Follow the Owners of Hand in Hand on Their Trip to Haiti: Day Four
Every time we travel to Haiti, we visit the New Life Orphanage, one of the best orphanages in the country. It's located near the airport in Port-au-Prince, but once you enter the cheerfully painted security gate, you are immediately transported to a different world. The staff is always warm and welcoming, and the overnight guests help support the needs of the orphanage by paying to stay at the guesthouse on the property.
Past the gate, you're greeted by a massive mango tree encircled by rainbow-hued benches, where children regularly gather for songs and lessons. Beyond its bright-green branches, a rust-red tiled path lined by pink flowers guides you to the main guesthouse. Keeping with the theme, the long two-story building gleams with brilliant red, blue, yellow, and purple paint.
We stay in guest rooms that regularly sleep eight to 10 people residing in Haiti for various reasons: volunteers, couples in the yearlong adoption process, medical personnel, and building engineers –- among many others who have fallen in love with Haiti, just like us.
Because our flight home was in the early afternoon, we decided to skip the long car rides we had taken the past few days and stay on the property to play with the children. Wandering the grounds, we played fetch with a local stray dog that the orphanage had taken in, stumbled upon a couple of chickens leading their baby chicks around, and spent half an hour being tackled and hugged by the toddlers.
New Life does many amazing things for the children who reside there, but we would like to highlight two in particular. First, they are one of the few organizations in the city working toward being fully self-sustainable. They raise chickens, turkeys, and fish on the property for meat and eggs. There is also a lush and varied vegetable garden and small field where corn is grown, which is maintained by the kids who live there.
Second, they take in children with various levels of mental and physical disabilities. In a poverty-stricken place like Haiti, parents are often unable to care for children with these disabilities. Many of the orphans at New Life were homeless on the streets before being taken in. Here, they are not just surviving, but thriving. In a country where wheelchairs are unheard of, the children who need them have fully motorized transportation. A physical therapist visits several times a week to work with the children on mobility and fine motor skills. But the biggest impact of all is that they are wanted, loved, and respected by the people who run the orphanage.
While playing and talking with the children and staff on the playground, we met a couple who had adopted a young girl a few years ago from the orphanage; they were all visiting together for the first time since her adoption. A few minutes into the conversation, we realized we had vivid memories of meeting their daughter years ago on our first trip to Haiti. Seeing her today, she was just as spunky as we remembered, and we were overjoyed to hear that she is happy, healthy, and loving life in the United States with her parents.
Saying goodbye to this country that has become a second home to us is never easy. We know we will be back soon, ready to hit the ground running with new and impactful projects.