While many people were heading south to soak up the sunshine and enjoy warmer weather a St. Adolphe couple spent their winter vacation volunteering at an orphanage in Haiti.
It has been a year since Haiti was devastated by a 7.0 m earthquake which caused major damage toPort-au-Prince and affected nearly 3 million people. While the devastation has been shown world-wide on the news, Marcel & Rita Courchaine say that seeing the country first hand was shocking.
“Both of us were speechless from the airport until we reached the orphanage. To see the devastation, to see the tent cities and ruins; there were people on the streets everywhere selling what they could,” recalled Rita. “I went there with a bit of a hero-mentality and seeing that opened my eyes. I was asking myself what am I doing, how am I going to make a difference, do they even want us here – it not that easy to solve these people’s problems and there is so much that needs to be done.”
The couple’s final destination was God’s Littlest Angels, a Haitian orphanage located above Petion-Ville, a suburb of Port-du-Prince. The majority of the children at the orphanage are between the ages of newborn and seven years old.
“It has been a dream of mine since a teenager to do something like this, I used to work in daycare,” Rita explained. “Rather than spending money on a vacation we decided to make a difference – we came home with the knowledge that life is not something to take for granted. There is so much we can do for people – we have so much.”
While inHaiti, the couple worked alongside Haitian nannies who take care of thirty children, all under the age of two. They spent one day playing with the older children that are housed in a separate facility.
“Working with the kids was absolutely incredible. They come up to you with their arms open, it was fun and really rewarding,” Rita continued. “The older ones didn’t even have grass to play on – they had a cemented playground but they were happy.”
The couple were really affected by the Haitian women that cooked at the orphanage. “They all had stories of great losses yet they were amazing – they were singing while they worked, they were happy and resilient,” she added. “We take so much for granted here at home.”
The pair learned first hand how privileged life is inCanadawhen the Haitian election took place a week after they arrived.
“We were locked in our compound for three days after the election because of demonstrations on the street – we found out later we were only two kilometres from the Presidents house so they were closer than we thought,” explained Rita. “We ran out of fruit and had to conserve water but these were minor inconveniences compared to feeling safe and protected.”
The couple have been home for a month but they are already planning their next trip.
“We are definitely going to go back we just don’t have a date yet,” Rita confirmed.
The couple are grateful to the people from Red River Mission, in St. Adolphe for their support during this adventure. Red River Mission is a non-for profit and local initiative that supports the less fortunate at a local and global level. To find out more about the Red River Mission go to http://www.redrivermission.org