While in Haiti we did several different things throughout the week and got to servein multiple ways. Today, I’d like to talk about one of the many things we got to be a part of and our original connection to the opportunity to go.
So, Kate, my dearest friend and roommate, who is now a continuous help on wedding days and practically partner in this business, has a lot of family that have loved me as well as she has over the years. One part of this family that feels like my own is her aunt in Texas. Kandis is a physical therapist who works with special needs children in a school district right outside of Houston. She originally found out about Grangou’s work in Haiti through her own church.(more on Grangou and what they specifically do through the boys’ home we partnered with in Haiti is coming). For the past few years, Kandis has been taking wheelchairs to Port au Prince and providing assistance for special needs kids.
I’m going to pause my story here in order to give a shout out to American Airlines. A couple of days before we left, Kandis’s husband, Steve, went to talk to American Airlines about our flight. At this point Kandis had collected 7 wheelchairs and a gait trainer from current clients who didn’t use these particular chairs anymore as donations for her to take to those who need them in Haiti. We also wanted to take 6 checked bags full of clothes and medical supplies which was a priority since shipping these items is pretty much impossible (they will likely be stolen before getting to the right folks). So Steve went to talk to American Airlines about all these bags and wheel chairs. The guys at the counter remembered Kandis and her many trips with wheelchairs and Steve showed them pictures of some of the kids she goes to visit. American Airlines decided to let us check all the wheelchairs, gait trainer, and 6 bags..for free!!! Since starting a business, I tend to get super excited when I see people run their businesses well. I know many people have issues with just about every airline out there as traveling has sometimes become a nightmare for folks so really I couldn’t believe they let us do this. That’s kind of a big deal these days. It was a very redeeming and hopeful report in my mind and so I think American Airlines could use a shout out.
So…Monday morning we trekked to the airport, trailer in tow, with 7 wheelchairs, a gait trainer, and 6 huge bags full of belongings of our church members and medical supplies our friends had donated to people they didn’t know. It was a pretty awesome sight and the first of many humbling moments on our trip. When we arrived in Port au Prince after a very long day of travel, getting initiated right off the bat into the very different culture of Haiti simply by arriving at the airport, waiting…and waiting…and waiting some more…we met our team and had dinner at the hotel. While visiting with team members we were told in passing about Naika, a little girl who had recently been taken in at Zanfan Lakay, the street boys’ home we would be working with. Naika couldn’t walk. She had to be carried to get anywhere and held sometimes by multiple people in order to do any basic tasks you and I take for granted every day. With Naika’s condition, most children in the US would have the resources and therapy to be walking by her age. Naika is originally from the cemetery where many men and women live within the walls and amongst the graves.
I had heard of people living in the cemetery all throughout the trip but it wasn’t until we got back that I found out what these women live in. There is a cemetery in Port au Prince that has 24/7 guard service within its gates. There are women within the gates of the cemetery who have been allowed to live there and given “protection” by the guards in exchange for prostitution and “servicing” the guards on a regular basis. These women live in the cemetery, are abused and used by the guards, and often become pregnant without a way to care for their child. Naika became a part of Zanfan Lakay, the boys' home, because, Jimmy, the house dad at the home regularly takes food and clothing to the women within the gates. Naika was likely born with cerebral palsy and there was no one to accurately care for her within the gates, so Jimmy took her in.
I mentioned a gait trainer was donated to Kandis before we left. The thing about these wheelchairs and supplies Kandis gets is she takes whatever folks can give and doesn’t really know who in Haiti will need them, what size these folks are or what size their chair would need to be. She just takes what people give and sees how she can use them when she arrives. This trip was the first time she was given a gait trainer to take to Haiti. A gait trainer is basically a walker which is used for children who have cerebral palsy or other issues walking or using their legs. In the U.S., if a child with cerebral palsy is given the care they need from a physical therapist, the child can learn to walk with a trainer and even get to the point where they are able to walk on their own. Again, Kandis hadn’t heard of anyone in Haiti that she knew would need a gait trainer, but brought it anyway knowing we would likely find a use for it. God provided the trainer for Naika long before Kandis or our team knew about Naika’s need for it.
The following photographs are of the first time Naika walked. This happened our first day in Haiti. With all of the boys and girls from the home and our entire teamwatching, Kandis stretched Naika’s legs, stood her up, and then put her in the gait trainer. At first Kandis helped her get acquainted with the device and helped hertake her first few steps…and then the smile that came was full of more joy than I think I’ve ever seen in a smile as Naika began to do it on her own. Her face had suchan expression of redemption and hope. It was the first of many reminders that God is at work amongst these people, that he saves the lost, that he came for the poor and broken, and that he literally causes the lame to walk.
The next day, Naika walked the length of the front patio area by herself. She even got to watch a video of herself walking on her own.
With the gait trainer and the help of the older boys at Zanfan Lakay walking Naika each day, she will now have the opportunity to be stimulated each day with activity, go outside on a regular basis, play with other children, and we pray eventually be allowed to go to school and get an education
(something she can’t do now as the schools in Haiti do not take special needs children and much of the culture views those with special needs as unwanted and cursed.)
Throughout the remainder of the trip, Kandis was able to give all 7 wheelchairs to those who needed them and purchase an additional chair for a man who lives in a tent city where we delivered food throughout the week. More on those who received the other chairs and how God used our time there will be in later posts and stories.
If you know of a way to donate wheelchairs or funds to purchase supplies and medication needed to treat children like Naika or if you want to learn more about how you can sponsor one of the boys or girls at Zanfan Lakay, please comment or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit Grangou’s website here.
"And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised
up, the poor have good news preached to them." Luke 7:22
Thanks for stopping by friends,