I have been putting off writing this post for a bit. I haven’t processed everything about the experience. I do not pretend to understand any of what I will write about in this post but will describe as best I can from my limited knowledge. All pictures were taken by Evan Hunt (Mesi, Evan!).
Through supporters in the US, Heartline is sponsoring 50 kids from a community called Cite Soleil. A sponsorship includes a school uniform, school supplies, books, and meals during the school day.
According to what we have heard and been advised, Cite Soleil is very dangerous at the moment. Too dangerous to visit or do work. Many organizations have placed red zones for even the roads next to and around the area, thus not allowing their people to help or go near the area.
Last week, myself, Evan (a volunteer), and Pierre (a Haitian) took a trip to the school which is just outside Cite Soleil. The Heartline sewing ladies came with to measure the kids for school uniforms.
Pierre told us to pull into a small spot on the side of the road. Never would have guessed that behind the doors there was a school. The school was fitted with desks and whiteboards. Soon after we arrived, the kids started to pour in. Along with the kids came a few of the parents. The parents huddled around Pierre having discussions while the kids got fitted. Evan and I were able to talk with the kids. I worked on my Creole and spoke simple phrases to them. As I spoke with them, I thought how awesome it is that people in the United States will be providing for them an education, clothing, and food during the year.
Then 12 or so guys crowded around. During the discussion, some of the guys started to talk a bit more rapidly. They began to raise their voices. Then one guy decided to show his gun. Another guy was really getting heated. Why were they angry? What was going on? Pierre started to look pretty stressed. Dealing with these men has quickly become difficult.
After a while, Pierre signaled for us to go get in the car. The sewing ladies packed up and then proceeded to the car. Everyone was in the car except one lady. The guy who was very angry stopped her and started getting more angry. Evan and I looked at each other thinking, “You ready to do something if necessary to help this lady?” Thankfully, we were able to pull her away and into the car. Evan quickly drove off.
As we were going home we asked Pierre what was going on. We learned the issue… money. It is so sad to think how many people have died on this earth because of money. We were not even close to death but they threatened us with guns. They threw out Haitian phrases such as, “Men with guns do not bleed”. Of course, I’m thinking – logically that sentence makes no sense but whatever… still sounds scary and made a point! They were angry that on our trip they were not getting paid money. From what I understand, they see others that have money and become angry they are not getting the money. In these extremely poor areas they resort to robbing someone on the street, kidnapping until paid, using kids to gain money or any number of things.
I can understand why this is one of the most stressful parts of what Heartline is doing. It really helped me understand another nook of the mission down in Haiti. Though these are real gang members, they are also just people like you and me. We could argue that they need an education, work, psychologist, etc. In my mind, above the basic needs, they need a change of heart. There is only one person that I know who can do that. The same for these kids. They are growing up in extreme extreme poverty. Hopefully they will be able to gain education and knowledge to break free and be able to provide for their own family one day.
I understand there is no conclusion to this post, it does help process the experience. It is a difficult place here in Haiti. It makes me all the more thankful for my family, education and opportunity in the US. At the same time my heart yearns in pursuing ways to make this world, and specifically Haiti, a better place.