So today was kind of a crazy day!
The morning was fairly slow. I completed some documents to send back to the States to be laminated and updated a tool list and our medical supplies list. After I completed those tasks, I played a few more rounds of Speed with Oge and attempted to teach him Crazy 8's. I was not really successful in explaining Crazy 8's, though. About 11:30 Mike, Oge, and I went to the Children's Home that I have heard so many talk about.
Actually, there wasn't that much to report. We arrived and dropped off some toys. After that we waited for the kids to finish getting ready for school because apparently we pick them up and drop them off at school every day. Who knew? Haha. One cool thing, though, is that they get together for a large group prayer before going to school. After that, all the kids pile into our van and we take them to school. We counted and there was 25 total people in that van today... including 4 adults! Crazy!
We dropped the kids off and had a quick lunch at the Guest House. After that, I took a short nap and then went back to the office expecting to sort tools this afternoon. However, shortly after I arrived, my tutors from yesterday showed up and Mike turned to me and said, "It looks like it's time for your lesson!"
I went outside and soon had a mob of boys around me. I counted this time and there were ten of them traveling with me. We went all over Freres Campus again, and they took me through their tent city again. There, I met more girls. The girls don't seem to come out past the tent city very much and I am still not quite sure why. However, it was a joy to meet some of the women and young girls there. There were two little girls in particular who totally stole my heart. I have a photo of them. Tomorrow when the internet is better I'll post it. :)
We soon came back to the Guest House and saw "Paste Mike" (Pastor Mike) outside. The boys also scooped him up and took him through the tent city too. On our way back, we ran into Oblami and Donette who had just bought a car. Donette wanted to do a prayer of blessing over the new vehicle and so we (Donette, Oblami, Mike, myself, and all the boys) held hands and gathered around the vehicle. Mike prayed, Oblami prayed, and then Donette asked me to pray once in English. I don't know if I have ever prayed over a vehicle before but it was certainly an experience to remember.
After that, the boys turned to me and started saying "legs in, legs out" and motioning toward the Guest House. I told Mike they wanted to swing and so we led them to the swing for them to have some fun again. However, we had many more kids... all of them wanting to swing so it was a bit difficult to find some order. We eventually got it, though, and it was once again a great, great joy to watch them find such pleasure in something as simple as a swing. Mike turned to me at that point and noted, "They need a playground." I have never thought much about the need and necessity of parks and playgrounds until that moment. Oh what joy a simple slide and some swings would bring these boys!
Then, the boys turned to Mike and asked if they could color with me again. I led them over to my house and got out the stencils, crayons, and paper again. The boys really like the stencils because they can ask Mike and I what the objects are in English. Mike and I spend most of our time labeling their various drawings. One boy, McKinley, came over to Mike tonight and asked him to write down certain phrases he wanted to know how to say. Since Mike knows a significant amount of Kreyol and is (obviously) fluent in English he was a good person to ask. Halfway through writing these phrases, though, he turns to me and says, "Beth, if you want to really know what life is like here... you just gotta read the phrases that McKinley wants to know how to say."
At the top of the paper was simple things like "How are you?" and "What is your name?" Halfway down the sheet, though, you see:
My house is blue.
My house fell down.
I live in a tent.
My cousin died.
My aunt died.
My teacher died.
Wow. You know, you're in the midst of playing and laughing with these kids and then moments like this hit you... when you realize that they have seen more in their few years of life than most have in much longer lifetimes. They've had to endure some extreme heartache and hardships. I am awed and inspired by these kids and their ability to find such happiness in the midst of such struggle.
And that was my day in a nutshell. I still haven't heard from Beyond Borders yet but I'm hopeful that I'll hear back soon. Which reminds me that I need to tell you about the restavek system.
Restavek, in Kreyol, literally translated means "stay withs." Obviously, poverty in Haiti is extreme, and in some families... unbearable. Each child that is born is another mouth to feed. And when you can barely afford to feed your family, you have no money for contraceptives. Therefore, many families (in the very rural areas especially) are not able to fully care for all or some of their kids. So, they negotiate to sell their children to a wealthier family hoping their child will be fed, cared for, and will have the opportunity to go to school. Once this happens, they become a restavek. Once this happens, they become a slave.
In extremely rare occasions are the kids actually cared for. Most of the time, they are forced to do chores and other forms of labor from dawn until dusk. They are not given an education. They are, in general, physically and sexually abused. They become a disposable commodity and since these transactions are done between families (without the government getting involved) there is no paperwork on these kids. This makes them even more disposable. Who cares about a kid that no one really knows anything about?
Beyond Borders and Free the Slaves has partnered with an organization called Limye Lavi that is actively working to end the restavek system. Although, from what I hear, it is technically illegal now, it is still an extremely common practice. I'm really excited to meet with them and learn about their different initiatives and how exactly they're going about defeating this ugly situation in Haiti.
Okay. Whew! Long entry! Sorry about that. Also, I took some really good photos today so hopefully I'll have some of those up on Facebook tomorrow. I'll be sure to post a link when I get there!
Sending love your way,