A Groundbreaking Trip to Haiti

11/02/12

In September, Saskia Schmidt and her thirteen-year-old daughter Kaatje went on a Venture Trip with Children of the Nations (COTN) to the Dominican Republic and Haiti.  It was their first Venture Trip.  It was also a first for COTN—they joined the inaugural medical team to Haiti, and got to meet the very first children to enter COTN's newly-launched Village Partnership Program. Saskia and Kaatje had the unique privilege of witnessing COTN's well-established programs in the Dominican Republic before seeing COTN's beginning stages in Haiti.  Here are some of Saskia's reflections from both countries.

Starting out in the Dominican Republic was a good way to prepare for what was most recently rated one of the poorest countries in the world: Haiti.  COTN's guesthouse in the Dominican Republic was bustling with surgeons, who had come from different parts of the U.S.  The last time these surgeons had seen each other was right after the devastating January 2010 Haiti earthquake. Together they had worked to perform surgeries on thirteen children from Haiti, whom COTN helicoptered into their clinic in Barahona for emergency care.

Our group came to the clinic this time to prepare it for surgeries and dental checkups.  After that, we had a chance to meet the families living in the communities COTN serves.  We saw the schools COTN partners have built in each village. They were quite impressive. COTN has been established in the Dominican Republic for fourteen years now, and I found out that ten of the sponsored kids from there are currently medical students. This is very encouraging to see how far COTN goes in helping these kids transform nations.

The border between the two countries can be quite a battle—especially if the authorities know it’s a medical team. But God heard our prayers, and we sailed right through!

Driving through the outskirts of Port-au-Prince was gut-wrenching.  As I spoke with our translator, I could see how hungry these people were for God.  You could see the lack of hope in these people amongst the heaps of garbage that went on for miles.  COTN is only in the beginning stages of getting established in Haiti, but things are off to a good start.

Fortunately, the following day we were privileged to meet the thirteen kids who were rescued from the rubble of the earthquake almost three years ago. COTN partners have been paying for their schooling ever since the earthquake, as well as the families’ rent, during the transition to "normalcy." In our makeshift clinic at the guesthouse, we were greeted with hugs and kisses from these kids and their families, who were all to receive medical and dental attention that day. It is a custom of theirs to wear their Sunday finest to a doctor’s appointment. It was a special occasion!

Many of these kids had prosthetics, and/or had recovered from severe crushing injuries, requiring major skin grafts.  They adapted incredibly well, and one girl with an arm stump repeatedly, yet cheerfully, rejected my offer to help her cut out the eyes of her lion mask, one of the crafts following our skit, “Daniel in the Lion’s Den.” After we sang “Jesus Loves the Little Children” and “Jesus Loves Me” in Creole, their local Haitian pastor and COTN's new director in Haiti, Marc, led them in some worship songs.  It was quite moving!

In the following few days, we were honored to meet the seventy-five kids from babyhood to about age eight, slated for sponsorship. It became evident that these children were from generations of poor families when I found that many of the parents and grandparents didn’t know how to write, read, or use scissors.  Each doctor was encouraged to spend time with every patient, to find out more about them.  They were equipped with someone to pray with each individual, right on the spot.  What a privilege.

During our team meetings at night, we would hear about some of the fears and concerns these people had. Because of this, we were able to share scripture that we thought would pertain to them and their circumstances.  I really felt the Holy Spirit at work, and when we asked if anyone wanted Jesus to live in their heart, fourteen kids stepped forward.  It was such a blessing to witness.

Kaatje made many good friendships, and one of them made a point of thanking her for being such a great friend. These families are very much on my heart, and I pray the kids will quickly get sponsors, so they too can live out the hope God has for them.

Sign up to sponsor a Haitian child today!