Mother and child, Stephenson (1 years old) waiting at Rivers of Hope.
(from left to right) Rachoul (Rivers of Hope Director), Kathy (TRTP President),
Erin (TRTP Child Advocate), Sonya (TRTP Vice President and Communications Manager
who was having an allergic reaction to the malaria medicine!)
Our last day in Haiti was filled with packing bags, trying to find a set of clean clothes for the flight home, and one last trip to Rivers of Hope.
It was a heart-wrenching experience when we arrived to find 4 new little boys, ages 1, 2, 3 and 4 waiting outside the orphanage. When we began greeting the new children, holding them and playing with them, we thought they were being observed by Rivers of Hope's nannies. We couldn't have been more wrong. Rachoul explained to us that the women outside with the boys were not employed by Rivers of Hope, but were the mothers of the boys, coming to drop the children off at the orphanage.
What a shock to realize that when we scooped the children up, we were taking them out of their own mother's arms. The faces of the mothers were hard to read: sometimes a bit frightened, then complacent, sad, and relieved. One of the mothers even brought her (approximately) 9 year old daughter along. It is haunting to imagine what that child may have thought of her mother giving away her brother.
Regardless, we played with the children and gave them lots of love and attention. Then Rachoul proudly showed us the shelves full of supplies that we had brought on the trip. It was great to see that we were making a difference in the lives of these little ones.
We were able to enjoy a bite to eat with the children: small peanut butter sandwiches. (Author's note: Haitian peanut butter is interesting - try adding some cayenne pepper to your favorite brand of natural peanut butter and let us know what you think!)
The time went by too quickly and it was time say goodbye to the children and Rachoul and hurry back to MTM. When we got there, everyone had packed the trucks and was waiting for us to leave for the airport. We said quick goodbyes to Beth, the boys and the house staff, added our luggage to the trucks, and set out for Port au Prince one last time. We took in the final drive and vowed not to forget about the Haitian people.
Willem helped us navigate customs and immigration one final time and then we waited for our Boeing 767 to take us to Miami. We all swallowed de-worming medicine at the airport like candy. Security getting out of Haiti was the exact opposite of getting in the country - we went through 3 security checkpoints and they were very strict about our carry on luggage contents. Some of us were searched at every point!
The flight home was bittersweet. We exchanged photographs and contact information and tried to debrief a bit. Sleep wouldn't come for any of us. Our minds were racing and we were emotionally exhausted.
Immigration and customs on the US end was an uneventful but painfully long process with long lines, following which we said our goodbyes and headed toward our different gates for final flights home. Some of our planes were caught in the east coast weather complications, delaying flights, but it is our understanding that everyone made it home. Home sweet home.