Wednesday, April 16, 2014

By popular demand, here is the speech that Lizzy, our field director in Haiti gave at the Annual Celebration. 

“I can’t do this,” I thought, when I sat down to write my speech. How can I possibly write a speech about PID? PID’s work is too big for words. No sequence of words I can possibly string together could come close to representing the depth and magnitude of the work PID does, the number of lives PID has changed. The one word that stands out to me to represent PID as I reflect on what I’ve seen PID doing during my 3 years as Field Director in Haiti, is “hope”. If you’ve ever been on a PID trip, you may have an idea of what I’m talking about.

On your first trip to Haiti, you may be struck by the level of poverty that you see. It goes beyond the broken down shacks put together with scraps of corrugated metal, sticks, and ripped tarps. It goes beyond the heaps of trash burning in the streets, and the skinny little kids running around with orange hair due to malnutrition and no shoes on their feet. It’s a poverty so deep it’s nearly impossible to rise above. A poverty that breeds a sense of hopelessness. A poverty that has a disastrous affect on those imprisoned by it.

One recent volunteer who had put on a program for the kids of Mohea, a poor neighborhood by the dump, eyes filled with tears, asked me this: “what about these kids’ future? Do they even have a future, growing up in this kind of poverty? Do they even have any opportunities?” I could relate to this woman’s sadness, her feeling of despair. It was as if to say, “what good am I really doing here?” These kids come to PID and do activities for an afternoon, eat a hot meal, and then go back home to the dump, where harsh realities of life in poverty have been waiting patiently for them during the two hours they spent at PID. Tomorrow they may not get a hot meal, they may not go to school, and they will have piles of responsibilities to their families heaped on them as if they were not the little kids that they are. These beautiful young faces, that this woman has already grown to love after just one afternoon of time spent together, are doomed to a life of poverty, and there’s nothing she can do.

But in the despair of the dump at Mohea, as in the slums of Cite Soleil, the tent camp at the pig farm in Damien, and the desert mountainside of Canaan, there is an oasis, a ray of hope, in a little town called Blanchard, which is PID. What that woman didn’t know was, there is hope for a future for these kids from the dump. Several months earlier, Mr. Genois, our director of Social Services in Haiti, discovered the great need in the area. He had taken information for many of the poorest kids from Mohea for PID’s sponsorship program.

You may ask, “What kind of difference can sponsorship really make?” To answer that question, imagine yourself in this situation: you’re a single mother with 5 children from 3 different fathers. Each of the fathers, after making promises to help you and your family, ended up leaving you with his kids. Now you’re all alone with no one to help you, no source of income, and 5 hungry kids, 3 of whom are school age and you can’t even dream of coming up with the money for school entry fees, tuition, having uniforms made, buying shoes, backpacks, books. You’ve found yourself in this situation, and can already see that without education, your children’s futures are hopeless, doomed to be just like yours. It’s a situation we see all too often.

Now imagine yourself in the same situation, but this time, one of your children is sponsored through PID. Every month you come to the PID office to pick up some money to pay for school for your daughter. It’s a help that’s consistent. It’s something you can count on in a world of uncertainty. You’re not alone anymore; you’re a part of the PID family.  PID won’t abandon you as your husbands have. You and your family can get free medical care at the clinic. You can enroll in the small business program, where you can get a loan to do business so you can make a little income and don’t have to worry about your children going hungry. You can even receive a house so you don’t have to worry about getting thrown out into the street when you can’t pay the rent for your one-room shack.  And your sponsored child? She can get the education you couldn’t dream of for her. And at 18, when she’s finished with her classic education, she can go to University or learn a trade, so she doesn’t remain in the vicious cycle of poverty she was born into. Your family has hope for a future.

I can’t give a speech about PID without talking about the Emergency child program. I’ll start with a story. I remember the day when he came in to the clinic. He was one month shy of two years old. He weighed 11 pounds. He was skin and bones, literally, nothing else. He was limp. His dry skin folded like the wrinkles of an old man. His face was sunken in. His name was Estiven. I looked at his mother accusingly. How could you let this happen to your son? I watched as the nurse put an IV into his arm. I was afraid to hold him down, for fear I would break him. But he did not struggle or cry. He had nothing left in him to do so. Upon questioning the mother, I found her to be shockingly apathetic, seeming to shrug it off that her child was in this desperate near-death state. Hopelessness can do awful things to a person. It wasn’t the mother’s fault. She literally had nothing to feed him and no one to help her. There was nothing she could do. She had lost all hope for her child and resigned herself to the idea that her child just wasn’t going to make it.

So we put little Estiven in our Emergency program. We put him up on the website and he immediately got 4 sponsors. We told his mom to come in daily with him for formula, nutritious peanut butter cookies, called mamba, and a hot meal with leftovers to take home. We did a grocery shop for the whole family, buying them rice, beans, oil, milk, fresh fruits and veggies, and more. When we brought the food to their house, we saw the conditions in which they were living. The mom and her 5 very sad and skinny kids lived in a one-room, dark and dirty shack made of mud and sticks. They had no food and no possessions except for a few dirty clothes and a bed. But mom listened to us, coming into PID every single day with Estiven, just like we asked her. Changes were immediate. Estiven gained weight and perked up. I could see changes in his mom, too. She began to regain hope for her son. He is going to make it. A few months later, I overheard Estiven’s mom encouraging other moms of new emergency babies: “mine was worse than yours and look at him now, how big and healthy he is. All you need to do is persevere with PID and your baby will be better soon too.”

During my three years with PID, I’ve seen these situations way too often. To witness what these families from the dump, the slums, and the tent camps are going through, to see one malnourished skeleton baby after another brought into the clinic, the pervasiveness of poverty can make you feel helpless. But it’s not as depressing for me now, as it had once been, and as it was for that woman doing the kids program. That’s because I know we can do something about it. And it’s nothing Gale, or I, or Mr. Genois can do alone. But it’s you. You, who have chosen to sponsor a child, you who have taken a PID trip, or have financially supported PID. You, with God’s help, through PID’s programs, have made this difference in the lives of so many people. You are a part of the solution. You have brought hope for the future to so many families.

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