This special issue of our newsletter is to share a few highlights of Marie and John’s November trip. We encourage you to read our November-December newsletter for other activities/blessings from our trip.
Want to know more about our work with HIV+ children in Haiti? Visit www.choaids.org
Kids’ First Dental Trip
When God said, He will provide, be on the lookout and ready to receive. One of our 12 girls, Valentina, was in dire need of getting multiple baby teeth removed because they were affecting her speech and eating. To address this need our Board Chair, John Hill, reached to his network to help locate a dentist in Haiti to get Valentina’s unwanted teeth removed. After several dead-ends and roadblocks, we finally were able to find help from a reliable source. The Sunday before my trip, I learned from a dental student who was volunteering at my church that she and a group of MUSC dental students were going to Haiti later in the week. The next day, one of my pastors at James Island Christian Church wrote to share more details about the MUSC group and shared the MUSC faculty, Dr. Bill Sasser’s email contact. I contacted him to see if his team could stop by the orphanage on their way to or from La Gonave to help Valentina. Dr. Sasser shared that they would only be in Port-au-Prince briefly; besides, their work required the setting up of a clinic (after going there, I learned why).
The morning of my trip, after learning that my flight to Miami was delayed, I was able to locate the group, and spend the rest of the time chatting with them while waiting for our flight. I shared Valentina’s dental care needs with Dr. Sasser, and he said: “if you can get the kids to the island, we’ll see all of them.” Actually, the truth is that was not the answer I was looking for, but knowing that we had not yet heard from anyone else, the trip to La Gonave Island would be our best option.
Following this, I contacted WISH team leader, Beth Churchill, in La Gonave to begin preparing for our Wednesday trip to the island. Beth was very informative. She shared everything from where to catch the ferry, cost, and other logistics. It appeared that we were ready for this adventure. They would be picking us up at the pier, they had a place for us to stay (in the ministry’s library), and a local lady that can cook dinner for us. At 8am the next morning, all 23 children, seven staff members and I got on a bus, and we headed to Carriers.
The ferry ride to La Gonave was better than I expected. Some of the children slept while others enjoyed the “cruise” (a first time for most). Yes, I was worried before the trip, but felt relaxed because two days before the trip, the Holy Spirit shared with me in a dream that everything would be all right. And that I had nothing to fear. Still, I prayed the whole time I was on the boat! Dave and Beth were already at the wharf waiting for us when we got to La Gonave. The MUSC team was waiting for us and sprung into action soon after we got the chance to use the bathroom. Dr. Sasser and crew along with their translator in toe handed out cards – cleaning, extractions, fill-ins or a combination, to each child and staff. To our delight and amazement, they saw all the adults with dental health needs! I spent the next few hours in the dental clinic, holding hands, stroking foreheads, and basically anything that would calm or make them feel less afraid. Stanley was the last patient to be seen. The dental team, Stanley and I held hands, and Dr. Sasser prayed to thank God for His goodness in all the work he helped us accomplish in this short time.
We retreated to the library to find several mattresses stacked up and ready for us. We fed the kids, made sure everyone got ready for bed, prayed and were in bed before the lights went off at nine. Five a.m. was very early, to get ready for our six a.m. pick up for our ferry ride back to Port-au-Prince. One of the wonderful takeaways from this dental trip was the fact that, even though Dr. Sasser and team knew that all of our children were HIV+, they were treated with great care and respect. Our children were provided with the same care that they would have afforded any other patients.
A new home for our children
Our children are in dire need of a new home for several reasons: They have outgrown the current space, and there are many issues with the current house that make our remaining there unacceptable –the plumbing has not worked for years; lots of standing water in the backyard; undependable electricity; and safe water issues still exist.
During our recent trip, John and I visited a property that is likely to have enough space for our children and live-in staff to live comfortably, and welcome at least three new children while we wait to build our own. The rent on our current home is due on February 2, 2018, so, we are hoping to move the children into the new space by January. We are hoping and praying that you and others you know will help us make this dream possible for the children. Furthermore, the kids’ beds and basic furniture are in need of replacing. I trust that with your efforts they will move into their new house with better beds and other furniture than before. It has been several years since we have wanted to move our children, but our financial constraints have prevented it. Please, help us in making this move to a much more suitable location, a reality!
Staff Appreciation Dinner
It should not be a surprise to any of our friends or anyone who knows me to believe when I say that CHOAIDS has been operating hand-to-mouth ever since we started in 2003. Meaning, every dime we receive goes toward meeting the children’s basic needs. Board Chair John Hill suggested that we express our appreciation to the men and women who work with our children on a daily basis. So, without spending a cent (or gourde) out of the CHOAIDS’ coffers, we made this happen!
The Sunday after our World AIDS Day (WAD) celebration (please read our October-November newsletter for details on WAD), nine of us met at nearby Kokoye Restaurant for a nice dinner. After we ordered drinks, John started with icebreakers that were close to the heart. As it turned out, many of the women had never been this close to their employers, and saw this gesture as one they will always remember. I thank God that John took the initiative to do this for our staff; I believe the dividends from his kindness will last a long time and that our children will be the beneficiaries.
The kids and staff mean the world to us, and John is working on yet another way to possibly secure an even better future for our children. My dear friend, brother, and mentor, who is a “young” 71, just completed the 2,200 miles of the Appalachian trail. Now, he is considering embarking on a cross-country bike ride, to raise the money necessary to build a home for our children. I trust that God will bless him with strength, wisdom, and support to continue to work toward blessing the lives of the least of these for the Kingdom.