Third Day visited communities affected by the Haiti earthquake in 2011, to see the impact of World Vision's relief and recovery work.
The idea of visiting Haiti on the one year anniversary of the devastating earthquake was daunting. I had been on many trips with World Vision to many difficult places. Rwanda and the continued post-genocide reconciliation efforts there, Zimbabwe struggling under the weight of an overbearing government and failed economy and drought, the north of Uganda where the LRA had been terrorising people for years by kidnapping and enslaving innocent children to join their rebel army. Post-disaster Haiti, however, was a great unknown.
The purpose of the trip was to show US band Third Day our work in the field. Third Day have been Vision Artists in the US for nearly two decades and their fans have sponsored over 30,000 children at their concerts during that time. Members of the band had been to Lesotho and Uganda with World Vision at different times, but this was the first time the four of them were travelling together with World Vision.
Arriving in Port Au Prince, we were confronted with a city that had made little to no progress in terms of infrastructure rebuilding. Flattened buildings were everywhere, as was rubble heaped along the sides of the roads. Traffic was gridlocked for hours as we snaked our way around road closures to the countryside and up to the Central Plateau. Complete and utter chaos still reigned a full twelve months after the horror that claimed the lives of over 200,000 people.
As expected, we saw the great breadth of World Vision’s work in an incredibly challenging context. We participated in emergency food distributions, met with members of several psychosocial counselling groups and experienced the continuing community development moving forward with the ongoing support of many generous child sponsors. There was one visit, however, that embodied the best of the human spirit’s ability to love complete strangers.
The children at the Family Reunification Centre were waiting for us outside the front door of the small building, all shy smiles and knowing eyes. These were children who had been taken from Port au Prince to the countryside by well-meaning strangers who assumed they were helping orphans in the streets to safety. However, many of the children taken to the countryside weren’t actually orphans – they had simply been separated from parents or extended family members in the devastation and confusion of the earthquake’s aftermath. Children in strange surroundings longing for parents. Parents desperately searching for their children in the city’s ruins. A seemingly impossible task.
By the time of our visit, over one thousand children from that centre had been reunited with their families, thanks to organisations like World Vision and others working together to create a nationwide network of family reunification. Building a sense of hope. The two dozen children who we met were still waiting for some bit of good news. Still hopeful. Still longing. But all the while knowing that if that good news never came, they would become a part of new families who had already opened their homes and hearts to them. Families who were also being helped by World Vision, but who understood that they too could make the uncertain future of an alone child more secure. Paying it forward in the most practical way.
Four years later, I still think of those children we met who were waiting to be found. I am grateful that they are being cared for no matter what the outcome of months and years of searching. And I am still amazed that not even literal shifting sands can shake the resolve of those who have been given the gift of hope.