Visit to the orphanage

This past February 2013, Sharon Dugard (President and Founder of Open Doorways), Ute Rehill (Board Member) and two volunteers – Rose Unrau and her 19-year old daughter Samantha from Winnipeg visited for one week the children and staff at our orphanage in the community of Deschapelles (a two-hour drive north of the capital city of Port-au-Prince).

Here is Samantha’s story…

February 15th, 2013 marked the start of an adventure for Sharon and Ute (who both visited the orphanage last March 2012) and for my mom Rose and I as volunteers.  We were all very excited!  My mom and I had never been to Haiti before and having always wanted to do a mission trip together, we could hardly believe this opportunity given to us.

Our two-day voyage there was a relatively smooth one.  We flew from Winnipeg to Chicago and from there for an overnight in Newark, New Jersey.    The next morning, we took a four-hour direct flight to Port-au-Prince and Gerald Augustin, the Open Doorways project coordinator, met us at the airport.

Gerald drove us to the orphanage and upon our arrival we were greeted by an immense amount of children’s hugs and kisses!  It was an overwhelming sensation of love and excitement.  We quickly settled in and then sat down for a delicious supper of goat stew, rice and beans prepared for us.  Afterwards, we gave the children the first of many gifts to come!  They were so excited to receive their individual bags of toys and clothing, and they wanted to try on everything immediately. 

We decided to spread out the gift donations for the children and staff instead of giving them all at once.  Every day we would give them different gift items of clothing, shoes, toys, accessories, art and school supplies, and much more.  The donation of these gifts were mostly from the generosity of friends, family, co-workers, McLeod Nursery School and other people back in Canada who had heard of Open Doorways and wanted to help.  We are extremely grateful for all the support.

The day after we arrived happened to be Sunday and we were invited to attend the church service close to the orphanage.  The service was very different than any I’d ever experienced.  It was about three hours long and involved lots of worship - and when the Haitians sing, they sing at the top of their lungs!  It was inspirational to see such gratitude and love for God in people who one might think have much to be ungrateful for.  It brought truth to the saying that one’s possessions are not what makes one rich.

Not wanting to venture out on our own, our driver, Fequire, drove us to the market a couple of times. We walked the streets among the crowds of people, goats and traffic and browsed the hundreds of stands set up on the side of the road.   We purchased shoes, a CD player, cleaning supplies, an iron and electric razor.  These excursions were quite eye opening and a wonderful insight into the daily lives of the Haitian people. 

The most exciting day for the children was likely the one we took them for an ice cream treat.  We decided it would be a fun outing, so we piled all 12 children and 6 adults in the SUV and Fequire drove us to the neighboring town of Verette.  After our treat on a back patio, he took us on a tour through the town and to the river.  Not only were we able to admire the view, Fequiere also decided to take us for a drive right through the river!   It was so beautiful and everyone had a wonderful day!

The week went by quickly and everyday we spent time with the children - playing games, singing songs, dancing, coloring, making crafts and doing some writing activities.  I showed the housemothers how to make bracelets out of tying strings and they enjoyed spending the afternoon working on them together.  One evening, we all went for a long walk through Deschapelles with the children and housemothers.  We were able to visit the school where Dieudila (one of the assistant housemothers) is taking nursing,as well as tour the Albert Schweitzer Hospital campus and see the locals going about their daily lives.

Saying good-bye was the most difficult part of the week.   We were all dreading it and even the children were quite somber that morning during breakfast, as if in anticipation of our departure.  It was a tearful farewell but we took comfort in knowing these children are being well taken care of and it is only a matter of time until we see them again. 

As Haiti left an imprint on Sharon during her first visit to Haiti in 1995 and on Ute during her first visit last year in 2012, it also left an imprint on my mom and I.   One day I hope to return.  It is a beautiful country filled with beautiful people.  We were very well taken care of by the Open Doorways staff and it was a joy to have met them.

Besides some issues getting home with our airline, our trip was wonderful.  God was with us every step of the way.  It was a privilege to have had the opportunity to visit this country and will continue to pray and work hard to make Open Doorways everything that God intends it to be.

The Rt. Hon Edward Schreyer

I write in support of a cause of crying need and undeniable merit. Sharon Dugard seeks to build an orphanage to finally give a home to young people. In childhood, without a home, there is no hope. They have no chance to learn how to earn a livelihood either. If Sharon succeeds, many youngsters' lives will change from despair to normal hope. As one who supports Habitat for Humanity because of the hope it brings to young families, I find it compelling to support this effort on behalf of homeless children.

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