We arrived safely at the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. A steel drum and guitar band awaited our arrival, hoping for tips.
Sherry Burnette, who along with her husband Bobbie run Love a Child ministries, met us at the airport. Check out their site at www.loveachild.com. After we checked through customs, a group of Haitians met us and in their Creole dialect (a combination of several languages, but primarily French) offered to carry our bags with something like “let me help you boss.”
They loaded five of us and our bags into two trucks with the others loaded into a pickup truck. I rode in the back of the large covered truck with steel grating that formed a cage. We were literally locked in for the 45 minute ride.
As we rode to Fond Parisian through Port-au-Prince, I had an education of a lifetime. Try to imagine a piece of corrugated tin about the size of a Toyota attached horizontally to a cinder block wall on one side and held up by scrap metal on the other. Now imagine that is the “store” where you buy food, clothing, and other essentials. Now imagine seeing scores and scores of these “stores” lined up side-by-side along with cinder block shanties that look like bombed out buildings in London after the Germans bombed it in WWII. That’s what I saw for miles and miles as we drove through the city. I even saw a “barber shop” inside a shipping container that you might see atop a train freight car.
A few words stand out to describe Haiti: barren, desolate, dusty, dirty,unfinished. The terrain reminds me of a lunar landscape with a few scrubby trees and prickly cacti dotting the landscape. A few emaciated cows nibbled scrub off the ground. The buildings (it’s a stretch to call them buildings), are made of crude cinderblock. In lieu of barbed wire, shards of colored glass embed the tops of many walls. But for miles, most of the buildings lie unfinished … four foot walls with rebar sticking out the top with no roof or doors or windows. The few with roofs still lack windows but provide “homes” for many Haitians. Occasionally I’d see a nice home behind 10 foot security walls.
Trash litters the landscape and what appears to be open sewers line the roads. Ten year old Toyotas and larger pickups with eight foot tall bed covers painted like a Ringling Brothers Circus sign comprise their public transportation. They’re called “tap-taps” because when people jump on them they will “tap” when they want off.
Haiti could be called a fourth world country because it is the most poverty stricken country in the western hemisphere.
Things dramatically changed when we arrived at the Love a Child compound. As we drove onto the 100 acre property, color immediately caught my eye when I saw the beautiful crimson flowers that covered the nine foot wall that surrounds the property. Whereas I had seen only barren wasteland, now I saw green grass. Driving through the town hundreds of people seemed to just mill around, doing nothing. Now I saw several men manicuring the lawn. Green trees filled with almonds and fruit dotted the grounds.
The large yellow school was the first building. Then several nicely constructed out buildings and a church building. Then we parked in front of the beautiful orphanage that houses 66 children.
Next entry coming soon. I also hope to have some pictures posted.