On Tuesday, April 17, a group of 10 Food For The Poor staff members traveled to Haiti to get updates on various projects the charity has underway to improve the lives of the hungry, homeless and thirsty.
Lyndsay Mendez and Michael Chin Quee of FFP’s Donor Relations team report from the field:
What an amazing day it’s been for me. Everyone told me this experience would be life changing but you really don’t know until you get here. I am never outside of my comfort zone and I’m so blessed that this opportunity was given to me. My experience so far has been no less than amazing. I say this because this trip is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m grateful to have an opportunity to be a testament for the poor that we serve.
Today we visited the community of Grand Boulage in the countryside where FFP is starting a water project for a community that has to hike a very steep and rocky road just for a small stream of fresh water. We, as a group, took this hike to see the source of where the facility is to be built. These people deserve so much for what they do on a daily basis. Children carried buckets that I could not lift on top of their heads from one dangerous point to another. With no food in their belly, and still smiles on their faces, they greeted us with open arms. I was exhausted but I refused to complain. Instead, I asked questions and felt very enthusiastic about what I can do to help. I know that in my department of Donor Services, I can be a voice for these people. And now that I’ve experienced what they must bear each day, I can speak to donors with much more conviction. I can’t even begin to tell you how humbled I am by what I’ve seen today and it’s only Tuesday. I won’t forget their faces and I won’t forget their struggle.
Michael Chin Quee:
Haiti Trip – Day 1:
Marie Clarac School:
[We] visited school where classes were being held in tents. The children (1st graders) were expecting us and sang for us in Creole. While the sun was not directly on them, they still had to deal with the heat because there is no air conditioning. They all wore school uniforms, and they were well-behaved. They were very excited to see us.
In one of the classes, the children reached out to touch Jennifer’s hair and then Leann’s because they are not accustomed to seeing that type of hair. They crowded around both of them and kept stroking their hair.
Food For The Poor Feeding Center:
I’m just amazed at how many people we are able to feed at the center. All the large pots were full with food waiting to be served. The FFP (FL) team along with Pastor Eddie jumped into action. Some began sharing the food while others interacted with the people. I took lots of pictures and video. Pastor Eddie served food for the entire time that we were there.
We then visited the FFP (Haiti) Warehouse and Offices. There was a lot of rice in the warehouse. We then went to the boardroom where we unloaded all the bags of goodies that we brought (complements to Nikki Rivera from her Facebook friends). We sorted toothbrush, toothpaste, candy, combs, etc. and made 30 packets to be distributed. We also added a rice mix that was given by FFP — 5 packs to each of the 30 packets.
We then had a wonderful lunch in the new cafeteria. It was 1st CLASS.
Grand Boulage Water Project:
We then drove for about 1 .5 hrs up in the mountains to water project where there are plans to take water from a little stream to a couple of cisterns and then pump it to four villages. This will provide water for about 3,000 people. We had to hike for about 20 minutes down an extremely rugged and rocky trail to get to the spring. A fall at any time would have been catastrophic. As we cautiously made our way down, we saw children (mostly little girls) making their way up the trail with their water bucket on their tiny heads. They did it with what seems to be complete ease and control. It was obvious… this is their life, it is what they do not only every day but a number of times daily.
There were approximately 50 people at the spring (could have been more. I’m being conservative). Most of them were small children. One in particular grabbed my attention. She seems to be about 5 years old. She obviously couldn’t carry one of the 5-gallon buckets, but she came prepared to do her part. She had a bottle strapped to her back (looks like it could hold a couple of gallons) and a smaller bottle that she carried in front of her. She was very focused as she [purposefully] jockeyed her way into position to fill her jugs.
None of these children seemed to be deeply concerned about these things that we’re obviously overwhelming most of us. (At one point, almost everybody was in tears). And yet on learning why we were there, they expressed incredible gratitude that we would even come, let alone do something as miraculous as bring water to them, thus alleviating all the time, energy and pain associated with their multiple daily treks to the spring for life saving water.
The buckets and other containers were now full. And it’s time to begin what seemed to us as the impossible journey of taking them up the rocky and dangerous trail we had descended moments before. With a certain amount of casualness, they coiled a twisted piece of cloth into a circular shape, placed it on their heads and then placed the buckets (some with the help of another child) on the only protection for their little heads. (It also offers some form of balance as they head back up the trail).
These multiple daily trips for water completely consume these children’s lives. There is no time for school, there is no time for play and there most certainly is no time for being a child.
As we got in the bus, the contrast was startling…everybody was handed a cold bottle of water or soda if they preferred. We opened and drank not even giving a second thought as to how easy that was. What we took for granted the average 5- year-old must work for as if their life depends on it…well guess what? It does.