July is the month when all of the families enrolled in the school sponsorship program come to GLA to re-register. Over 400 students are enrolled and most mornings bring numerous families with their children, report cards from the previous year in hand.
I love the school sponsorship program. I love to think that all the kids coming through our gate, coloring cards and filling out questionnaires, will all be beginning a new school year this fall. Education is fundamental to a successful society, and with each of these little smiles, Haiti’s future is a shade brighter.
To learn more about our school sponsorship program or to sponsor a child for school visit glahaiti.org or e-mail Laurie at email@example.com.
Into the mountains that rise to the north or Port-au-Prince is the village and surrounding area of Mirebalais. The slow moving Artbonite river flows through the valleys and green pastures of the landscape. And just outside the main village is the home of Pastor Nahum and the school, orphanage and church he runs. Pastor Nahum is a kind, big bear of a man. His presence is inviting and friendly, the kind of person who is simply pleasant to be in proximity to because he exudes joy and enthusiasm for life.
GLA first came to know Pastor Nahum when a set of baby twin girls were brought to the orphanage in 2010. The McKinley family had begun the process to adopt these girls through Pastor Nahum when they became sick. Through the adoption agency the McKinley’s were using, the girls were brought to GLA to complete the adoption. The McKinley family completed their adoption earlier this year and took the girls home. The family developed a heart for Pastor Nahum’s mission and has continued to be advocates for him, his family and the children he cares for.
Earlier this year GLA took its first trip to Mirebalais to see how we could help Pastor Nahum’s school and orphanage. With two trucks loaded full of supplies and volunteers we set out on a sunny February morning to the northern mountain range. After a three hour drive we arrive at our destination. The humble but nicely set up orphanage is set a little way back from the main road. Behind the cactus hedge that marks the property is a large covered concrete foundation where the school and church are set up. Humble wooden pews and desks. Small stations with dusty chalk boards for the various age groups of the 200 children that attend school there. As we pull up class is in session. The children are pristinely dressed in their magenta uniforms. I don’t know if they’re used to having a group our size visit often, but their faces look happy and excited.
The volunteers form a quick line and pass boxes full of rice, lintels and beans to the the small storage house. This food will probably last a week if they feed all the children in school here. Some volunteers begin to blow up balloons for the children to play with. There is laughter and squeals and the sound of play in the hot open air. Pastor Nahum walks a few of the staff members through his property to make his needs known.
“I would like to have the house painted” he tells us, walking through the concrete home with grey bare walls.
“I would like to put tile on the floor” the floor is as bare and grey as the walls.
After a walkthrough of the vision he has for his ministry we pledge we will come back and begin to help him with some of these projects. Since the initial trip we have been back to Pastor Nahum’s home 3 times with teams. The inside of the house is now painted a lovely warm beige. The next trip we will paint the exterior of the home. We would like to do more. Every time we come we are welcomed with open arms and thankfulness. Although it doesn’t seem life changing to put some paint on the walls, Pastor Nahum lets us know how beautiful we’ve made his home, and how his wife will be so happy to live in a painted house.
I’ve tried to write this blog at least 5 times. I get a few paragraphs in, re read and realize I’m not conveying my ideas right. I’ve been trying to express the all of the changes GLA witnessed the past year, and the emotions that accompanied them all.
And then I realized it would be easier if I just showed you. You know what they say about pictures….
These beautiful faces are just a few of the ones that have shaped our year at GLA.
We’ve seen many other changes, between Ft. Jacques, adoptions being completed and children going home to the many teams and volunteers who’ve shared in the GLA story as God writes it. What a year. May 2012 be as blessed as 2011!
This little beauty is named Michnaika. We aren’t sure how old she is, we haven’t gotten a birth certificate for her yet. She is most likely a year or older. Her belly is swollen from malnutrition. Her hair is tell tale red (a sign malnutrition in African children). She is not walking, is not crawling. She doesn’t smile, she doesn’t make much eye contact. She doesn’t play. She sits and watches, takes in everything with deep, curious eyes.
But I am not worried. Because by now I’ve seen this enough times to know what’s going to happen to Michnaika. She’s going to become Michnaika. By that I mean, she is going to thrive and grow and become the small person circumstance hasn’t allowed her to be. Her future is bright, sparking with possibilities.
She will eat everyday. Sleep in a soft, fleecy sleeper on a mattress every night. Soon she will be paired with a volunteer, and slowly she will come to trust that person, she will learn to laugh and smile, and learn to play. And begin to trust and love others.
Someday soon she will be like any other child that you probably know, carefree.
And along the way I get to catch glimpses of Michnaika’s journey. Until the time comes she will begin the next. I hope to be there that day, to tickle her belly, tell her we’ll miss her, and wave her off as she and her family pull out of GLA’s gates, to wherever home may be.
It’s a little overwhelming to walk into the NICU at the Main House right now. With five fragile preemies and only two incubators, there are CPAT machines crowding sitting space, various tubes running across the floor in every direction and babies taking shifts in and out of incubators. Keeping them all stable has been a full time job for our nurses. Somehow God keeps sending them to our door, and He keeps providing for us to care for them. We are fortunate to have a pediatric nurse from Australia volunteering with us for a month. Katie has been helping in the NICU in the afternoons, and was very kind to pull a night shift for a night nurse who was going to be late for her shift last night.
On a visit to the NICU this morning Susan asked me to inquire of the volunteers if anyone was an O negative blood type, which can be universally donated, for one of our more critical babies. She told me “It’s a long shot, but it’s worth a try.”
According to the American Red Cross “Only about 7% of all people have Type O negative blood. Type O negative blood is the preferred type for accident victims and babies needing exchange transfusions. There is always a need for Type O donors because their blood my be transfused to a person of any blood type in an emergency.” 7%, that did sound like a bit of a long shot.
As it turns out, Rachel, one of our volunteers who has been at GLA for a couple of months now, has type O Negative blood. When I asked her if she would be willing to give some blood, she was excited to be able to help in a unique way. Susan drew her blood, and in the afternoon transferred it to a very small baby. He responded beautifully to the transfusion.
So as we prepared to set the table and defrost the turkeys this Thanksgiving Thursday, it’s unbelievable the amount we at GLA have to be thankful for. Thankful that God is faithful to provide in every circumstance, that He knows exactly who He has placed in our paths, and just how they will be used. I am thankful to have shared Thanksgiving with these amazing people. I hope that you too have an abundant amount to be thankful for!
In the GLA office we have a photo chart of every child under our care. With so many new arrivals over the last few weeks, this morning we were trying to recount and figure out our numbers. 49 children at the main house, 59 at the toddler. We currently have 108 children at God’s Littlest Angels.
We’ve been blessed with the swiftness these kids adjust to being here. Like little Danyari. She’s the quietest little thing with warm eyes and chubby bunny cheeks, but holds out with her beautiful smile. The first couple days she came she was uncertain of all these white people around (and may or may not have cried when I attempted to be her new friend). Today she’s playing on the balcony without a care in the world.
We are also in a rich season of volunteers right now. They have been working hard with their children to reach new developmental goals. They are supportive to the all of the GLA staff, foreign and national. Each afternoon and evening you can expect to see a couple of them pitching in with dishes in the kitchen, hauling water bottles upstairs, or helping out wherever there’s a job to be done. I’m overwhelmed by the amount of willing hands God provides us and so thankful for a balcony full of great people!
In addition we just came off of a stint of 40 solid days of teams. I was admittedly nervous with so many people to direct, but it all came together, and a lot of projects were accomplished! Not only all of the building on the toddler area at Ft. Jacques, but also the food depo that was cleaned out and completely reorganized, the new shelves built to replace the rotten ones on the balcony, and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning were just a few of the projects that went on at the main house.
I know Thanksgiving is still a couple weeks away, but I am bursting with thankfulness for so many blessings.
An empty balcony, sure sign it’s the rainy season in Haiti.
It has been such a success having the first team stay at Ft. Jacques these last two weeks! We usually have teams for one week at a time, and they work very hard and get a lot of work done, but often one week is just not quite enough time to finish up a project. They usually come close, but often have to leave before the details are finished. Having a small team for two weeks has helped polish those little details, and let us focus on some other projects, like getting the roof on Vierge’s house, building a pump house around the water filtration system and doing some odd jobs here and there.
Having them at Ft. Jacques has eliminated transportation issues back and forth, they can jump in and get started on projects first thing in the morning. And from a personal standpoint, it’s been so much fun hosting them! Ft. Jacques will feel lonely when they leave!
Sunday we get a great big team of 14 people! They will stay at the guesthouse as there isn’t enough room for big team at Ft. Jacques, and they’ll be moving the two mountains of rocks cleared in the toddler area. Fingers are crosses that they will begin pouring the first foundation for the toddler houses! As always we are so grateful for awesome volunteers who give us all their time and energy! We are so blessed!
Teams keep us on our toes! We’ve been blessed with some downright amazing ones this year. They bring so much energy and enthusiasm for projects, whether its at the main house, toddler house or Ft. Jacques, it rubs off on us so often.
The plan this month is to start pouring foundation for the toddler houses! And the next team we get in will be a small team of 4 men who will be the first team staying in the bunk house at Ft. Jacques so we can cut out the transportation back and forth, therefore they can start working in the morning right away without having to wait for a driver! Ft. J will be relatively crowded next week!
Overall the feeling that Ft. Jacques is progressing steadily is encouraging! Every time I walk around the property it blows my mind to think about everyone being in one place! Its such a beautiful piece of land, I can’t wait to see what its going to be like. And our teams are playing such a big role in it all!
Teams bless us so many other ways as well. A month or so ago we had a team come with one member who paints murals as a hobby. She brought all of her supplies and offered to paint anything we’d like. She left us with two beautiful murals! One on the balcony and one in our office. A few weeks ago one of our favorite returning teams had two members who ran a pie shop and baked us dozens of delicious pies one evening for dessert!
So here is a huge thanks to our teams! You are AWESOME!
Our hearts ached today. It’s hard to grieve in the morning and then have the whole busy day ahead of everyone. I think everybody wished we could take the day, but that is never really possible.
The main house is kinetic all day long. But if you happen to be at the main house late into the evening, after everyone has eaten supper and gone to their respective houses, the kitchen and house staff are the last to go to bed. Every night they clean up after the 30, 40 sometimes 50 dinner guests. And if you were especially lucky to be downstairs while Exilia was cleaning the kitchen, you might have heard her sing.
Exilia had a sweet, soft falsetto voice that floated through the dinning room at night like a lullaby. The first time I heard her sing I was in Haiti for a visit, tucked into a corner of the office using a computer about 9 o’clock at night. It lulled my soul and distinctly became one of my favorite first Haiti memories.
I couldn’t keep the tears from my eyes when Dixie described Exilia being sung into Glory, for she has blessed at least me with her own songs. It seemed so fitting. Tonight I think Exilia must be singing with Angels.