cooking classes and the weekly Bible study I lead for the Pink House Girls (similar to the Pink Ladies but we don’t have jackets made yet).
Our mission and our school are ran by the love and service of so many people. For 40 kids and over 20 staff the laundry piles up! We have a beautiful co-work named Ms. Benita who does the laundry. The kids help wash the laundry by hand and then once it is dry they help fold it. Even so, this is a lot of laundry! We have the sweetest co-worker named Ms. Nancy who helps clean the entire mission along with the help of some of our smallest helpers. We have Mr. Germain, Mr. Michel, and Mr. Secrois who help us around the yard. They fix things, make sure water coolers are filled, and lend a helping hand wherever it is needed. We have several guards who rotate each day. They monitor who is coming in our gate and they provide security for our staff and children. We have amazing on site directors such as Mr. Yonel, Mr. Alain, and Ms. Gina. This trio is unmatched. The love, wisdom, and ambition they all have is what keeps this ship sailing towards future dreams and aspirations for the children. We also have two nurses, Ms. Larose and Ms. Nydie, who care for the children’s ailments, perform physical therapy for one of our children, and maintain routine check ups on the kids to make sure they all are okay.
It takes a village. I’ve never been a part of such a large family, but that is exactly what this is. We are a family. We care for each other and we encourage each other. We get annoyed with each other and we say I’m sorry (often) to each other.
God’s love is infused in Have Faith Haiti Mission. I know that he is pleased with the work of loving children and adults who are vulnerable. We don’t call Have Faith an orphanage. We call it a mission because although the children that live here may not have biological parents that care for them or that they see, they are not orphans. They are loved by so many. They are cared for, prayed for, and delighted in.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” -1 James 1:27