My first first trip to Haiti was in October of 2007. I was going to go see the orphanage that we were trying to adopt from.
It was a trip that would completely change my life.
The first step was to immunize myself and my two kids ( ages 4 and 1 at the time) of every known communicable disease under the sun. After spending literally hundreds of dollars on shots and medical stuff in preparation, we then spent hundreds of dollars on handouts that we would bring to the orphanage.
I wish I knew then what I know now.
Expensive lessons learned.
Sometimes it’s just best to show up with genuine love, friendship, care…. sometimes you don’t need to show up as Santa Claus.
And regarding the medical stuff. It was as if I thought Haiti was the moon or Mars. That no one could possible survive living there without about 100 things in place before hand. I remember laying every stitch of our clothing out on the garage floor and spraying EVERYTHING with mosquito treatment. It’s funny to me now. Little did I know people actually live here.. get born, give birth, grow up, get old.. just like we do in North America.
Without space helmets on for survival.
Poverty, I found out later, is what is dangerous to the body. Not Haiti.
So, I came fully armed to Haiti with shots and gifts and snacks and were greeted as we stepped off the airplane, with an unbearable heat. I think October is actually one of the hottest months. of the year in Haiti and with the wall to wall concrete everywhere, it was searing.
We landed at the international airport in Haiti and walked down the stairs and across the tarmac to the baggage claim. Much has changed now.. but then, it was complete chaos. And it was hot. AND our ride didn’t show up. I was pretty sure that there were people around every corner waiting to kill and kidnap us and so our first hours in Haiti were spent sitting out in front of the airport, in the searing heat, waiting on our ride, fearing for our lives, with about 200 Haitian men staring at us while I was nursing Zebedee. Awkward and terrifying.
Our ride eventually did show up and whisked us off to the Hotel Montana- where we stayed several times after that and which eventually became a huge grave site of buried expats from the 2010 earthquake.
While riding to the hotel, we saw a little souvenir stand about a quarter of a mile down the road where they were selling painted metal wall art and goat skin drums. We tried to go down to buy a few things that week, but I was literally too afraid to venture out even that far. My fears were so deeply ingrained in me of what I had been told about Haiti. I am embarrassed by what I thought about the people here and the nature of this island. I am so glad that I stuck around long enough to see the truth here.
Our week was spent being shuttled back and forth to an orphanage of about 40 kids.
The week was absolutely life changing. 40 kids in one three bedroom house with no furniture, no toys, no adequate nutrition.. all waiting at least three years to get adopted.
During that week I learned the most important lesson in my life. The lesson about the poverty orphan.
I had the opportunity to witness birth mothers stopping in to visit their children. Not one, but several. Many loving mothers, visiting their kids at the orphanage.
What? I thought? These kids have mothers? I later found out that ALL of these kids have mothers. They all had taken them here for a chance at a mediocre (at best) education, at least one plate of food a day and a chance to be adopted into a better life. These mothers loved their kids enough to do this for them. I sat there on the hot pavement cuddling my toddler Zebedee. I asked myself what kind of circumstances I would have to be in to give my child away. I asked myself how much that would kill me. I asked myself if perhaps there was something I could do to help.
And then I asked the orphanage director my life altering questions.
“If these mothers had enough food in their houses and enough money to pay for their kids to go to school, would they have given them up?”.
The orphanage director looked at me like I was asking him one of the stupidest questions he had ever heard. “No, of course not.”
Wow. Of course not. What mother, when she can meet the needs of her children, gives them away?
These were not kids whose mothers didn’t want them.
And so my hundreds of dollars of vaccinations, and gifts, and plane tickets, and thousands of dollars of adoption fees were about to help me adopt a child with a mother-
who loves him.
Who just couldn’t feed him.
Who just couldn’t afford a school uniform.
And so the Apparent Project was born in my heart. I wanted to adopt and believed in adopting kids who needed families, but I felt compelled by justice to do something for these mothers who had no hope but to give away their most prized possessions to strangers across the ocean.
My mind and heart flip flopped in a holy way on that day and has never since stopped advocating for these families to have a chance to stay together.