I am so proud of the Service Ranger group from Australia. In only three days, their open hearts and love of play and connection has helped them understand the issues of international development and the challenges that at-risk and vulnerable children face here in Haiti. They have seen malnourished babies and developmentally delayed children, endured the chaos of Haitian traffic and experienced the political complexities of the work that faces Worldwide Orphans (WWO). They have also enjoyed the resiliency of the children and the commitment of the volunteers who work with WWO in Kenscoff. It was extraordinary to observe the group process each day's activities and be able to talk about their feelings and thoughts. They moved themselves to a very clear understanding of WWO goals.
WWO Y2C Member Appreciation Ceremony...
On our final day we spent the morning with 90 WWO volunteers at Florville Hotel. The volunteers were eager to participate in a ceremony honoring their work for WWO. Each volunteer was spruced up and ready in their seats as their names were read aloud by the senior youth staff. They walked up to the stage and stood quietly while their mentors read beautiful compliments specific to their roles as volunteers. I loved the part when I got to kiss each side of their faces and thank them for their hard work. They each received a distinctive blue, green or red WWO T-shirt with our logo and the message 'we support children' in kreyol on the back.
A volunteer dressed in red and white sang her heart out about the work of the volunteers and group of dancers performed to contemporary music. The youth joined in as well with the chicken dance and we joined them in the audience. I love the universality of the chicken dance!
I found the best part of the ceremony to be when the youth came on the stage and described the progress of a specific child that they had worked with over the time of their assignment. They were in effect presenting clinical cases in a very academic style. It was all about how they witnessed the transformation of a child who they had coached. I spoke to the volunteers at the ceremony about my vision to have thousands of them all over Haiti and I asked them to join that vision. They were instantly dedicated to creating a troop of youth to help support the at-risk children in their country.
I was proud of all the volunteers but want to mention one volunteer in particular. There was a 19-year-old adolescent who came to us with her baby, desperate for help, but frankly at a point where she was ready to abandon her baby. We hired her as a volunteer and helped her to keep her baby. Today she speaks about how she is so grateful that WWO taught her to be a good parent. She understands that she can play and engage with her baby and enjoy being a good parent. Our ability to help this young woman discover herself as a competent parent is a monumental moment and speaks to the objective here in Haiti for WWO. As global parents we help orphans by supporting the family unit and helping parents understand early childhood development.
After a hearty lunch at Florville (thanks to Mimi, the owner), we rested a little while and then spent the remainder of the afternoon at Les Amis de Jesus, an orphanage in Kenscoff where we provide our youth programming to 25 children. I know them now after my many visits to Haiti. They have grown and benefitted from the youth recreation programming. We as a service group played "Simon Says," "Red light, Green light" and other old-fashioned hand games for hours in the outdoor space of the orphanage. It was a sunny and comfortable Kenscoff day with much frivolity and the sounds of our laughter were at a crescendo the entire time we were there. In the moment and connected to the children, we helped them make hand prints and play Australian football. Afterwards, we were happy to sit and snuggle with them as they watched themselves on our cameras and iPhones.
Wadley, who was severely depressed and featured in my blogs in January and March, was now a chatter box, smiling and freely loving us and allowing us to love him. I found his mother working hard, helping to take care of the orphanage by doing chores in the back of the building. She was almost unrecognizable...now completely secure in her role at the orphanage as her boys thrived in the supportive environment and were becoming the boys they were destined to be. This transformation made me cry with pride for the work of the WWO youth corps here in Kenscoff.
We hiked a back way to the road to Belle Coeur following Djimy, one of our accomplished youth. We discovered rushing water and fields of plantings; and we played on the grassy narrow trail like campers. I felt free and easy, but mostly I was filled with satisfaction about how the vision has been brought to fruition here in Haiti. I am grateful for the leadership of Melissa Willock, our Country Manager, who has translated the mission and vision of WWO with perfection. Her leadership style has allowed her to accomplish challenging goals in a very short amount of time. She is a miracle worker.
We leave today with amazing memories of four days of camaraderie and self-discovery. I travel frequently to the countries of WWO and am in awe of the work. I find myself inspired by the children who we serve. I am especially appreciative and proud of the service work of the Australians this week. Thanks to Martin Storm, Sandra Storm and their children, Jacob, Scala, and Juliet and family members, Nicole Ferguson and Graham Griffiths. Please come back to Haiti.
Dr. Jane Aronson
Founder and CEO, WWO