“Be careful, they have a way of crawling under your skin that makes you never want to let them go” – that was one of the first “warnings” I received while making the decision to come to the Cardinal Stepinac Childrens Home of Croatian Relief Services.. I laughed it off thinking that was just the emotion of someone who has spent over a year in Port-au-Prince with our children, Sandra. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I should not have taken her words of caution so lightly. After having spent 6 weeks with the youngest members of Croatian Relief Services, I can tell you personally that Sandra’s words are absolutely perfectly accurate.
Coming from the heart of a 20 year old college student and long time friend to Croatian Relief Services, I can tell you that I’ve fallen in love in Haiti – I’ve fallen in love with 46 of the sweetest hearts the mind can imagine.
When I first arrived at our compound in Port-au-Prince, and crossed the wall from the mission house to the children’s home, I was flooded with emotion. You could feel the excitement all around you, the love they were so willing to share and all the love they were hoping to receive. That’s the best way I can explain it. I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to live up to the expectations they seemed to have, but they made it so easy. I was instantly bombarded with hugs from all sides, and I very quickly learned the skill of balancing 4 or 5 children literally hanging all over you at the same time. And that was just the start of all the fun.
Over the next six weeks we got to know each other a little better, the children, especially some of the older ones, started letting their guards down. I can say the same for myself. A big part of establishing relationships with each and every one of our children was trust. As eager as they are to be loved, they’re not so quick to trust just anyone. Unfortunately their life experiences before coming to our Home have taught them that expectations and reality are two different things, and by trusting others you make a little part of yourself more vulnerable than it already is. But over these past few weeks, through games, hugs, and attempts at communication (the language barrier was definitely an issue) we learned to trust each other, and built bonds with one another..
It’s hard to put into words just how much love these children actually have. Many people would be quick to assume that because they are orphans, having either lost their parents or been abandoned by them, having spent years of their lives in hunger, caring for their siblings instead of enjoying their childhoods – that they simply wouldn’t know how to love. But that is so far from reality. Until my visit here, I had never met even a single individual such as these children, who are willing to love so freely, openly, and honestly. You can actually feel how genuine each hug and kiss from them is. You can hear the true joy in their laughter. And that is the how you know you have done something right.
But our proteges are some of the luckiest here in Haiti. They have “nannies” and a staff that truly care about them, they have food on the table, a roof over their heads and are being educated. These are all things we take for granted in the US and Croatia, but are unfortunately a rarity in Haiti.
Every single day when I walk into our orphanage, and see all their smiling faces, when they race to me with open arms, I’m filled with compassion, love, dedication and inspiration. I wish there was a way to truly share what it means to be here in Haiti, with all our supporters, but it’s extremely difficult to do so. There is no better feeling than actually being here.
None of this would be possible without all our dedicated donors. Our children know what it means to be truly happy, because of you. Those who are part of our Godparenthood Program are also establishing special bonds with our kids. I know for sure that our children at the Cardinal Stepinac Childrens Home are reaping incredible benefits from all your support. On behalf of all 46 of our youngest as well as myself, THANK YOU!
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