The following post comes from Family Christian's very own Curt Tackmann, who in February of this year traveled to Haiti on a mission trip with a team of other employees to serve at God's Littlest Angels in Haiti.
Our mission team included Family Christian employees from Michigan, California, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Illinois. Most of us met in the Miami airport, and we met the final two members of our team in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Upon arrival at God’s Littlest Angel’s (GLA) guest house, our team unloaded an entire room full of donations, including enough Kool-Aid to make more than 400 gallons. The water in Haiti from the tap is not drinkable, and the bottled water is like drinking from a swimming pool—so the Kool-Aid was a welcome sight for the GLA staff. These are small things that we take for granted in the first world.
On our first day, our team played with the infants, aged 10 days to 2½ years old. Due to the limited number of nannies and long term volunteers, some of the infants had not been removed from their cribs for days or weeks other than for diaper changes. Their reaction to our entrance was exuberance! Finally, someone to take me outside and play!
During our lunch, a mother came into the house to drop off a 10-day old baby with a spinal condition. The baby weighed fewer than four pounds, and his spine was exposed near the tailbone. This condition is typical of children dropped off at GLA. Several children have showed scars either from abuse or malnutrition.
We learned about Jamesly, who was dropped off at GLA as a 6-month old and weighed only 10 pounds. He was so malnourished that his skull had not grown at the proper rate, so there was a gap down the center of his head where you could see the skin was resting on his brain. His mother had cinched a rope around his head in hopes of closing this gap. Being born and raised in Cité du Soleil—the world’s second worst ghetto—his mother was fortunate to have survived, let alone be educated in basic childcare, nutrition or healthcare.
When Jamesly was dropped off, GLA’s staff simply tried to comfort him until he died as they didn’t expect him to live through the night. He is now almost three, very healthy and VERY active. The GLA team hosts, Tim and Melissa, are in the process of adopting him.
On Wednesday, we traveled to Fort Jacques, where the “toddler pods” and much of the GLA staff are located. This compound was broken into the week after my trip last year. I immediately noticed four security guards with automatic weapons wandering about and the absence of John’s (GLA’s co-founder) Basset Hound and Great Dane, who were poisoned by the intruders. There is only one police officer for every 100,000 people in Haiti.
Next, we toured the six-acre facility, which includes housing for staff, a workshop, a warehouse, toddler pods (housing for children ages 3–13) and the school. The school includes four classrooms where children are taught in Creole initially and learn to study solely in English. There is a computer lab with many educational software packages the children are very adept at using. The goal is to educate the children so they will be employable (unemployment is 75% in Haiti) and/or adoptable (mostly to Americans).
A new 10,000-square foot guest house is being built on top of the hill in the middle of the property. This guest house was a gift from an American business owner who also has pledged to provide operational funding for life. The building will allow GLA to shut down the house we stayed in and save $15,000 annually in rent. This facility is used for short and long term volunteers, along with parents who are adopting children. There are also two “cabins” being built for use by parents when they spend their 30-day bonding time with the child they are adopting.
Along the edge of the property, there is also a location designated for the new infant house. Family Christian customers helped raise about 30% of the funds necessary to complete the project two years ago, but due to complications with the cistern, the new, fully-funded guest house project has moved ahead of our project.
When completed, the new infant house will provide space for twice as many children and eliminate the remaining $35,000 annual rent that GLA pays for buildings. Having spent a day in the current facility on Tuesday, the team prayed for the remaining funds to be raised to complete the project.
The morning was spent painting the playground fences and cleaning the storage building, creating space for when the next container comes to port.
We spent the afternoon playing and singing with the children. They are much more physical than the infants and wore us out! Hearing the Creole children sing “10,000 Reasons” in English was amazing. They really showed their hearts for the Lord!
On Thursday and Friday, we cleaned black mold from the nurseries and neonatal unit in the infant house. We applied a fresh coat of paint to most of the nurseries and the laundry room, which also had mold. Some of the team members painted tables and reupholstered chairs for the nannies.
When we were in the infant house early in the week, the nannies and children were very quiet and dour. As we cleaned and painted, the smiles and expressions of gratitude (in Creole) started flowing more and more frequently from the staff. By the time we finished and prepared to depart on Friday, the universal language of love and gratitude was obvious in the smiles and hugs exchanged.
All of these experiences led to some amazing spiritual discussions during our mission team’s evening debrief sessions. Feedback from the team was that they had not participated in spiritual discussion so deep and without judgment. By the time we left, everyone was fired up to get back into our home mission fields and do everything possible to help Family Christian succeed, support such amazing ministry partners and future mission trips, and grow His kingdom.