A guest post from Espwa Berlancia volunteer, Nikita Griffioen...
I decided to go to Haiti because recently I'd made a really hard decision in another area of my life, and I suddenly had three weeks to myself. No work. No school.
And, to be honest.. No way I wanted to be home in Canada during that time.
I had asked God to open up doors where He wanted me to serve; this time off was something I wanted to give to Him. God is always good. Before I knew it, connections were made and opportunities had arisen for me to volunteer at Espwa Berlancia.
I had no idea what Haiti had in store for me. The friends I have who had gone worked at comfy orphanages, their North American reality carefully guarded and kept intact for the duration of their stay. Little did I know volunteering for Rhyan would be very different than that. Little did I know that that fact would end up being a huge blessing.
Rhyan didn't cater to me as a volunteer; I was there to do life alongside her and fight what she was fighting-- and I did. We took crazy moto rides almost daily, to both do errands and experience the beauty of Haiti; I dealt with diaper explosions; there were ups and downs. I could tell stories upon stories of the love that her house and clinic is filled with; of happy afternoons spent with Keshme, playing with water on the deck; of strapping babies to my body and walking through her peaceful Thomassin neighbourhood. Those stories will be for another time; however, right now there is one part of the trip that I'll focus on: visiting Cite Soleil.
Rhyan had got a call that there were 14 malnourished children in the slum, so on our motos we went.
Words cannot really aptly describe the slum. The poorly paved streets were lined with sparse trees devoid of leaves, electricity wires hanging at odd angles and broken, people half dressed, and house after house after house. The slum is comprised completely of houses -- there is nothing but small boxes lined up where people live.
The heat there was nearly unbearable -- the sun was beating down and there were still no clouds.
We got to the house where we were meeting the babies who needed help. We were ushered inside by a mom, and there we sat in the "front room" of the house -- basically a cement block with no windows, just a door leading out, and a door leading to the rest of the house which was covered by old rags sewn together.
It didn't take long for people to start coming. Rhyan's contact had told her that he had located 14 malnourished babies; over 22 ended up coming.
In that small room -- probably no more than 20x 20 or so -- Rhyan and I sat on chairs supplied by the mother who lived there. We sweated, and sweated. Mamas poured in with their babies, and we held little ones on our laps, watched them crawl around, asked them if they ate; asked them if they could walk, etc. Children and babies in all states of malnourishment came in, and we met them, and held them, and loved on them for at least those few moments.
The babies ranged from newborns to older, and were in tattered clothes. Some didn't have pants on at all. Their mothers were attempting to breastfeed them right there; there were special needs ones, and people lined up at the door. Once we had checked out the kid and determined if they needed inpatient care or not, they were sent out, only to have more crammed in. That small room stank in a rank way and not a single person wasn't drenched in sweat, babies included.
Nearly half were admitted to the center.
Rhyan's work holds humble glory in that it is dirty, sweaty, real. Rhyan's work holds humble glory in her attitude of humility: she expressed, numerous times, her desire to hire Haitian people to do this sort of work, so that the face of Haiti is seen amongst the needs of Haiti. She isn't the White Woman in the foreground, fighting for rights; she is the white-yet-Haitian-woman in the background, desperately and passionately fighting for the basic needs of the people-- her people-- that she loves.
I decided to go to Haiti because I had needed to leave and God opened up incredible doors to serve and love on His precious babies. I fell in love with Haiti, however, fighting alongside Rhyan and seeing the passion that she exudes every single day. I fell in love with the babies, with the slums, with the motos; I fell in love with the kind hearts of the Haitian people.
Rhyan's clinic-- though at the moment small-- is so, so full of life. There is life being breathed into starving children via mamba, life in the nannies as they sing and pray over the babies each night. This vibrant, messy, ever-changing, ever-growing love is a love that fills. I went to Haiti empty and unassuming; I left Haiti with a dose of this love and a thankfulness to a God who knew exactly where I needed to be.