Although her story has been broadcast day and night on television and radio, I am disturbed by how disconnected I have felt from Haiti’s tragic situation. Only two hours from the continental U.S., I think I am surprised by how far away it seems and how little I know of this island, the first country founded by former African slaves, the second oldest republic in the western hemisphere.
Compelled to know more, I spent a little time this week reading about Haiti's past. I found it wrought with brave struggle, racial and religious assumptions, and enforced identities. But despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles, these people retain an extraordinary resilience. They get knocked down and they continue to get up – U.S. occupation, trade embargos, military coups, 4 hurricanes in one year, and now a catastrophic earthquake. I am amazed by the joy and patience Haitians exhibit in the midst of their very difficult situation and even am inspired to endure my own small personal struggles, which often feel like the boxing match of Haiti's history.
I also spent some time this week searching for a way to help, and although I know many of you have already found ways to give, I thought I would share with you one of the stories that moved me and some of the organizations that could benefit from our help.
The story is of a little orphanage begun by 4 college students from the University of Florida. A group of friends, who after a missions trip, wanted to raise money to help support and educate the orphans in Haiti – the first fund-raiser being a “dance party.” “We made calls. Found donors. Involved college kids. And God showed up to the party. We raised over $20,000.” Well, one thing led to another, and the four young friends, two of which married one another, packed up their lives in Ponte Vedra, FL, and moved to Haiti to begin work on building an orphanage in Messailler, about 45 minutes from Port-au-Prince. The orphanage was completed in September of 2009, and is still standing today.
Since the earthquake, hundreds of people have flocked to the orphanage for refuge. The name of their nonprofit is Lespwa, a Creole word meaning hope, and these refugees as well as current orphans are being supported through Lespwa as well as through Mission to the World, the mission arm of the PCA Church (Presbyterian Church of America). Lespwa has partnered with a PCA church in Gonaives pastored by Esaie Etiene as well as Presbyterian Mission to Haiti in Port-au-Prince led by Charles Amicy. They have been working in their communities restoring lives and renewing hearts for many years. Pastor Amicy lost several family members in the earthquake but is still working and serving to provide medical services and basic needs.
These stories, along with the sweet tales of a little 4-year-old orphan, Mindylove, cared for by the 4 friends, can be read at the websites and blogs below, and donations can be given to their relief efforts with full knowledge and trust that the donation will get there quickly and serve a very specific cause.
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