Last Lent, during my prayer time, I asked the Lord, "What do you want me to do for the poor? Use me, Lord." I could not write a big check. My small contribution for the Starfish Project seemed so insignificant. Then the idea of making clothing for the Haitian children filled my mind. I got the approval from Father Martin. Jim McDaniel suggested donating these dresses to Rainbow House, an orphanage for children with AIDS.
I told my friends, and I got a wonderful response. The ones who know how to sew started immediately. Those who couldn't sew gave me material, lace, patterns, buttons and ideas.
At the end of July, after 5 months of work, we gave 102 dresses and 65 shorts to Father Martin who invited me to join the pilgrimage to Haiti. The trip was an experience I'll never forget.
I didn't know what to expect. I asked myself, "Would our gifts be appreciated?" In a previous donation to a local charity, we were so disappointed to see that "our precious labor of love" was put into storage because they had received too many donations. This time we gave to the right place.
After raising their own children, Danielle (a Canadian) and her husband Robert (a native Haitian) opened their house and hearts to the children nobody wanted - children with AIDS.
I was afraid about my reaction. Would I feel comfortable touching somebody infected? But after seeing the happiness of the girls digging through bags and choosing their dresses, this changed my attitude. Danielle said that this was the first time they had ever received new dresses. It was like Christmas for them. The thank you hugs that they gave me changed my heart. I tried to hide my tears. I felt that Jesus was hugging me through these girls. I hugged them back with love and affection. Danielle asked me to also thank everyone back home who had helped out with this project.
On our journey, we were not allowed to take pictures from the bus. The pictures we did take pale in comparison to the cruel reality we witnessed. The misery, the smell, the sad scenes of nude children sleeping on the bare ground, children playing with pigs in polluted, muddy puddles, and images of mountains of decomposed trash will be in our memory forever.
We visited different orphanages for boys and girls, for the handicapped, and for children with AIDS. We also visited housing for senior citizens, a hospital for adults dying from AIDS, and a hospital for those with leprosy. These were all sad places, but those were the places where we were uplifted. We saw so much love and dedication.
People from Food For The Poor, nuns, priests and volunteers gave themselves entirely for the needy. I admire them and consider them living saints.
At the Food For The Poor warehouse, we helped to feed a long line of 2,500 families that came every day at noon with 2 buckets to get cooked rice and vegetable soup. The vegetables served were especially grown by people from Food For The Poor.
We saw the clean little houses that Nativity Church is building. Comparing them to the old houses in which some Haitians still live in makes one feel that we are doing something wonderful. We are making a big difference for someone. Their smiles gave us strength and we hope that others are going to open their eyes and hearts and finally find the face of Jesus in the poor just like we did.