For the Dreamers of Drouin
In my “abouts,” I call myself a struggler and a straggler. I’m here in Haiti with friends who have known me for a long time. When I’ve disappeared during hard times with Titus, they’re the ones who come after me. To experience this with them is one of the greatest gifts of my life.
You really get to know people on trips like this, too. There’s no hiding when your tummy hurts, when you start begging for a bathroom break, and there’s no getting away from body odor when you’re sardined into a car. Yesterday we drove for hours, slamming side to side on roads that don’t make any sense. I can’t believe we’ve found anything here. Our drivers are like rocket scientists to me.
We met at 5 AM and drove over 4 hours, way out until it wasn’t city anymore. We passed where once was rain forest, the mountain side raped into sand. We passed goats and wild horses. We drove into the land of men and women bent in the middle, backs to the sky. It’s the land of old men with wash-board abs. The ax on the rock and the hoe to the field, they swing way back and around to a crack. The women carry baskets on their heads with their shoulders and necks steady and regal. A few napped in wheelbarrows. The road brought us to a river, and from there a canal runs to and through Drouin. The young bathers run naked. Women wash. Cows drink. Voodoo waves a flag nearby.
Even in the countryside, trash is everywhere, just thrown to the side for lack of infrastructure. There is still rubble everywhere. The poverty doesn’t have an end. I figured as much, but to see it is another thing. I came here terrified of it, not of the poor, but of hopelessness. Hopelessness may be my greatest fear. It’s the thing that swallows, the thing out of whose throat my friends have snatched me.
I left Arkansas, praying my Titus would grow, praying that I don’t lose sight of my hope. I left with a mantra. He is my Living Hope. His Joy is my strength. I left begging.
We arrived to Drouin, car sick and hot as a Dallas tarmac, or maybe hot as a metal box on wheels full of humans at sea level in the tropics. It makes you grip a water bottles vertical until the last drop. I got out and stood straight in the sun. I faced a field and closed my eyes. Listen: cows, the Haitian way of jabbing and then the rumble of men letting-loose, the laughter, children singing through smily teeth. You could hear it all. A school was behind me. One class seemed to learn it all through song. I wanted to shove the sounds in a chest so I could let them out if I ever forget it. The hope I see and hear in Haiti is the kind of hope that makes the lame to walk.
I turned around to a schoolhouse full of children, and when class was over, they ran to us. They ran hard and happy. It was a rush of touch, of being eye to eye. They wanted to see themselves in our phones, and so we took hundreds of photos. There are 125 children who go to this school because Pastor Jean Alix loved them so. After the earthquake, after so much loss already, aid workers brought rice to the country, which turned out to be a bad case of when helping hurts. Drouin is the home of rice farmers. Free rice for all doesn’t bode well for rice farmers. An entire community lost jobs and began to go hungry. Many had to feed their children every other day. Then only a few short months later, Cholera ran down the river and into the canal. Hundreds of thousands died in Haiti from cholera. The canal even now is Drouin’s only source of water.
After Cholera hit hard, Pastor Jean Alix asked Chris Marlow for a visit to Drouin, and Marlow obliged the rugged drive. He came and held a girl in his arms who was nearly dead. Her parents simply couldn’t feed her, but she had parents, and it wasn’t the Help One Now model to serve the mere hungry. They had planned to serve only the double orphan. Pastor invited him then to come back in a year. Then they will all be double orphans.
So that was the beginning of the sponsorship of this beautiful school, the school that is completely Haitian led and run, the one providing jobs for teachers, cooks, and construction workers, the one with free uniforms and supplies and a huge healthy meal. The sponsorships allow children into school so their parents can work, and then it also provides resources for community development and farm equipment.
We walked to the home of one of the cooks. I wish I could remember her honorable name. I sat at her table. She payed for her new home because of this job. She was a mama of one of the students and had four other children. Her walls were mud and simple. Everything was tidy. She spoke with pride and a light in her eyes.
Drouin is full of children, full of mamas who love their babies.
This is Orphan Prevention.
Our hope is that 100 more of us would sponsor a child in Drouin, and with these sponsorships, 250 more children will be able to attend school, more will be poured in to the community, and provisions will be made to establish even more opportunities for future nurses and for men who have farmed for their entire lives.
To those of you who are helping me share this story, I want you to know that I see you. Being all the way down here with spotty internet opportunities and then getting online to see how you’ve shared, well let me just tell you that Haiti has made it different for me. This is kingdom come, friends. I see it in a different way now. Thank you for doing this with me.
photo awesomeness :: Scott Wade