When I first began to consider doing a missionary trip I wondered if this was something I should really bring my children with me on. I wasn’t sure they could handle being in a third world country nor would they be able to understand that many people in this world don’t live the way we do. I spent lots of time thinking about this and then came to the conclusion that there was no better place for them to experience missionary work than in Haiti where the children suffer so much.
I began to look into different missionary groups and ultimately I chose Tree Of Hope for several reasons. One reason was because it seemed smaller and more intimate than some others and another was because we would be working with someone who experienced this first hand as Gama has grown up in the situation these children are living in. I began communications with Cassandra and started to get very excited for our trip to Haiti.
When we arrived in Haiti it was quite shocking even for me to see the culture and the way these people live. I looked around at everything as we drove to the house and eventually I saw past the poverty and realized I was in one of the most beautiful islands I had ever seen. The mountains and ocean were equally as beautiful but nothing compared to its children.
Our first day there we went for a walk to go find a child who had been injured and needed his bandage changed. On that walk we instantly made about 20 little friends. These children walked with us and held our hands. They had never met us but they knew we were there to help in any way we could. That night I was so excited to spend more time with them and couldn’t wait for the rest of the week.
Fast forward to Monday when our first group of campers arrived and these little tiny smiling faces arrived at camp ready and eager to learn. They were all so smart. We did shape books and sang songs and got to know each one of their tiny personalities. It was love at first sight!
Day two, we had the next group of slightly older children who know a lot more English and are really focused on learning. They were full of energy and eager to soak up everything we taught them. There were bonds formed immediately, not only with the little ones but also our older helpers who were so kind as to give their time and come help translate for us and help us teach the kids things. We did word matches and paint by numbers and the kids got a lot out of it. I loved recess when we got to know these kids more and spend free time with them.
We got so close to these kids and spent the majority of our time with them even after camp. We would do home visits and the kids would follow along by our sides in hopes that when we were done we would spend time playing soccer or other games with them which most nights we did. We even tried to teach the kids about animal compassion as we fed a few “adopted” dogs and gave one of them medicine to help with an eye infection. The people in Haiti don’t keep animals as pets the way we do so initially they thought we were crazy for doing this bit eventually we saw them wanting to help us find the dogs to care for them.
Bring on Friday when we finally got to spend time with some of the older kids who came to camp. These kids were amazing! We spent most of the time conjugating verbs which we all know is not something easy to understand especially when you are used to a language with no conjugation. These kids were like sponges, they soaked it all up and I heard them amongst each other making little sentences using the words we were going over, “You are funny,” “I am very smart.” They were so excited to use what they learned. Some of these kids are so advanced in their English that they asked me questions like ‘what does tidings and scoundrel mean’? Wow, they blew me away.
Friday after camp we went to the beach which is about a one hour walk from where the kids live. When we arrived at the beach they were there waiting for us. They didn’t care how long the walk was they just wanted to spend more time with us.
After the beach we headed home to get ready for movie night. The kids filed in and sat on the lawn so excited to watch a movie. I think there was about 75 of them total in their best clothes and wearing the best smiles I have ever seen! We all day together and laughed together watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It was an awesome night. At the end of the movie we had to begin our goodbyes which was the most difficult thing I have ever experienced. We had become like a huge family and now we were having to leave them. My heart broke.
Our final goodbyes on Saturday were excruciating for me. I wish I could stay forever. These kids need us and I needed them! As we drove away with tears rolling down my face I thought of how lucky they are to have Gama and Cassandra and Angela. They are these children’s angels on Earth. They are doing amazing things for them and I believe it will create a much brighter future for these kids.
Words can’t express how thankful I am that we took this trip and that my children got to experience it with me. Until next time my loves!
~ Casey Proper, TOHH Summer Camp 2017 Missionary