I have spent the last few weeks reviewing applications, talking to parents and kids, and laying the groundwork for our Education Initiative. The first two years were sort of just done as a combo … People gave to the fund, we sent kids to school – 10 kids in year one, 23 in year two. But we knew it was time to grow and we had a goal of 50 kids this year. [We ended up with 76!] So, I created applications (I want to be sure to have families who are truly in need), scheduled & performed interviews, and outlined how it would all go.

What I couldn’t anticipate was the emotional strain this process would put on me. I have a bad habit of compartmentalizing and blowing off emotions because we’ve had to see so much hard stuff here. I tried building a wall around my heart to protect it from all the sadness and injustice we see. So, I’ve thought of it all as triage (you’ll hear me use that word a lot with regards to our work in Haiti), and forced myself to look at it as a job and not get emotionally involved. But lately, I realized that I can’t continue like that (I knew it, but it was a way of survival), and have been making efforts to recognize my feelings and make time for all the emotions to have their moment.

Can I tell you a little about the heartbreak and joy I’ve experienced these past weeks though? (Yes, there’s been both.)

Heartache because these moms and dads desperately need work to provide for their families. Heartache at the mere one meal a day or less many of our new friends have to eat. Heartache from the families who heard about our program and waited outside the gate for hours hoping for a chance for their kids to be added to the list of names to be sponsored. Heartache for the family who was whole but the man of the house just passed away and now they need the help and don’t know how to move forward without his much-needed income. Heartache because there were families who didn’t show up for their interview and that makes me angry for those who were willing to wait for hours in the Haiti summer heat. Heartache for the parents who couldn’t read or write, but want better for their kids. Heartache for having to say “I can’t promise we will send your kids to school – we all need to pray that people will help”.

Joy because these parents love their babies and want a better future for them and their country. Joy for the smiles on their faces and understanding in their eyes. Joy for the dreams of these kids and the hope for their life. Joy for the laughs we had together as we asked about their favorite things. Joy for the parents who will pray over their children. Joy for parents with little education committed to studying with their children. Joy for the camaraderie of spending hours together talking about something we care deeply about. Joy for families believing in the power of sending their girls to school. Joy for the new friends. Joy for the future. Joy for the family portraits we took and can’t wait to give to each one. Joy for the desire to learn and grow. And, most of all, joy in the community of getting to know more of my neighbors and them me.

It is exhausting for sure – the planning, the scheduling, the negotiating school fees, the interviewing, the speaking Creole most of a day, the praying mightily over every child to get sponsored. It is heartbreaking to see so many challenges being faced. But there is great joy through the process and hope … I sat with the sadness and anger and frustration and exhaustion, but I feel most thankful for the joy and I believe I’ll focus on that.

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