This written by Josh and Paige Konoza, of Pittsburg, PA. They were married in August and decided to go serve with MH4H in Haiti for their belated Honeymoon. This is both of there first time traveling to Haiti.
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Last night, I went with Zeke to see this what could only be equated to a US block party for Christmas. There was a DJ and an Emcee, songs, food, kids running around with glow sticks, and games on this stage they had built. Overall it was a neat experience, but I got to bed early because I knew in the morning that we were heading to the Haiti Home of Hope Orphanage (HHH) to go see if Jennifer needed any help with the weekly feedings for the at risk children in the community.
We got up around 7:20 AM got ready grabbed some bread for breakfast, took our anti-malarials and were out the door by 7:45. We walked the mile to the orphanage and arrived at the orphanage. None of the “blan” were outside yet. So we sat outside the feeding portion of the orphanage compound under the tree. I think that one of the Campbell’s workers saw us and went inside, because no sooner had she went inside that Jennifer came out and invited us in for coffee. We went inside their home and were offered coffee, of which I haven’t had any since this trip started and felt that after this past year of school a detox would be good for me, and I took her up on the offer. Paige was happy to eat a piece of christmas pie for breakfast. We sat down and had many a great conversations with Jennifer, Kari and Roger Gibson, and Danielle. Danielle has, from what Paige and I can gather, been working for the Campbells for over a year cumulatively now. She is from the Great Lakes region of the US and has a great handle of Kreyòl. I’m sure Bill and Jennifer are very grateful for her help in so many regards. Bill came out and he was getting ready to go get the baby formula and milk. I offered to help him and we hopped into his truck and headed into Pignon.
We were able to get the milk fine, but the baby formula was another issue. Jennifer uses a specific brand so that she can ensure not only the quality, but also so it does not change the consistency of their numbers when weighing the children. Usually Bill goes to a local merchant and buys it in bulk in cases, but it seems that the gentleman he usually goes to was out of town for the holidays. So Bill and I scrambled around Pignon trying to find other merchants to buy the formula from. A problem arose though, apparently just as in the United States baby formula is expensive. So much so that I don’t believe there is a true difference in the pricing between the two countries. So we had to ride around and buy up every can we could find. In Haiti buying in bulk is cheaper, just as it is in the states. We were fortunate and blessed by God that everyone offered fairly reasonable prices and not the blan prix, white people price.
While we were driving around Haiti, I took this opportunity to take advantage of Bill’s 10 + years of experience in Haiti and asked him several questions. On the trip I got a great history lesson of Haiti and the politics that are interworking. I also asked him why he thought that Haiti has floundered and the Dominican has seemingly thrived. He told me it was his opinion that there were really three reasons why things in Haiti haven’t gone as smoothly. One was the pact that General Toussaint L’Ouverture, the Haitian Revolution’s Leader, had made with the spirits and the devil to ensuring his side victory in exchange for 200 years of servitude. Second, the fact that after the French farm owners were ousted the bourgouisie that remained essentially kept the system the way it was. The latter essentially kept slavery and servitude in place. This has all but ensured the betterment of the “upper class” and that the general populous of Haiti would “remain in their place”. Finally, that it is in the Haitian constitution that no foreign power shall ever be allowed to settle in the country as an outside power. Read: We will not accept help from the outside world unless absolutely necessary, a la the Earthquake of 2010.
We finally returned to the HHH Orphanage compound to a number of women, men, and children waiting outside the their feeding center. We got the milk and formula inside. Bill and Jennifer take this opportunity to minister to the fathers/relatives before handing over the formula. Their right hand man is Pastor Clebert. He is a teacher, a pastor, a translator, and just an all around great man. Roger took this opportunity to read from the word and pray, while Pastor Clebert translated. The encouraged them that they are all doing the right thing by keeping their children instead of just giving them away as many fathers/relatives do. After the prayer the baby’s began coming in and the feeding program started…
So Jennifer has set this up that every Wednesday they have a clinic and some women travel as much as 20 miles to come and have their kids get formula. There are in fact two clinics that alternate weeks. One week the children that just need formula and milk to continue to make the gains that are necessary are brought in. The other week is the week in which the severely malnourished babies are brought in. I am told they have children coming in that were as little as 2-2.5 lbs. when they see them. In that second program they have as many as 30 kids that are currently coming in to get fed. This Wednesday was the former clinic, and thus was a little more lighthearted for the most part.
Jennifer, Danielle, and Pastor Clebert have this system down pat. One child is brought in at a time. The relative/father is given a card with the date in which she is to return with their baby. Every baby has a notebook in which their records are kept. Jennifer will only give provide milk and formula if the baby’s birth certificate and mother’s death certificate are brought in and shown. This is necessary to make sure that they are helping the children that need it the most. The baby is weighed on an actual baby scale, of which Paige was able to help out with. Danielle records the weight and Pastor Clebert and Jennifer discuss how the baby is doing with the relative. They in turn give them the formula and send them on their way. There are times when Jennifer will give formula to just the father or relative that is coming if the baby is sick or hurt and can not travel. However, they all know that if they notice a pattern of the baby not coming that they are not going to get formula in which was the sole purpose of them coming. Everything was going great until the last child we weighed…
For 8 weeks this child had been hovering around 11 pounds. Now anyone out there should be able to figure out that in 2 months most normal babies, under any circumstances, should be gaining weight. So either one of two things is happening. Either she is not getting the love and affection that babies require at such a young age and thus is suffering from neglect; or that formula in which the baby girl was supposed to be receiving is being split between multiple children. Jennifer picked the baby up and let me hold her as well. There was nothing to this child and she was barely 11 pounds. Her interaction and baby milestones, thank you Lifespans class, were all intact and where they were supposed to be. Pastor Clebert and Jennifer began to ask the necessary questions. It came out that someone else was tasked with feeding the baby girl her formula, and that there were other young ones in the house. They told her that if she comes back next week and hasn’t gained the appropriate weight that she was going to have to be taken off the program. It’s a hard, but necessary line to take. Multiple infants sharing the formula is not going to do any good and the formula could be given to a child that might be able to benefit from it instead.
Another father had brought in his child with his mother-in-law, she was actually the aunt of one of the Campbell’s orphans. The father told Jennifer and Pastor Clebert that the wife and ran away, thus the father wanted his baby on the program. Jennifer had to explain to him that this program was only for the motherless. She can’t be an alternative for every mother in Haiti who wants to go run away. I could tell that saying no was difficult for Jennifer, but she knew it was necessary. Her experience in her feeding programs has probably shown her how to deal with a number of these situations, but I doubt it gets any easier saying no. She encouraged the husband and mother in law to find the wife/daughter and for everyone to reconcile. To let the baby know that if she does not come back the chances of her dying are high. She even gave her last can of formula to the father while he tries to find mother and fix things.
We left the HHH orphanage and thanked Jennifer for letting us come and help/watch another one of their ministries. As we walked back, I let my mind wander. I know that someday, we are going to have to make those necessary hardline decisions. I just pray that the Lord gives us the strength to do so. It’s hard knowing that there is injustice in the world and that people can turn their back on little children who know no wrong in the world. I rest in the comfort that the Lord loves all his little children even those in the corners of the world that can be so dark…
Tomorrow we will be going with a friend of the the Brands, Jean Robert, who runs an organization called Five Loaves. We are excited for the opportunity to see what work he is doing for the Lord in Pignon…