MARY OF FATIMA’S SOLDIERS
Stories about the
Serving Charity Orphanage and Charity Projects
All they need is love or Charity marathon
I was not exhausted physically but emotionally after this charity marathon for the beautiful Haitian kids refugees living in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. The day started by a stop in the Children for Charity (C4C) School, where 4 different classes were studying in the same room, math, English, French literature and recitation. It was so beautiful to look at them wearing the green Serving Charity T-shirt while they were praying or singing for us. In this classroom, 5 new students, from 5 to 8 years old, just arriving from the street. After school around noon we joined those 5 orphans in their new home, a place newly created by Serving Charity. Just the fact to imagine those kids living on the street not even a week ago with no clothes, no shoes and no food touched our hearts so deeply. So we decided to run to the grocery store to buy them different kinds of basic supplies to furnish their tiny two room home and new shoes. Seeing young kids starting their life with so much pain or imagining a parent giving his kid to others to take good care of him, it is just too emotional for me, it hurts so much, I cannot even find the words to express my feelings. All those kids need is: Love, Food, education and a safe place to stay and that’s what they are discovering right now thanks to Serving Charity. As soon as we stepped out from the door of the orphanage I shed my 1st tear, I thought to myself where will I find the energy to go and give hope to others but we had to go, we had to continue our charity day. We arrived in a nice residential area where Sister Mercedes welcomed us at the door of La Casa Nazareth, a KSN orphanage. Probably the most difficult place to adapt myself to the handicap children. After a few minutes, I found my place and started playing with those amazing kids in their home. But while we were in the house everything was moving outside, a list of needs had been done between Serving Charity and Sister Mercedes, so we had to go. We divided our group in two and ran together to the grocery store. After 30 minutes we were on our way back to the orphanage to deliver everything but not only that! A beautiful baby bed was offered from Serving Charity to welcome a 15 month old baby whose mother could not take care of him anymore. For sister Mercedes, it was Christmas in February! She was very thankful. Around 2.30pm, by 40 degrees Celsius, we had to go and catch the kids of the 2nd C4C School before the end of the school day. We arrived in one of the poorest areas of Puerto Plata where kids were running all around us; half naked for most of them. We had been told to not give them anything as per last time bad experience. As we realized right away because of the aggression of those kids between them, just to hold a hand. After closing the doors of the little church where the school takes place every day, we met those beautiful children and their teachers trying to do their best to give them a good education. Around the school, in the neighborhood, it is the chaos where families try to survive. Like Lucy a single mum sleeping in her bed with 7 other members of her family and her baby girl suffering from Anemia, or Guylaine and her 7 kids whose husband died few years ago and a have a handicap teenager at home and no job to feed her family. I cannot forgot Wendy, the famous painter of this area, a very sweet man who lives in a 10 square meters room surrounded with paintings and who has a main objective in life: Being able to buy food for his son and giving him a good education. All those people are illegal in Dominican Republic and their situation might be worse for them than in Haiti itself. In fact, here they are nobody! There is so much to do, so much hope to give for those refugees. They are beautiful people and they need OUR help.
The Lord is Merciful and Gracious psalm 103
My experiences on this trip serving the poorest of the poor, have been nothing less than extraordinary. With each passing day I felt more sympathy, compassion and love for the poor. On a personal note this trip has reminded me of my past experiences serving the needy abroad. Sadly, it also reminded me of how I have placed those memories behind my priorities over the past years. Living in a North American bubble with my own worries, problems and concerns; I have put away my past memories of serving the unwanted, loving the forgotten and showing compassion to the poor. Abbas and the Serving Charity team have taken charity to another level and thankfully have given me the opportunity to experience the concept of "giving with faith".
Our trip to the Dominican Republic opened my eyes to the reality of life outside resort walls. I witnessed the number of Haitian refugee communities around the Dominican that barely have enough to live each day, let alone provide for their families. Many mothers have given up their children to orphanages because they do not have the means to feed them. Other children are orphaned because they have lost their parents due to the earthquake. For Haitian refugee orphans like Maria, Stevenson, Linda, Rose Dali, and Wasnel, just last week prior to Serving Charity's arrival to the Domenican Republic, they were homeless and wandering the streets with nothing but the dirty clothes on them. I had the blessed opportunity to witness the opening of the first Serving Charity Orphanage. No longer will these five children have to walk the streets again. It didn't take thousands of dollars, it didn't take a team of builders or psychiatrists, social workers or any of that. It took one man with a huge heart too big to fit his body ..... and his genuine, solid faith in the Lord.
Our first day began at a huge shopping centre buying loads of school supplies such as pencils, pens, paper, books and crayons. These supplies were going to be delivered by us to the Haitian refugee children. Serving Charity funds 3 schools and one special needs orphanage in the Dominican Republic. Out of the three schools, we visited two and they were very similar to each other. The structure was the same with Haitian refugee students ranging from ages four to late teens. There are three teachers with 60 students in total. The location was inside a church and students sat on benches separated into three sections according to their age group. Everyone including teachers wore green Serving Charity polo shirts. There where no walls separating the classes, no ventilation and very low lighting. Nonetheless, as I watched the students interacting with the teachers and peers, it was clear they really wanted to be there. Some older students knew to an extent the importance of receiving education, and how it could alter the viscous circle of poverty they had grown to know very well. At one of the schools we visited I had the chance to converse with Jean Jacques, founder of one of the schools. As we started to pack up to leave to make our next visit he looked up to the sky, raised his arms and said "when you come it lifts my spirits, all our spirits".
Our next stop was at the Nazareth House. This orphanage is operated by a nun named Sister Mercedes. This place was distinct from the rest. It is not a school. It's a home for a wide range of mentally and physically disabled children. As we walked through the front gates we were warmly greeted by Sister Mercedes. As we approached the doorway there where many little anxious faces full of excitement and joy looking out back at us. We stayed playing with the kids for a while then we left off to the shopping centre again but this time to buy meat, vegetables, fruits, clothing and a crib for the newest arrival a 15 month old Haitian baby who arrived the same week we did and his mother was giving him up because she could not buy any food to feed him.
Heartbreaking, unjust, inhumane, these are only a few of the words that can express what I saw while in the Dominican Republic. What was heartwarming was the faith in each of our hearts. The kind words myself and my friends exchanged with the children. The delivering of gifts to each child, the serving and giving to the poorest of the poor. "Giving with faith" is what we did the seven days we served the poor in the Dominican Republic. I felt we were there to pass on supplies and our good faith in the Lord, that things to come will be better. As psalm 103 states in the bible, "The Lord is merciful and gracious". Therefore, I truly believe that no human is overlooked by the Lord, even in the worst of all tragedies. As for my brothers and sisters, the poorest of the poor in Dominican Republic, your memories will live in us daily. You will not be forgotten by us. Our prayers are with you.
Small burdens, big Miracles
It is now a few hours since our return to Toronto from our humanitarian trip. I am in the hospital, with a possible broken finger. I am hungry, sleep-deprived and upset by the fact that I may experience loss wages due to the fact that I may be here all day waiting to see a doctor. If this happened any other week I probably would be three times as cranky as I am right now. But not this week. This week I am humbled. This week I experienced what pain is really is.
“I have no mother, I have no father”, is what Maria says to us, one of the Haitian orphans we visited in Puerto Plata. The children at this orphanage were found on the streets abandoned by their parents who could not afford to take care of them. Every week, the orphanage is approached by new parents asking them to take care of their kids for the same reason. At the House of Nazareth, we find a similar story of desolated children. These precious, special needs angels require twenty four hour love. The custodian, Sister Mercedes tells us she wants to receive a new baby, but she has no crib to take care of him.
We also visited Lucy and her 7 kids. Lucy is one of many single mothers living in a Haitian slum in Puerto Plata. Lucy and her children take turns sleeping on a bed in a one room shack, where the closest washroom is 10 minutes away. The streets of this Haitian slum are full of children. They are unable to attend government regulated Dominican schools because they are illegal. “Do not give them candy”, we are told as we enter the ghetto town. “The last time we did that a riot broke out among the children”. For a candy? I cannot imagine what these children have endured that makes them so desperate for something so small.
Two hours have passed and I have found out that my finger is broken and that it will be permanently dislocated without surgery. Oh well...no big deal. I have a job, a family that loves me, a roof over my head and many resources at my disposal that will allow me to be successful. Perhaps this finger was meant to be a reminder to me, and to the reader, that I/we are in a position that allows us to provide the displaced, isolated people of Haiti, the little things that give us all human dignity. I am so blessed to have been part of this past mission where Serving Charity has begun to do just that.
On this trip we were able to furnish the above mentioned orphanages with appliances, toys, food and clothes. We brought school supplies to two schools, set up by Serving Charity specifically for the Haitian children to teach them the academics they need to be able to adapt to a new country. Most of all I believe that we were able to give love. Little seven year old Stevenson, held on to us for dear life as he burned up with a fever. All he wanted was someone to hug. All the kids insisted they sat on our laps as we helped them with their homework. And oh yes, we got Sister Mercedes that crib she needed. God bless these unsung heroes, like sister Mercedes and Jaques .....? the headmaster of these schools, who give so much of themselves selflessly everyday. We give. We leave. We do not stay to face the emotional burden. Instead we occupy ourselves with small things, like little broken fingers.
Nazma Maida Abraham
Haiti’s future lives in an Orphanage
Today was going to be a heart shattering day. I didn’t know what to expect but I knew that whatever it was I wouldn’t be able to forget it for the rest of my life. We were going to visit some schools run by Serving Charity, as well visit Serving Charity’s most recent project; their first Haitian childrens’ orphanage in the Dominican Republic.
We went to the schools first situated in Puerto Plata.The children were dressed in Serving Charity uniformed shirts and acted so polite to us when we arrived.They are bright kids and most of them know up to 4 languages; Spanish, French, Creole and English. Their ages varied from 5 – 16 years old. These children are special. They are Haitian refugee children living in the Dominican Republic. They are the unwanted, the rejected and the mistreated.
The school children always greeted us with warm smiles and heartfelt hugs. They already knew who we were and where we came from and most importantly, they knew we wanted to help them. The schools we visited had from 40 – 60 kids in each, all huddled into a tiny 1 room church-converted classroom. Makeshift blackboards were used to help the kids follow the teachers’ lesson plans. A lot of prejudice exists in the Dominican Republic toward Haitians. These refugee children and families have no ID cards and therefore have no rights for education, health or work. It is a blessing for them to be able to attend school. These children are the unloved, the unwanted and the rejected. Unfortunately they are the most needy. Serving Charity funds these small Haitian schools monthly so that the kids can have some form of education.
Next we visited Serving Charity’s most recent holy project on this trip – their first orphanage. The small 1 room home crammed with 3 beds, a small wood burning stove, 2 chairs and a table had so much love bursting from its little door when we arrived. Greeted by our 5 first little orphans, we entered the home. These children are beautiful and just a few weeks back were living on the streets. They are so gentle and loving. They see us with our Serving Charity shirts and immediately know who we are. The future of Haiti smiles up at us and welcomes us with little open arms. The house is tiny but kept clean. We spend time with the children playing and dancing. Then it’s time for some homework. They love doing their school work and are quiet and concentrated. At one point, the eldest of the orphans an 11 year old boy named Wasnel looks up at me and asks me to take him home to Canada where I live. I give him a squeeze and hold him tight. I don’t know what to say, so I say nothing.
Too soon after we must leave and continue our charity work in other places. Every time we leave it gets harder to go. I hug each child and my heart starts to beat faster and before my eyes swell up with tears, I walk away. I can’t help but look back and catch a glimpse of the children waving and smiling…my heart calms down and I take comfort in knowing they will be sleeping in a bed tonight and will have food to eat tomorrow.
My devotion to charity has grown even stronger after experiencing what I have experienced on this trip. I’ve learned that charity has a lot to do with sacrifice, discipline, obedience and compassion. I want to continue my journey into this missionary world of kindness, humility and empathy where the only one who will ever benefit is someone else. I will continue to offer compassion to humanity and practice selfless giving anywhere and everywhere I go.