Every time I return from Haiti, it is a struggle. Leaving a village that has no running water or electricity, parents struggling to provide one meal a day for their children, and dear friends of mine fighting for their lives as disease slowly takes over without the means to see a doctor weighs heavily on me as I board the plane to come home. Much of the time, the U.S. does not even feel like home. I spend so much of my time here in the States feeling like an outsider. Like I just don’t fit. As if I was created for something different. Often loneliness sets in. Other times I withdraw- not meaning to- and stop answering my phone because I am stuck in the world of in-between. In-between my life here and my life there.
The struggle is very, very real.
I got back last Monday and had lunch on Wednesday with one of my closest friends, who happens to be a therapist. She texted me days later and asked if I was ok and said that she was worried about me. It was then I knew I was not adjusting back to my American existence as well as I thought I was.
This trip was the hardest transition so far- out of at least the 20 times I have been to Haiti. I think my dream team of three was able to really engage with our friends there and realize how many obstacles they face. To have the time to truly listen to their hearts and God opened many doors.
Jean Marc suffers from pain every day due to a genetic disease that affects his joints. In spite of it, he has always been outgoing, confident, and has overcome all the obstacles. This trip I sat with him while he recounted for me the stories of how he was told as a child he “was nothing but a cripple” and how people discouraged his parents from sending him to school because they said he would never amount to anything. A Christian school by his house
actually refused to allow him to enroll so he was left walking 1 1/2 miles in the mountains in order to get an education. Some days his legs got him there and other times the pain was too much. Listening to him recount how he has carried this with him all his life was heartbreaking…..but such a privilege to share in his struggle.
The school where we work is grades K-6th. It has been our dream for years to add a secondary school but the cost has been too much for us to manage. As it stands, students who graduate from our school must leave the village for 7th grade and live 20 miles from their parents to attend in Port au Prince. They must have approximately $500 US per year for books, uniform, and tuition and have a place to stay (at an additional cost). For the farmers in Chauffard, this is rarely an option. So after 7 years of applying themselves academically and overcoming so many obstacles, the students are forced to quit school. Even though I knew this was a problem, I was overwhelmed with the reality when I saw one of our graduates, Julie, selling in the market because she was not in school.
One day a student, the next a graduate, and then the road to education stops. Why? Money. Smart, motivated, studious, and driven but hindered simply by the fact that her parents are farmers and cannot provide an education for her. As I snapped the picture of her in the market, I was weeping. Weeping over her and the other 16 students who graduated last year from our school who are not able to continue. On the plane ride home as I was wrestling with this, I came to a realization. Education has always been an issue in impoverished countries and will continue to be if we are not advocates. If we don’t stand in the gap for those who have no voice. So my attitude has been slowly shifting. As I have begun to recover from the despair and desperation I feel for these students, it has turned into a feeling of thanksgiving that I get the opportunity to be the voice for them and the one who fights for education. In a country where we very much take schooling for granted, I get to educate others on the struggle that occurs all around the world. As my friend so simply put it …….
PAIN INTO PURPOSE.
The stories from this one trip could easily fill up a book. The lives full of loss and gain, triumph and defeat. Not much unlike our lives, but the struggle is so extreme in Haiti that sometimes my mind cannot even comprehend it. The people of Chauffard have never seen a cent from the government- NOTHING. No help with education or roads or food. They are contributing members of society yet they are declined anything to improve the way they live. And yet…..they persevere through the hardships and the disasters. I have yet to see one of them give up. I will never understand the capacity of the human spirit in them. It will always be a mystery to me.
The mountains are calling and I must go.
My shoes sit by the door and I am ready to go. To help. To learn. To encourage. To be blessed by a people who teach me more in a day than I could learn here in a lifetime.