Tuesday, December 11, 2012

16 Days...

...until I'm headed back to Haiti :D Can. Not. Wait.  It's been a year since I've been and it feels like way longer. I'm definitely anxious and excited... there will be one thing missing, prayers appreciated as I prepare to serve without my favorite little guy by my side. He died in April and I wrote this for the RHFH blog shortly after:

 I was lying in bed late at night, with one of the kids in my care sleeping next to me, as his crib and the extra child’s mattress in my room had two kids on IV and oxygen sleeping in them. I had just come back from preparing a little girl for burial, and wanted to try to sleep for a couple hours. It’s not often that I find myself getting emotional about sick or dying kids anymore, but this night was overwhelmingly tough. I found myself closing my eyes trying to hold back the tears, praying that these kids’ suffering would just end. I felt small hands grab onto my neck and shoulders as a child pulled his body closer to mine. He put his hands on my cheeks and touched his nose to mine, holding himself there until we dozed off. This is one of many memories that I have of an amazing little boy named Darlens.

 Included somewhere in the estimated 300,000 deaths resulting from the earthquake in Haiti were both parents of a 3 year old boy who suffered from severe malnutrition and neglect. There is little doubt in my mind that this tiny boy would have died if the earthquake had not taken his parents’ lives that day. I imagine they were not different from many other Haitian parents, both working from sunrise to sunset to earn enough for yesterday’s bowl of rice. Darlens came to RHFH a couple weeks after the earthquake. At 3 years old and 10.5 lbs, his ribs, loose skin and sunken eyes were a shocking sight. With one look at him, most people familiar with malnutrition would have labeled him as too far gone. Luckily, God doesn’t label as we do. His legs were malformed and uneven; likely from being left all day to lie in the shade at home. He could barely be propped sitting up leaning on his pointy elbows long enough to take an admittance photo. He captured my heart immediately. If this kid was going to die, he would not die alone and not without a fight. By making it this far he had already proven that he was a fighter.

 In the first months at RHFH Darlens was slow to progress, and his stomach couldn’t handle anything. Spending his days in the office with Lori, Licia, Caroline and I, Darlens quickly became part of the RHFH family. Having him with me at night allowed me to wake up hourly to sneak calories into his feeding tube. He would wake up, see the milk going into his tube and make himself throw up. Getting this child to gain weight was the most trying and frustrating task that I had ever experienced. Every effort he spent rejecting food made me wonder what he might have gone through to be so broken, so resistant to being cared for. Darlens spent a good half of his time with me on and off of a feeding tube. I remember blogging at one point, about his control issues with food- the child would literally hold a piece of food in his mouth for hours and hours until he would fall asleep with it and drool it out. The advice, prayer, love and encouragement I received that week was overwhelming. I had to lean on God for patience so much through Darlens and quickly learned how little control I had over the situation. All I could do was keep loving him, and giving him my time and best efforts and pray for him.

 There was no sudden turning point, as there seems to be with many kids suffering from malnutrition. Often a child will struggle for weeks or months and then seemingly turn a corner and all the sudden thrive in weight gain, and development. Darlens did not fit this mold. He fought hard to make up for the past 3 years. He would gain a pound, and then have a bout of diarrhea and lose two the next week. I asked a physical therapist from the Air Force to look at him and teach me things I could do to improve his strength. Every day I would make him work for an hour to straighten and strengthen his legs. He screamed through this whole process for the entire hour. He wanted to be held 24/7 but would reject my attention when I put him down or made him eat or stand. I have never worked so hard on anything in my life than I did on getting Darlens to thrive. After six months caring for Darlens, I began doing everything I could to prepare him to join the RC. At this point Darlens was up to about 18 pounds. He would spend days in the NICU tent with the other critical kids and slowly became more adjusted to life with the nannies. They loved him. Licia knew how much Darlens benefitted from intensive care and hired one of the amazing staff to work one-on-one with Darlens during the day when I went back to school. Sonite worked with Darlens for months and by my next trip a couple months later, he was almost standing on his own. To see Sonite’s love for Darlens and her working so intently on helping him progress was beautiful. He was growing, slow but sure, and so happy.

 The thing about kids like Darlens is that they don’t just receive food and recover to go home happily to a family. Some kids never seem to catch a break, or turn that corner. Their lives are a roller coaster of sickness and health. We all invested so much into his life and loved him so deeply that every little accomplishment he had became a celebration. In the same way, every struggle he faced was heart-breaking for everyone who loved him so much. This emotional investment is not a luxury that is often practical in a setting like the Rescue Center because of the frequency of kids coming in and out. Kids die frequently, and miracles happen daily. In November of last year, Darlens was one of many patients to be treated at RHFH for Cholera. Caroline, Lori, and Licia all were busy 24/7 keeping him alive on IV and oxygen. This time was tough on everyone involved, but once again we were forced to pray that God’s will be done. That time, that meant Darlens would make it.

 I loved Darlens like he was my own. I loved the way he ignored me the most when he wanted me to make him laugh, the way he loved cuddling with the infants that I cared for, the way he screamed at me from across the room, the way he would fall asleep holding his bottle so tight but wouldn’t drink a single drop without spitting it out. I loved the way he bonded with Sonite who cared for him after I left and the way he bonded with the other kids in the NICU tent and would point to a child if they were crying or throwing up or had a dirty diaper, or hold their bottle to their mouths. I loved the way he fell in love with Licia’s youngest, Ameyah, and the way he would call her from across the yard. I will never forget his quirks and amazing spirit. Everyone who had met him on a trip, his sponsors and those who cared for him fell in love with his sweet personality and the way he would smile with his eyes. Darlens was SO loved.

 When I received news that Darlens was not doing well, I had a gut feeling that he would not make it this time. Licia, Lori, and the boys’ first teacher, Keverly, loved Darlens in the last days of his life and I am positive that he knew how loved he was. It will never make sense to us on earth why Darlens died so young. Why did he go through so much, making it long enough to get to Real Hope, and then survive a near-death experience with Cholera just to die a year later? These questions can either haunt us, or they can bring us closer to God in forcing us to trust His will for his and our lives. We can either hold onto the frustration that our unjust world brings us, or look ahead to a day when there will be no more suffering.

 I am choosing to honor Darlens’ life by trusting that God’s plan for Darlens was enough. I am focusing on the amazing memories and impact Darlens left rather than finding fault in the way he suffered. I believe that when God allows suffering to happen, we are challenged to rethink the things that the world has taught us. Most of us function under a misconception that a long, healthy life is the ideal life, and that innocent suffering is not acceptable. Through Darlens’ death, I am reminded that health and longevity are not necessary for a life of love, which is what God calls us to… right? God’s ways are incomprehensible to us, but there is peace in knowing that Darlens is God’s son. Jesus died an innocent death, and his life was not in vain. Darlens’ suffering and death does not take away from the fact that through him, trust in the Lord and the love of God was exemplified. His life was in every way glorifying to our God. Every kid in the Rescue Center has a unique story to be told. While I am intensely grieving the loss of Darlens because of how much I invested in his story, I am reminded of God’s deep love for each and every one of us. It’s hard for me to imagine the complexity of a God who feels the way I do about Darlens for every single person in the world… a God who invests so deeply in our lives and wants so much for us to live a life of love, to know Him and to thrive through Him. For reasons only God can fathom, this was Darlens’ time to go. He will suffer no more, and his memories and story will hopefully encourage us to act more aggressively in facing the unjust ways of the world with the only successful solution: trust and faith in our amazing God.

 Video of Darlens: (I was too lazy to upload it here!)http://www.realhopeforhaiti.org/?p=8183

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sometimes things just don't make sense.

As much as I try to make sense of some of the things I've seen and experienced it just doesn't happen. Truth is, I don't think God wants everything to happen. It's discouraging to think so many kids die everyday who wouldn't if they had been given a meal. It's not your "responsibility" to give those starving kids a meal, but God blesses those of us who are born into privilege with the invitation and opportunities to literally save lives. Why would anyone pass by such an honor and gift. We have the means and education to hep, and yet today 16,000 kids will die from hunger-related causes. What can we do? Pray... give funds... and share their stories. And be blessed by what you are able to give. God saves so many of these kids through RHFH... and I know my year there has blessed me beyond words. I miss my life there daily when I read stories of the new kids in the Rescue Center. Licia's blog blesses me every time she posts with reminders of the world only 2 hours from the US.
http://haitirescuecenter.wordpress.com/
Take a minute today and read some of her posts...

Monday, September 13, 2010

prayer requests

I don't really like blogging when I'm not in Haiti, mostly because I don't feel like I have anything worth sharing. I don't have kids in my life who need their stories told. When I'm not in Haiti I feel like I'm wasting away- like every day I'm here I take away from what God could be doing through me there. I have accepted that God can work through me here also, but actually embracing that is harder than just acknowledging it. I feel like people here just don't get me anymore. I'm not normal, I don't want to fit in, whatever that means anyways. My perspective on what my professors lecture on is SO far from what the students around me discuss that I don't even see a point in trying to give my view. Church isn't the same since Haiti. I just can't seem to relate to the "problems" that are preached about in churches here. I haven't connected with a college group, I haven't even tried. A couple of my friends listen and care about the person I really am (and I love them dearly)- but just meeting people is different now than before Haiti came into my life. People are either weirded out by my experiences or think it's such an "amazing" deed I have done. Neither of those are easy to deal with for me. The hardest being when people tell me what a great thing I've done in serving "those people." I have accepted that coming to the states after living in Haiti will never be easy; the fact that I accepted that might have actually made it easier than last time I returned. My expectations are low. School is interesting, kind of. I'd rather be in Haiti. My friends are more amazing than I could ask for. I still miss Haiti. Sometimes I wish God had waited to send me to Haiti until I could move there, but then I would be a completely different person.

I had a plan to be positive this year. I have done OK, this week has been a low point. I miss Haiti and need direction in school to feel like it's actually taking me somewhere. Would you mind praying for that for me? That God shows me his plan as far as school, and that I find a college group. I would appreciate it SO much.

I am hoping and planning to go back to Haiti during winter break for a visit. I CAN'T wait. I can't wait to see Darlens. I can't wait to hug Carmelo, Henley and Trey and hear their new school experiences. It's what I have to look forward to, so I can be thankful for that. Thanks for your prayers. They mean more to me than you know.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Who's fault is it then?

Part of why it's been so hard for me to return home after being in Haiti is because I have to leave kids that I love. When I was at GLA, I cared for Berlancia the whole 9 months I was there. Every day, all day for 9 months. She was failure to thrive and had full blown AIDS when I met her. She was weak and behind developmentally. I loved her more than I have loved anyone in my life and when I left it was h.a.r.d. Then, about 2 months after I left, she died. I can't even describe how difficult that was for me. The guilt I felt for leaving was tearing at me and I hated myself for leaving when I didn't even want to. Everyone and their mother said they were sorry and that it wasn't my fault. That made it worse. If it's not my fault, who's was it? No one's? If I would have stayed, would she have lived? Who knows. If she was meant to die anyway then I just prolonged her suffering. She didn't have a mother to fight for her. I had the privilege of getting to fill that role for 9 months... then I left. I know that it wasn't my fault in the sense that i didn't cause her death or give her HIV or anything. But I did leave. Berlancia had a family waiting. An amazing, loving family. She would have had brothers and sisters and parents who would have taught her to walk with God. She was healthy- walking, laughing, starting to talk.



That family since has adopted another beautiful girl from GLA, who I also worked with. I don't have a single doubt in my mind that God planned for that girl to be in this family- they are a perfect match; but I can't help myself from thinking... what if. What if I had stayed and Berlancia hadn't died, and she had made it to the states and gotten the best medical care available. It kills me. So if there's that chance that I could have prevented that outcome by staying until she got home, then why isn't it my fault for leaving? I don't blame myself. But I think too many of us brought up with no doubt that we will have access to anything and everything we will ever need look at others who don't have that luxury, and overwhelmed by the needs, we justify not going above and beyond in helping and truly giving our lives and hearts and money, and whatever we can away because it really isn't our faults. We didn't choose for these kids/people to be suffering. But we CAN help. And when there is a need presented, if we get scared and turn away and say, well is not like we caused it, right?.... but what if we don't prevent something from happening that didn't have to.

When I left RHFH for Christmas, Nickenson (the little boy I had been caring for for 4 months) had a surgery for an abscess. He died on Christmas day. I wasn't there. I could not have done anything to prevent his death, but the person who he recognized and who loved him the most at that time in his life was not there.



I left Haiti yesterday. A little girl who had been living with me for the past couple weeks, Marie-Rose, died this morning. I don't blame myself but I also know that there was a small chance that if I had stayed she might have lived. Even if that chance was .00000000000000000001 percent, I wasn't there.




I have struggled with leaving Haiti every time and I know that me being there doesn't change the big picture. I am not solving the core of Haiti's problems. I am getting more out of my time there than anyone I am working with. But when I leave, and the kid that had been doing so well dies shortly after, how can I not wonder- what if...

Every time I have talked to anyone about trying to decide whether or not I should finish school, there is always the "you will have so much more to give" comment made. I get that. If I become a doctor I will be able to save people that would have for sure died without my expertise. If I became a Physical Therapist I could enrich the lives of people who otherwise might not reach half the potential they could have. But I have a passion for malnourished kids, and when I have lived with them and seen how much a place like RHFH can do for those kids, and that I can be a part of it, school just doesn't seem that important. Tomorrow, 16,000 children will die from hunger. There is plenty of resources to save their lives, but still, they will die. 90% of those kids would get better if someone fed them 3 meals a day and loved on them. There are the kids who need IVs, and more intense care... but malnutrition, despite the epidemic it is in third world countries, has such an easy solution: food. The work of caring for malnourished kids is never ending in Haiti. With all the amazing organizations and causes in the world working to save malnourished kids, how are there still 16,000 kids dying EVERY DAY.

I don't foresee in my lifetime all of Haiti's children having 3 balanced meals a day. Maybe I have lost hope, I think I am just realistic. I feel like God wants me home this year- I don't regret my decision to come back because if I had stayed, even if Marie-Rose had lived I wouldn't have felt like I was following God's plan for me. But imagine how weird that is for me- could it be that if I hadn't followed God's plan for me that Marie-Rose might have lived? It just doesn't seem right. But thats just it- this world is SO wrong, so full of sin and so unfair that there are people suffering as a result of how others live. I want to give God my all- that may include going to school even if it's not the first place I'd rather be. I don't know why, but I am going to give it a shot. I figure if I am home anyways I might as well go to school. I am hoping God gives me either a passion for a major that will allow me to give more of myself or give me peace in not finishing college. I feel like the world sees school as this enriching, enabling thing, and i just can't get on that bandwagon. I think knowledge is necessary to grow, but if we don't learn through Christ with a passion there's no point. Just like giving to others is something that makes us grow, but there is no point if it's not through Christ.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Change

"You've changed." A phrase that has been thrown at me more than once since Haiti came into my life. People change... it happens. Life experiences change who we are, even if we don't recognize it. One of the hardest parts of going back to the states after living at GLA the year after high school was being able to relate to people. I have never been an emotional person or super good at really being able to listen to people, and since I've lived in Haiti that part of me hasn't gotten any better. The truth is, I could care less about so many things that I used to care about or even try to care about. When people complain about how tired they are or how long the line was at the store or the terrible traffic they sat in and so on I have a resentment toward them and toward their complaints. I think about an 11 pound 3 year old still fighting for life, or a 2 year old so dehydrated she barely has the strength to breath in-between vomiting worms and nonstop diarrhea; and 25 year old women with her limbs swollen because she couldn't feed herself and her children so she chose to feed her kids; and people who have lost everything and everyone and still have smiles on their faces to greet you, and the kids who died because they were just too far gone when they finally reached the clinic.

Sometimes I resent the US for all it has and for all other places don't have, and I try to detach myself from the "rich white girl" label because honestly, in my mind, it's embarrassing to me to be that (when I say rich I mean food/clothes/school opportunities/house/necessities have always been available and a constant for me). I hate that I have everything handed to me on a silver platter but at the same time I don't reject any of it. I love that I have options in life but the guilt I feel for falling short makes me defensive toward recognizing that; because I know how much others work and would kill to have what I have. I feel guilty for what I have been given and it's hard for me to adjust back into my privileged life in the states.

The worst part is how hypocritical I am in it all. I complain about stupid things all the time... I do the same things with my time and money that I get bothered by when other people do them. I fight with trying to lead a "normal life" when I go home and feeling guilty for everything "normal" I begin to do after a while. It's hard finding a balance between trying to get back into life in the states and feeling like Haiti is not being forgotten. My point in all this is: yes. I have changed. I will have a hard time adjusting. I will sound and act like I hate the US at times. Really, I just hate myself for not yet figuring out how to use my privileged life to help others. Last year was the hardest year of my life. Truth is, I am out of my comfort zone in the states any more. Socializing and being anywhere without a sick kid to take care of is hard and unrewarding to me. I have a hard time finding purpose outside of Haiti. Long term goals seem so hard to take part in when I have been blessed enough to be a part of the day-by-day fight for the life of some amazing kids. I feel like going to school makes me just another person to check the Successful Education bubble off the American Dream checklist; but I realize that if this is God's plan for me, to finish college, he will be able to use me even more than now. A good attitude is harder said than done.

I know a bad attitude toward life back in the states did nothing for me last year, and after the earthquake I anticipate it being even harder to leave where I feel completely at home. I want to make the best of what God has given me and work in and through Him wherever I am. I leave Haiti on Tuesday and it will not be easy or fun, but a good attitude could make all the difference in this next year. A lot of people think I don't want to share about Haiti or seem to think it is a sensitive subject. Truth is, it's my life- it's all I think about, dream for and love... I wish I could continue to talk the way I do here about things, but the culture and lifestyle in the states is so different that it's hard for me to share with people who have never experienced Haiti. Talking about babies dying as a normal occurrence is not normal in the states... the way I am with kids is different here than with kids in the states. The things I deal with on a daily basis here are things most people in my life have never had to think about... sickness, caring for kids whos limbs are so swollen from kwash that they are splitting open, maintaining IVS, cleaning up who knows how many diapers a day full of diarrhea, teaching(which I have loved), dealing with kids after they die, forcing kids to eat, trying to bond with a kid who has been neglected for years, waking up to feed kids every night and checking to see if they are breathing every time I go by them. These are the things that have become my normal- and I LOVE every minute of this lifestyle because God has given me a huge passion for the kids here.

I want to share that with my friends and family at home but at the same time I feel weird talking about my life here because it makes so many people sad or unomfortable- and then I feel like I am misrepresenting Haiti. Haiti is one of the most beautiful, most rich places I have been and I have been blessed immeasurably by my life here. I want everyone to know and see that but first I have to be comfortable sharing with others when they ask... I was not able to do that last year for many reasons but I am praying that I grow in that area. If you wouldn't mind praying for me as I adjust I would appreciate it so much. I am excited about what next year will bring and don't want a bad attitude to get in the way of whatever God has in store for me. I have changed, and I hope to continue to change as God breaks and molds me... it's just hard going back and being a different person in a life that in many ways is the same as when I left.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Hard Decisions

So in deciding a big decision in my life I've found myself completely lost and confused. My heart and my gut feeling are at war. I had to decide whether to stay here or to leave and go back to school next year... So many times I've felt 100% sure that I would be here next year. It feels right here. I love the people, life and work I do here. But then something in me- my gut would turn on me and confuse the heck out of me. Being raised in a society where almost everyone says to follow your heart didn't help in this decision. If I followed my heart I would be in Haiti for the rest of my life, and I would never reach out to anyone or anything uncomfortable for me. My heart doesn't like change, doesn't like different, and doesn't like life outside of Haiti anymore. Last year ALL I wanted was to be back in Haiti forever. I prayed for a sure sign and place to go to. Then I got the perfect opportunity and committed within a week of hearing of RHFH... it couldn't have been more perfect for me- I love the Betor family like my own and everything I've gotten to do with and for them. I love RHFH and the work they do in Haiti is amazing and I want to be a part of their work here as long as God allows. What I have been struggling with is whether more school is in God's plan for me or not. And honestly, all the prayer and thinking and late night worrying has done nothing for me.
Licia and I agreed that I would let her know my decision by May 15th. I want so much to stay here next year. Every emotion in me and everything in my heart screams to never leave Haiti again- because last year was the hardest year of my life. And yet, something in me feels like I have to go to school. That something holds zero reason or passion, and still, I have decided to leave next year. I am not happy about it. I don't have peace with my decision. I don't feel like I need school to be happy, to be smart or to be able to help people. But something in me feels like I have to try one more time... so I will. I don't know if its God calling me or if I am just going crazy but for whatever reason I can't shake the gut feeling... it's still hard thinking about the decision I made- I shocked myself when I said it outloud to Licia.
So July 12th I leave here and don't know when I'll be back.And I will make the best of it- I will try to be a better sister/ daughter/ friend/ student/ person and most of all Christian next year and do my best to make the best out of a decision that I am not quite positive why I am choosing. It will be hard. I know it will kill me some days not being where my heart is and feeling like my life is not where it should be. But I also know that if I don't do this I might have regrets and I believe God is in this decision- maybe He is just testing me to see if I will follow Him wherever He leads... I have never had to make a decision like this where my gut feeling interferes with my emotions. Going to Haiti instead of college straight out of high school was a big decision- but I was excited for it and felt like it was where I was called to. I am feeling called back to the states but not excited about it. My prayer is that wherever God wants me, that is where my heart will also want to be. It sure is easier that way... I guess I just have to learn to trust that no matter where I am, He will make things work out in His timing. So here's to doing my best to stay positive and cherish my last month and a half here... and start planning a trip back of course!
Side note: My mom and sister are coming for two weeks from June 24th- July 7th. I am beyond excited. Really really really stinking excited. My mom visited GLA while I was living there but she's never been to RHFH. My sister has never been to Haiti and I'm stoked she's coming. I can't wait! :D

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

WAY late flag day pics

For Flag Day here in Haiti, Carmelo and I made a pinata to take over to the RC and have a party. We made a Haiti flag and it took 3 days of that being our art hour to finish- we will never make a pinata like this again... but it was worth it :) We strung streamers, set up a safe-ish area for the onlookers and hung the pinata...


The kids had a blast hitting it and when everyone had a turn it was time to bring in the RC ladies in to finish the job. I think they might have had more fun than the kids ;)

...and finally the candy!
The boys and I made red and blue frosting to put on the brownies for the party, it was a hit.



and not one kid went to bed without running circles for hours and then passing out in a sugar coma. God is good and life is beautiful. Haiti will always be where my heart is...

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