Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas in Haiti...

December 23
We arrived in Haiti for Christmas on Dec 22. We are so blessed to be here and to be able to celebrate the Christmas season with the poor of Haiti. We were invited to a celebration at Notre Maison, a mission for handicap children. Notre Maison’s director Gertrude Bien Aime Azor, used to be a Sister at Mother Theresa’s and cared for the babies and children and now has her own orphanage with 38 children, most who have special needs. We have supported Gertrude and her Providence Guest House mostly through Jeff's gifts. He has created her website, installed a wireless router at the guest house, got her internet connection figured out, and most recently brought her a computer donated by Eaglebrook.

We were picked up by Gertrude and her daughter Rosie along with their driver who drove us in a beat up old truck in a cold pouring rain... very unusual for Christmas time in Haiti. We had to stop on the way to get gas and fuel for cooking. As we waited in line for gas, I noticed a freshly cooked pot of chicken, rice and beans, a boom box and a birthday cake in the back of the truck... preparations for a celebration for Jesus.

Gertrude's daughter Rosie

We drove down the muddy, bumpy roads of Haiti and pulled through the gates of Notre Maison. We unloaded the truck and were led to the dining room. Just when I thought my heart couldn't break anymore for Haiti, we found Gods most precious children ready for the party to begin. Several were in wheel chairs trapped in a body and mind that didn't work like ours. Others had bodies that served them, but minds that didn't. Yet it was very clear how excited they were to see us and when the music started, they began to sway to the beat, dance and suddenly we were surrounded by pure joy.

They knew it was a very special day when they got to have a few cheese puffs. We danced, clapped and wheeled around a bunch of innocent, happy kids who don't know the depth of struggle and hardship that is their daily reality.

Waiting for the party to start

A child getting his "groove" on

Carly appeared to be around 5 years old. She had the brightest smile and seemed very intelligent. I came to learn that she had polio and her legs didn’t work. Many children with phyisical or mental disabilities are simply abandoned at the General Hospital and left with little hope for someone ever loving or caring for them. Gertrude and Notre Maison have made a difference in these childrens lives. When I wheeled Carly to her room after the party, she on her own, flopped out of her chair and scooted across the floor to grab a toy she saw under a bed. I was stunned and amazed at her independence and how she’s adapted to the difficulties of her situation. The inspiration from this little child was our blessing for the day.

We finished the day with cake, bubbles and peppermint bark made by our new friend Amanda. Just imagine frosting and chocolate all over these heavenly faces. It was an amazing day.

They were fascinated with the bubbles

Studying a photo of Amanda and friends that helped make and sell the peppermint bark.

One taste and she was all smiles!

December 24, Christmas Eve
We had a very busy day. First we were off to the orphanage in Titanyen to celebrate with Yvon and our 23 orphaned or abandoned children. Yvon’s family and workers had prepared a very big meal along with a fancy birthday cake for our Christmas celebration. Yvon also had some of Jeff's favorites prepared... fresh cut potato fries and poppyta (fried plantain). The kids were so excited yet they were so well behaved. The girls and boys were all in their room just waiting for us to arrive. When we peeked in, all we saw were smiles.

We brought wooden toys, all handmade and donated by TLC toys... trains for the boys and dolls and cradles for the girls. Before we left home, Sarah, Jason, Mary, Lydia and Owen had helped me put candy treat bags together for all the kids.

Chrisnada had her new braces on and she was in good spirits. We are so thankful to Healing Hands for the care they are providing for her. She has been diagnosed with sickle cell anemia. Hopefully her treatment will keep her legs working. Please say a special prayer for her healing.

Some of the older children wanted to talk with us. One by one, they got up in front of the whole group and told us how thankful they were for our support and thanked God for Healing Haiti... asking for his continued blessings for the supporters of our mission. It was very humbling and showed us the Godly ways and respect Yvon is teaching the children. The kids sang for us and prayed before we ate.

Kids enjoy a wonderful bounty of food

We couldn’t stay too long because we had 2 more parties to go to. We told the kids we would be back in a few days and asked them if they would like to go swimming in the sea... they all say yes. Most of these children have never been swimming or ever to the ocean. We then asked how many knew how to swim and no one raised their hand. We will rent a tap tap bus and take them to the sea next week.

Enjoying some of Amanda's peppermint bark

Next we stop by Jean Garry’s school who we support by paying teachers salaries....200 children were there with their parents. It was a huge crowd. They were all sitting patiently on benches listening to Michael W Smith God songs. I noticed they had signs up that said thank you to Healing Haiti, Jeff Gacek, family and friends. It was so awesome to think all of our supporters, my friends and family that I love were all making their education and this party possible.

Again, thank God for TLC toys. We gave out 200 handmade wooden toys. Trucks and dogs that held color crayons, kaliedescopes, pull toys, trains, and dolls with cradles. So many smiling faces!!! We then watched them play some simple games, sing and collect their report cards. Again I was overwhelmed watching these young teachers, so serious and professional, sort through folders that were so lovingly put together with a Christmas Tree and glitter glued on the front along with each child's work in math and english and their report card for the family.

All the school children were dressed in their Sunday best for the celebration

Then we were off for a quick look at Grace Village construction. Wow it is really happening. There were about 20 workers at the site. more on that later...we had another party to get to and the sun was beginning to set...

Back to Cite Soleil to visit Guillium’s orphanage. 30 kids have been waiting. When we pull in it was dark and when we got out of the truck we were immediately embraced by the kids. It was so heart warming I can’t even express it. It was so dark, we couldn't see a thing. The kids led us in. Guillium was trying to get a lamp with a single light bulb to work with a small portable generator. As the light flashed off and on, I could see many happy faces all around us.

Once the light was on and steady the kids sang for us and we sang back to them. Turns out they knew the “We wish you a Merry Christmas” song...and joined in with us. We handed out treat bags and the rest of the TLC handmade wood toys. Trains for the boys and dolls with cradles for the girls. They were so excited. They had been waiting for us since mid afternoon. They had enjoyed their Christmas meal earlier without us. Before leaving we asked if they wanted to go swimming (this is the group we took before) and it was an overwhelming YES!

The kids held tightly to their new toys and sure enjoyed Amanda's peppermint bark!

Since it was dark and late we needed to leave quickly. Guillium was concerned for us on the roads so late. It is so hard to say goodbye so quickly, but we would return in a few days.

So looking back at the parties, Jeff and I agreed that what the kids liked most was the candy and that they didn't want to take their toys of the plastic bags. We think that because they rarely get anything that's new, clean and not broken, they just wanted to enjoy that for a bit longer.

We just want to thank everyone who has helped make this day possible and to let them know how much fun, joy and love you brought to these kids this Christmas.

December 25, Christmas Day
The sun was out and it was hot and muggy. At 9 am and we were off to Mother Teresa’s to help with the babies. It was a sweaty walk that reminds me very quickly how out of shape I am. When we got there we saw how full the rooms were and how every child was dressed in a new Christmas outfit made by the tailor that works there. Wonderful dresses for the girls and trousers and shirts with pocket and pleats for the boys. Each shirt had 8 buttons on it...I became overwhelmed at the thought of making them all....

The Sisters were at a 3 hour Christmas Mass with the older children along with the regular helpers, so there was plenty to do to keep us busy. I walked through all the rooms blowing bubbles which had an immediate calming effect on many of the babies, while Jeff and Fan Fan tended to the babies that just would not stop crying... of course they saw us white folks and just wanted to be held.

We were invited for Christmas Dinner at Joyce and Dale's who run Mother Theresa’s guest house and had a wonderful ham dinner with mashed potatoes, corn, beans and rice and home baked cookies. It was really nice.

The Sisters asked us if we would take in a 12 year old girl at one of our orphanages. Mother Theresa’s really does not have a program suited for a child that age. Her parents were dead and her auntie had been abusing her. She had become a child slave and was beaten daily. When the Sisters visited the auntie’s home, the neighbors pleaded with them not to bring the child back because they said she would be killed if she returned. The Sisters will visit our orphanage in Titanyen next week. Please pray that God provides a safe option and home for this child.

In the afternoon, we went back to Mother Theresa’s to help feed the babies an afternoon meal. But the biggest treat of the day was when we went upstairs to visit the two boys that the Plamann family are adopting. They had sent with us a couple of presents, handmade cards and family videos for Evonson and Givinsky (aka Evon and Vinny). It was so sweet to share this with the boys who have no way to comprehend what the future holds for them. They only know life from an orphanage perspective... and hot sunny days. We took photos and a video of them to bring back to their waiting family....Parents Carol and David, siblings, Michael, John, Ellen, Claire, Agnus & Luke (previously adopted from Haiti) and Danny....with all these kids they should feel right at home!!!

We Pray.
Lord, we pray that you bless the children of Haiti and provide all that they need. We know that only through your power can there be real change in Haiti and ask that you bless our mission and use us for your glory. Amen.

Friday, November 27, 2009


When I look back at Haiti, I still sit and wonder about myself before the trip. How is it that i was able to lose my passion in life, how come I fell under the spell of laziness? So much emptiness in my life. Now, after returning from Haiti, I am happy to say that passion has returned in my life. A true feeling of joy. In Haiti I experienced so many different emotions, I was able to accomplish so much during my journey. I witnessed the visual horrors in the slums, the sick and dying children, but I will also never forget the true beauty of Haiti. It is truly evident that my life will never be the same.

Now, upon returning home, I realize that God has left me with a great gift, and now I must struggle to find ways to utilize this gift. The gift of knowing Haiti... and knowing that things can change, not only for the people of Haiti, but for myself and all those I come in contact with. God Bless, Jeff, Missy, Shelly, and roommate Marco.

Zach Aho
Healing Haiti Team Member

Saturday, November 21, 2009

When I think about Haiti...

When I think of Haiti... I think of beautiful children, endurance, mounds of garbage in the street, watchful eyes and deep wounds. I think of Shelley always smiling, Jeff being mischevious, Zach dancing on the beach and Marco gently comforting a baby. I think of contrast, charcoal, tootsie rolls, chaos and faith. I think of disfigured feet, rows of metal cribs, the rumble of the water truck, simplicity and sunshine. I think of hunger, grace, rocks, drinking from a coconut and crying. I think of strength, fevers, bombed out buildings, the crowded marketplace and helping. I think about spicy peanut butter, hair ribbons, hernias, honking when you drive around a corner and the homes they live in. I think about hope. I think about God. I pray that I never stop thinking about Haiti.
Healing Haiti Team Member

Poor and Beautiful...

Haiti is a very poor country but I found it to be a very beautiful country. It was wonderful to see the variety of colors in nature from the blues of the ocean to the different shades of green on the sides of the mountains.

Many the buildings and vehicles also added to the palette with their bright colors and bold designs.

The slums however do not have the rich colors that other areas of Haiti had but I found them to be equally as beautiful. They were not beautiful because of the garbage lying in the street or the rusty pieces of tin used as housing material... they were beautiful because of the people who lived there. It was wonderful to experience the beauty of people apart from the material world.

It is refreshing to see people who have next to nothing share what they do have with others and to see the smiles on the faces of children after a simple wave hello.

All my experiences along with the beauty on this trip make me want to come back.


Healing Haiti Team Member


This was my second trip to Haiti and I was open to experiencing new things. I went with my girlfriend and the nuns from Mother Theresa's to the wound clinic at St. Joseph's one afternoon.

I don't have a medical background but Alyn told me a little about what they did at the clinic so I thought I could handle it.
So off we went to clean people's wounds. After driving through massive amounts of people, we entered the gates of St. Joseph's where we were greeted by beautiful music. They were having an all night fast and prayer service in the church and all of the people were singing.

As we entered the wound clinic, people sat waiting for us along a cement ledge against the wall. We got a quick lesson on what to do... put plastic on a little stool for the people to place their foot, unwrap their cloth bandage, take off the gauze underneath, spray the wound with saline water, wipe it, spray benadine, wipe again, put on antibiotic salve, more gauze, then wrap it up with a new cloth bandage. It sounded easy enough.

The first man I was helping took off his own bandage and I couldn't believe what I saw. He had an open sore from the bottom of his foot to the middle of his calve. In one spot I could see his bone. I can't even explain the smell and sight of that open sore but I knew it needed to be cleaned. He helped me by pointing to the spots that needed more cleaning and let me watch him put his bandage back on. There were others waiting so I had to move on.

One after another they came with similar wounds. They didn't cry or even flinch as I scrubbed the open sores. It was so hard because I knew it had to be painful and I didn't want to hurt them.

I was down to the last person. He was a young man probably in his twenties. He put his foot on my stool and I saw that the bandage was between his toes and farther up on his leg. I knew what was under that bandage had to be bad. I said softly "I can't do this" thinking he wouldn't understand me. He looked up at me and said "yes you can". I had to keep repeating in my head I'm washing the feet of Jesus and by the Grace of God, I did it.

I don't know if I would ever return to the wound clinic, but the image will always be with me.

I love the Haitian people and right now my heart feels like a big open wound for them. The Haitians are strong, beautiful people trying to survive in a country that should be so much more.

Throughout my trip I saw more wounds in many of the people. The hunger, the sick children, the need for water, the need for shelter, the need for money. So many times I wanted to say "I can't do this", but I know that I would get a reply, "yes you can".

As I sit here today in my comfortable home in America I can still feel the wound in my heart for the Haitian people. I pray that the Lord will provide me a temporary bandage and guide me according to His Will to be able to help the Haitian people from home until I can return again and have a new bandage.

Team Leader

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

He looked into my eyes as if to say...

I am finding it difficult to find words to accurately describe my first trip to Haiti. It just isn't possible to put into words how emotional and moving a journey it's been. As I write this message and remember all the beautiful children and amazing people I have met over the last four days I am moved to tears.

Didn't I come to Haiti to help people and to make a difference not the other way around? I did go out on the water truck and fill empty buckets with clean water; played with the sweet children in Cite Soleil, the poorest slum in the Western Hemisphere and spend time with children in orphanages and schools; held and fed tiny, sick babies at Mother Teresa's hospital for the sick and dying babies. And I hope through these actions I was able to help in some small way and, if nothing else, provide some comfort. But something else happened...something so unexpected. As I reflect on the last few days, it appears that the purpose of this trip was to show me my Purpose, to give me a better perspective on the world and my place in it and maybe, most importantly, as Jeff would say, to break my heart wide open.

It's impossible to go to Haiti and not have your heart broken wide open. We all live unbelievably comfortable lives by comparison and while we shouldn’t feel guilty for this, I do hope that our good fortunes will motivate us to want to help others who have less than us. There are so many stories to tell from my trip but I know I can't share them all. I’ll let my photos tell some of the stories and I will share with you one experience that was particularly touching. I met a two year old named Nixon at Mother Teresa's Hospital for the sick and dying babies. As I was holding him in my arms and feeding him his lunch of rice and beans, he reached his little hand into his bowl and picked up a couple of grains of rice and brought it up to my mouth. He looked into my eyes as if to say here, you have some of my food. My heart nearly burst I was so moved. Here is this child who has experienced more hardship and rejection in his two short years on earth than most people do in a lifetime and he is sharing his food with me. What an amazing spirit!

I am not leaving Haiti a different person but rather a person with a different perspective on what is truly important and what really matters in life. The last four days in Haiti have been a true gift and words cannot describe how grateful I am to all of the wonderful people I met here. I have never felt so inspired to do whatever I possibly can to make a difference and to raise as much money as I possibly can to support the projects in Haiti.

I look at my role as a sales rep with Print for Change a little differently now. Yes, I want to produce great products, provide excellent customer service, meet customer expectations but I don't want that to be my primary focus. Ultimately, my job everyday is to help feed, educate and shelter children in Haiti. And now, I've met these adorable, innocent children and their families, looked into their eyes, held their hands and heard their pleas for help. So, I came to Haiti with the intentions to help people but as it turns out, the people in Haiti also helped me.

I urge every person who reads this to take the time to think about what they can do to help the children in Haiti; whether it's to participate in a mission, donate money, spread the word, get others involved. Every act and every donation helps no matter how big or small.

Joey Perry
New York, NY
Healing Haiti Team Member

[Joey Perry works as an "agent for change" at Print for Change, a print management company that donates 50% of all profits to support missions in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Visit www.printforchange.info for more information on how you can use your print purchases to make a difference in this world.]

Friday, September 4, 2009

God knew just what I needed to hear.

I am at home now sitting at my computer after spending 2 weeks in Haiti. Nine people joined us on our trip and as I reflect, I am amazed at God's work. Not only in what we do in Haiti, but in my own life. I left Haiti feeling overwhelmed by all the need and commitments we have made to help and not knowing how we will be able to do it all. I know that it is not us, but God that is doing His work through us, but I still try to plan and figure things out myself on how we are going to get everything done.

At church last night I was reminded by God to be faithful... and that through him all things are possible... and that God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to His purpose. That God uses the low points and struggles in our in our lives to prepare us to do profound things. God knew just what I needed to hear.

So as ordinary people, just like all of you who read this, God has once again inspired Jeff and I to continue on His mission. To provide clean water, food, education, housing and a living faith to the poor and most vulnerable in Haiti.

Last week, our orphanage caretakers asked us if we would take 30 orphans from Cite Soleil to swim at the sea. These children have never been to the sea so we rented a tap tap bus, and went to a deserted resort that had the most perfect swimming area for the kids.

I wish you all could have felt the simple joy that came from all of these children as we played in the water. It was so much fun. We had peanut butter sandwiches, cheese puffs, cookies and juice for lunch and I have never seen 30 kids so well behaved and thankful for such simple things... things that most of us would take for granted.

After lunch, we headed back into the water and all the kids started singing songs to God. It was so touching. These children who have nothing physical in this world... still abound with joy, faith and hope in Jesus.

During our swimming and spa day, we noticed some health issues and skin sores with the children. For the poor in Haiti, there is not such as thing as going to the doctor. In emergencies, kids are taken to the hospital to be treated but we couldn’t bring 55 kids to the hospital. We took photos of some of our concerns with the hope of identifying what the illness was. Mike, one of our team members, emailed them to his brother-in-law who is a doctor. As he finished, a medical team that had been at the hotel earlier in the week came in for dinner. Mike took the photos over to them to see if they help identify the sores or could guide us in anyway. The group were nurses and told us that the doctors in the group had gone home earlier in the day... they could not identify what the sores were.

As Mike came back to our table, two women and a couple of men stopped by to ask us what our mission group was doing in Haiti. We told them about our mission and and then told them about the sores that many of the children had and showed them our photos. One of the men was a doctor... a Haitian doctor. He knew immediately what they were... Zona. He suspected that it was caused by dirty water. After more discussion, he agreed to go with us the next day to do a medical clinic for all 55 kids. God had placed this man in our path at the exact time that he was needed...it was amazing.

So the next day, after 55 checkups that took most of the day, we were saddened and overwhelmed to hear that only one child did not have any medical needs. We had 5 hernias and several swollen tonsils... most of the children needed antibiotics and hydrocortisone creme for the Zona and skin rashes from the unclean water. A few need to be taken to the hospital to be checked for typhoid and malaria. We had one case of pneumonia, several very bad teeth, several that were anemic and malnourished along with one ear infection and several high fevers. The doctor wrote up 54 prescriptions that Jean, our director of Grace Village is working hard to procure.

After viewing the well at the orphanage, we discovered that the water table is only 5 feet underground. This is not deep enough to cleanse the surface water that sinks into the ground and is most likely the cause of the Zona sores that many of the children have. We made plans to install two new water tanks at the orphanage and have our truck deliver clean water for the children. We also planned hospital visits for the fevers and pneumonia. Going forware, we are going to start collecting vitamins, tylenol cold medicine, antibacterial and itch cremes to have on hand at the orphanage and figure out a way to get more protein in their diets. We will by the antibiotics in Haiti until we can get a medical source here in the US that can provide it for us. Doctor Sem also said that the dirt the children walk in and play in is also part of the problem. When the new orphanage facility at Grace Village is completed this problem will be solved.

When working on the water truck in Cite Soleil, my heart was burdened by all the requests for food. It is so difficult to continually say "I only have water and love to give you. God Bless you". It just tears at my heart. At the end of August we have a container of 270,000 meals from Feed My Starving Children that we are shipping to Haiti. We are grateful for the donated food but most don’t realize is that we still have to pay $10,000+ for the shipping and customs.

The night before we left, we had a pizza dinner with the ten street boys that we sent to school this last year. Only 4 had final report cards. We asked why the other six did not stay in school and were told that they had to quit because they had to make money to pay rent for a small room that they shared. It is amazing that 8,10 and 12 year old children have to make a decision whether they stay in school or drop out to pay their rent.

After some discussion, we made a deal with them... we would pay their rent for the next 6 months and will continue to do so, as long as they stayed in school and receive a passing report card. They live in groups of 3, 3 and 4. We had one condition though. If one drops out of school, funding will stop for the others in their group too. We hope that this will encourage support from each other and lessen the financial burden of them living on their own. We discussed how they could still work on weekends to earn money if they need too. They all are street window washers.

After the negotiations we discovered a new room in the hotel that the management said we could use with the boys for a short time. They got to play pool, foos ball and sit on big couches in front of a wide screen TV. This group of tough boys turned into little kids. They explained to me how much they liked the big couches and wished they could sleep on those instead of a floor. Of course they wanted us to buy them a big screen tv too. Please pray that these boys will stay in school this year.

Visiting Grace Village and seeing the foundations for the girls dormitory, boys dormitory, feeding center and cistern being dug out was wonderful to see. They workers were having difficulty because the land is so rocky. We watched as they pounded under the hot sun with sledge hammers to break up the rock. It is difficult and demanding work. Eighteen workers from the community started the project but only 4 are left. The work is very hard and many have gotten bad blisters and sore backs.... please pray for strength and health for the workers at Grace Village.

One of our team members gave me a couple books on Mission Trips and Creating Strategic Partnerships. After reading them, I felt again that God was speaking to us on how to better run Healing Haiti, be more effective with our giving, encourage sustainability and to further the Kingdom in all we do. Some of our projects are just humanitarian and short-term relief oriented... but with this new knowledge, we are challenged to see how we can grow these into more in the future.

Something I did this trip before reading the books mentioned above, was to choose seven children that we've come to know over the past 3 years while making water deliveries to send to the school we support in Cite Soleil. One is the brother of one of our water truck workers who is 18 but will only be in the 4th grade. The others have all touched my heart over the years and I felt lead to do something. I met with the parents while we were delivering water and then met them again the following week at the school. The parents were so grateful and the kids so excited. It was a $70 per child per year investment that will hopefully impact their entire life... the cost of one latte per day for many of us.

Other great memories include my niece giving breast feeding directions to a new mother, visiting inside the little tin shacks in Cite Soleil with some of the people to discuss their needs, caring for Pierre at Mother Theresa‘s who looked like he was 5 years old, but was really 10 and had a kind spirit and a very inquisitive eye for watches and glasses, the man that Melissa cared for at the Sisters Wound Clinic who had a dead foot, the hugs and greeting from Marie Alice from the prayer house, FanFan, who opened up to everyone and had such a great time with lots of laughter and fellowship and getting a bunch of kids in Cite Soleil to do the "Alleluia" song along side the ocean.

With great faith and trust that God will show up, and driven by obedience, Jeff and I will continue to develop new relationships, work on additional funding and create more efficiency in what we do. If you are moved or nudged by the Spirit to help, please contact us.


There is no beginning or end...

Jeff told me something early on my first day in Port-au-Prince that has stuck with me; when it comes to the need for help in Haiti, there is no beginning or end. You just jump in the middle and try to make a difference. I didn’t understand the implications of this statement until our first trip into Cité Soleil.

We boarded the water truck for the first of two runs that day, to bring the only free water into the projects on the backside of Bobby Duval’s soccer fields, where about a hundred kids were practicing and learning life skills (disguised as a soccer camp) by an attentive staff. These kids, I was soon to find out, are very fortunate to have this facility and the opportunity to escape their daily existence.

As we wound our way through the pot marked streets, and still war torn buildings into the main thorough fair my senses were overwhelmed by what I saw, smelled and heard. Nothing in life can prepare you for experiencing this for the first time. The corrugated tin houses built over a flimsy wooden skeleton with roofs held in place by broken cinder blocks sporadically placed over it. The air, thick with the combined stench of raw sewage, garbage, diesel fuel and burning charcoal. (It was 98 degrees that day, with a heat index of 114.) The never ending mounds of garbage that invade everything you see- the streets, the open sewage canals, the doorsteps to a shanty where the barefooted children play, eat and sleep. The eyes of these kids staring at me, some smiling at the “blanc” staring back at them, others shouting “Hey you!” and holding out a tiny, empty hand.

As we drove deeper into the shanties, I was weighed down with the reality of a people struggling just to live beyond today. The make-shift stands in front of their houses selling anything that may be of value, but with little results as no gourdes are to be found in Cité Soleil today or any other day.

As the truck navigated to the narrow cluttered intersection that was our first stop, the bucket line had already formed, easily fifty yards long with others running, buckets in hand to the back as it grew to well over a hundred yards within seconds.

Kids were coming from every direction now, surrounding us, wanting to hold a hand, play a game, sing a song, or to get in the way of the hose as it fills the buckets, getting a moment of relief from the ovens their tin houses become in the summer heat of Haiti.

As the water began to flow the controlled chaos began. People saw the line was too long, and unless they could get in front somehow there would be no water for them today. Most respected the fairness and intention of the line, others kept trying again, and again, and again to get their buckets spirited to the front. I have never known in my life the certainty of life or death residing in the position of a five gallon paint bucket that doubled as the only clean water available to me. My heart hurts for them, but I don’t know how that truly must feel.

As the water tank filled the last bucket, the line still a hundred people deep, we walked with the children through their neighborhood. We ambled through the narrow paths between the shanties, the temperature now 20 to 30 degrees hotter as the sun reflected off the tin, and any breeze was blocked by how tightly compacted the shanties had become. We slowly emerged into what seemed like the back side to Cité Soleil and a narrow path that wound along the side of a drainage canal filled at least ten feet deep with garbage that emptied into the bay a half mile in front of us.

This path led to a vast open expanse that ended at the ocean’s shore. It quickly became apparent why this space had not been built up.

As I looked down, dodging the ever present garbage piles, and navigating the two small children holding my hands through this maze, I saw their bare feet instinctively missing the intermittent human excrement piles we were walking through. We had indeed stumbled into and were walking through their bathroom. As the reality of this hit me, I looked up and immediately saw the children and few adults squatting not a few hundred feet from us.

These children walking with us, bare footed, some naked, all hungry and suffering multiple untreated sicknesses, live in this reality every day of their life, knowing nothing else.

As I fought back the tears, I knew there was no beginning, no end, I just had to jump in the middle and begin to make a difference...

Michael Cohen